For the past few months, I’ve had trouble leaving work early. My hours are 9-6, and I used to be able to hop merrily home 6 on the dot, but now it’s usually 9-7 or 9-8. And on very stressful days, 9-9. Add another 80 minutes of commute time on top of that and you have a zombie Aina.
I have friends who keep much more frightening hours (9-11 whaaaat?) and I’m still demoralized by the fact that I had to leave work late. I can’t imagine how my friends feel.
But because the month of November has been a super special kind of hell, I was forced to reconsider how I work and when I should send in my resignation letter (Just kidding! Or maybe not...) Here are my thoughts on work:
1) It’s hard to juggle work and passion when you feel like you need to prioritize work.
It’s work that pays my bills. It’s work that pays Narrativity’s bills. (Running this blog has some overhead!)
I wish I could care less about work, like I can shrug it off by 6 pm, but it’s not possible. Narrativity may make me happy, but work has the potential to make my life absolutely stinking miserable (if I neglect it). So when it’s like that, it’s hard to not to feel like I should prioritize work more.
For example: Sudden strike of inspiration, feeling like I want to stay up until 3-4 am to write and design and etc.
- Inspired me: Yes! Let’s do this all night long!
- Work me: Don’t be crazy (aka stupid). Sleep now or you won’t meet your deadlines tomorrow.
It’s hard to know which voice to listen to, you know? Of course I want to focus on Narrativity, because it's really my passion.
BUT, I owe it to my job to give it my best. My employers pay me a salary every month. (Narrativity pays me nowhere enough. Yet.)
So when I’m thinking like this, it’s hard to pack up my stuff when the clock turns 6. I keep seeing the things in my in-tray and I’m thinking:
If I don’t do this today, I’m gonna rush like crazy tomorrow. Let’s do just a little bit more so that tomorrow is less hellish. I’ll go back an hour, two hours later so that I can get this done. It’s just one/two hours.
But guess what? IT’S THE SAME THING THE NEXT DAY. Which brings me to my next point...
2) Work never ends and you can count on this fact.
Most of my colleagues have been at the company I work at for years. So when they see me still at my desk at 6:
Them: Aina, kenapa tak balik lagi?
Me: Ada banyak lagi tak siap nanti esok rushing.
Them: Balik la Aina. Nak tunggu kerja habis, memang takkan habis.
I used to think, easy for you to say! You’re not the one feeling MY stress! (Then I start getting bitter about the amount of work I’m getting...)
But you know what, they’re RIGHT and I’m WRONG. Work never ends.
If it does end, then I won’t have a job anymore because I won’t be doing anything. I have a job BECAUSE there’s work to do. Count on the fact that work never ends. Yes, there will be busy seasons and chill seasons — but again, work never ends. There’s ALWAYS something you can do at work. (Or there’s always something your boss will tell you to do)
So in that case — what am I waiting for?
- WHY am I putting my life, my passion on hold for the day when there’s no work to do?
- WHY am I postponing things that will make me feel fulfilled for the time when my tray is empty?
- WHY THE HECK do I put in 1-2 extra hours when I could use those extra hours to work on my passion? I can’t even claim overtime!
It’s like those cartoons when the character is trying to empty a boat full of holes in the middle of the sea but the water just keeps pouring in. Work will just keep pouring in. It’s you who has to plug the holes and go on to live your life.
3) Work doesn’t need more time, work needs better strategies.
A big part of my motivation to do overtime is I hate getting phone calls from colleagues chasing deadlines.
- “Aina, bila boleh dapat ... eh?”
- “Aina, saya punya ... dah siap?”
- “Aina, nak tanya pasal ...”
- “Aina, next meeting ... haribulan tau, kena siap before that tau”
I can’t even go to the pantry without bumping into one of the deadline-chasers. I started feeling more and more harrassed that I willingly put in overtime just so that I could give them what they want and stop feeling harrassed. But that’s not solving the REAL problem.
There will always be urgent work. The next urgent thing. I can’t control that. What I can control is how I manage the urgent work. Here's some of the skills that I plan to build up so that it's not so nightmarish:
A) Negotiate for more reasonable deadlines and expectations. Not every deadline people give or ask for is set in stone. There's room for negotiation, if you ask.
B) Priorize deadlines according to actual importance. Not everything is urgent, despite all those 'URGENT' sticky notes.
C) Shrug off the frustration fast eventhough people are rude and things keep going wrong. I can't control other people, I can't control how things have happened. I can only control my blood pressure.
D) Stand up for yourself and take initiative to improve processes to make it more convenient for YOU. No matter how junior you are, if you have ideas on how things can be improved at your workplace, execute those ideas. Start with yourself, then start proposing them to other people.
I used to be one of those people that won't read on career tips. I'll be like, nahh. I don't plan to work at a company for too long. I want my own business!
But if I'm gonna be spending a lot of time at work anyway, and I'm constantly getting stress-related health problems, I have to make this thing work. I'm still no corporate lady, but it's getting a tiny bit more bearable.
4) Commit one small act of rebellion every day.
When it’s JUST work, the days blend together. I was trying to list down my weekly expenses the other day and I got confused about what I did or ate. It's like every day is the same shitty day. LOL.
And it's such a shame when this happens. I want my days to count, but they're all one big mushy pile of blahblahblah. Tedium. Routine.
That's what I think it's so important to rebel against the routine every day. Even if you do it on a small scale.
For me, my small act of rebellion is bringing my laptop to work and working on my e-guide for one hour before work starts. (From 7.30-8.30 am)
The difference that hour makes is amazing. It's just one hour, but it helps me feel like the day is already great. Whenever a problem crops up, my mind goes, NOT TODAAAAY, [expletive].
And I manage to get over that problem quickly instead of marinating in the stress. Because I'm a REBEL!
If you're like me and you've been feeling grey and blahblahblah, I encourage you to rebel. Create something eventhough it sucks. Plan for that Youtube video you've been wanting to film. Outline your blog post. Post your artwork on Instagram.
You have more than just work, you have your passion with you!
How do you juggle between work and passion? Agree/disagree on anything I wrote? Leave a comment below. You know I'd love to hear from you.