Most of the people I know work too much. The workweek is far more than 40 hours – more than 50, probably more like 60. It’s not like we’re attorneys who are making well into six figures our first year out of law school, either. But it’s not just dedication. It’s expected.
Today I’m waiting on a file to be sent to me for review. It’s not impossible – 40 pages of text to read and comment on. But it’s Saturday, and I have plans tonight. I’d really rather not have work impinging on my time to read, watch Glee episodes, or try on outfits for the concert. But that’s how it goes at our office – everything takes longer than planned and I’ve got to play my part for the team. (Lord knows, the team has all been there till late at night, most every night, for at least a couple of weeks.) So they’re not asking more of me than they’re giving.
I also love what I do. The work is interesting, and it has taken me all over the world. Don’t I owe this kind of devotion? I am compensated: I get a paycheck, and amazing travel that I’d never get to do otherwise. I’m involved with people and projects on the other side of the world =- isn’t that enough for me?
But then again, what about that work-life balance thing? I think I owe that to myself. I’m not a kid anymore – I’m a grownup, coursing through my life as if it’ll last forever, and there will always be time for things like writing a novel, or meeting someone special. That’s not necessarily true. I’m not guaranteed any of that, unless I guarantee it to myself. Unless I take the time, set the boundaries, make those my priorities instead of making money for The Man.
In the middle of the coming month, I’m starting a new job. Yesterday I was on the phone with my new boss and we were talking about all the cool projects I could get involved with when I start. She stopped for a moment, and in all seriousness, said, ‘We’re going to have to watch you.’ I was shocked. What did she mean? “You could easily get yourself in over your head. There’s so much interesting work going on here – we’re going to have to develop a signal for when we’re in meetings, like I pull on my ear and you know you have to say ‘No’ to what they’re asking of you.”
This is the person who’s hiring me, who needs someone to take work off her plate. But she doesn’t want me to do all I can do – she wants me to stay sane and keep a lid on the number of tasks I take on, the number of hours I work. Refreshing, but a bit weird too.
And here’s a weird thought: have you ever had some idle time and wondered, “What do I do now?” I think it’s almost easier to be overburdened. With all that noise going on around us, we can’t hear the quiet hiss of our lives zooming by.
So maybe this new job is a chance for me to start fresh, not take on too much, not get carried away with the excitement of new work and new travel. Even the way I’m starting is already nuts: I end the old job one day, starting the other the next, and that evening flying to Georgia. (The one on the other side of the world, not the peachy one in my time zone.) Not a good sign. If I can keep this in front of my mind, though, I don’t have to take on every piece of work that’s thrown at me – I’ll have to let some drop.