Workaholic Anonymous

The confessions of a 20-year-old workaholic (and how I broke free from my toxic work patterns)

Aishwarya Agrawal
3 min readAug 24, 2021
A laptop and an open planner on a table.
By Jessica Lewis, on Unsplash

My pre-covid WA (Workaholic anonymous) confession would be, “Hi, I’m Aishwarya, and I’m a workaholic. I tie my self-worth to my work and an ounce of free time brings me guilt rather than relief. I make all my hobbies competitive tasks on my to-do lists so even they don’t bring me joy anymore”.

Now, I know that this sounds extreme, but it was, so stay with me for a minute.

If I asked you, “So, what do you do?” how would you answer this? I’m going to take a wild guess and say it’s something along the lines of: “I’m a teacher, I’m a freelance video editor, I run a skincare company”, or whatever else you do professionally.

I’m no different; my answer to this question was, “I’m a student and a freelance Graphic Designer.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, but if you stop to think a little more, is that it? I do so much more than that. I write, paint, sing, play the guitar, meditate, make meaningful connections, and more. And I’m more than sure that it’s the same with you. So then, why is it that we give up everything that we are and define our entire identity by the one thing we do to pay our bills?

Is it so we can participate in power play? Feed our god complex? Subtly judge the other person? Or simply because we don’t know anything different?

Despite having this thought, I was busy scouting for internships, finishing my college assignments, looking for freelance gigs, and all-in-all perpetuating hustle culture. I finally hit rock bottom when my employer called me on a Saturday at midnight asking, ‘Where are the creatives?’. That moment just put everything in perspective. I realised that if I didn’t change something, eventually, I would become that employer who thought it was acceptable to do this. That thought was enough to scare the living hell out of me and put me in action for some major self-work.

You don’t have to be like me and wait till you hit rock bottom till you make a change. Scan through this mini checklist to see what the early stages of an inevitable burnout look like:

  1. You find yourself saying yes to everything.
  2. You’re always ‘working’ but somehow aren’t getting any work done.
  3. You’ve not felt inspired in a long time.

If this sounds alarmingly familiar, you might want to take some time to think about how you want to proceed from here.

Cut to a year later today, when I’m finally able to take my Sundays off, with (almost) no guilt. So, how did I go from being ‘busy’ all the time to being ‘productive’ and a lot freer?

I stopped “doing it all.”

I gave up my obsessive and compulsive need to do everything all the time. I stopped focusing on the things I did solely for some instant gratification. Instead, I prioritized what mattered and gave that all my attention.

Unleashed my inner ‘Type A’ personality.

To-do lists and planners became my best friends. I started making daily, weekly, and monthly action lists. I used Notion and my Notes app to keep track of these. My monthly vision lists helped me establish some long-term goals. The daily lists helped me feel less overwhelmed about my day and ensured that I took inspired action towards my long-term visions.

‘No, and’-

I said no, and I didn’t feel guilty about it. I learned to sift through the opportunities that poured in. This change was by far the most integral shift to make my work more fulfilling so that it didn’t take over my life.

Read, read, and read.

I honestly cannot stress this enough. I’ve read self-help and mindset books that have had a tremendous impact (direct and indirect) in changing the relationship between my work and me. Some of the best ones are 101 essays that change the way you think, Atomic Habits, How to have a good day.

There is still a long way to go in this journey; a lot to learn and discover, and I still do love working.

In fact, finally, I can say that I truly love working.



Aishwarya Agrawal

I’m a visual communicator and I’m extremely passionate about leveraging visual tools for storytelling and building narratives.