Work’s been tough recently. I’ve had a lot of people asking me to do everything ‘urgently’, I’ve had files mysteriously disappear resulting in rework and I’ve missed a few soft deadlines. To add insult to injury, I’m being micro-managed more than ever and starting to question my ability in this role. There’s no doubt that I’m smart and capable but everything is telling me otherwise. What’s the problem? I’m not prepared to spend more than the 9-5 that I’m contracted to in the office. Colleagues would be aghast to hear this but why should I work more without gaining any extra benefits? By extra benefits, it sounds like I want more money but it’s not just restricted to that. I’m not prepared to put 100% of myself into work. Why? Because I have other passions in life such as writing on this blog, playing piano and learning about investing. These passions outside of work provide me with the opportunity to step away from my responsibilities in the office and even benefit the company because I come in far more refreshed each day. It gets me down every now and again that there is an expectation that I stay later than 5pm. Working past 5pm doesn’t mean I provide more value – my productivity immediately plummets so why bother working late? Am I being an unreasonable employee? How do I make my work-life balance work?
Thankfully, I’ve felt this way in the past. It’s a common feeling amongst 9-5ers who may or may not feel the pressure to stay late. I remind myself of the world outside of work through three channels.
First, I think back to one of my favourite scenes in the film 500 Days of Summer. After Tom, has realised he won’t win his ex-girlfriend back, his ability to function immediately deteriorates and in a moment of desperation he quits his day job that he hates and is in no way linked to architecture – his true passion. He spends days in bed moping over what could have been. Eventually he decides to get up and clear the blackboard wall sitting above his bed of all its clutter. He starts reading about architecture again and we see him go to several interviews. He crosses each company interview off on his blackboard as he fails to go any further in the recruitment process. After crossing just about every one of them off the list he decides to wipe it all off. Standing in front of the blank canvas once again, what does he do? He draws buildings.
Third, I remind myself of my achievements…more specifically those moments when my hard work had paid off and when I felt on top of the world. My moments are a mixture of success in friendships, achievements in sports, at university and at work.
It’s these three channels through which I can remind myself that I don’t need to leave the office late. I need not do more or less at work. I may get an angry email every now and again. Or I may have an email that’s so detailed in its instruction that my mind explodes from the sheer spoon-feeding that colleagues insist upon. Or I could take the higher road and ask myself, “In five years, will this matter?”