Over the past few months, the 10h-a-day pace that became a constant during the pandemic started creeping up as I took up a new role1 and needed more and more time to get work done after a day’s worth of meetings. I ended up working the last couple of weekeends as well, so this one was almost exclusively devoted to downtime.
That meant reading a few books (am on my third one), lounging about the couch and staying away from most computers except my iPad while I soaked in some sunlight through the windows and mulled what has been going on…
To cut a long story short, I’ve been working around 12h a day of late due to my having taken on even more responsibility, and things reached a ludicrous level when one of our internal productivity tools gleefully reminded me that I was going to have 27 meetings the next day.
(And yes, it was 100% correct, with triple, quadruple and even quintuple conflicts on that calendar, many booked on top of slots I had explicitly marked as out-of-office.)
I then decided to start saying no to things, which, in a corporate culture (and role) where your prime goal (and focus) is to get into the thick of things and lead ongoing projects around (or over) any blockers can be tricky to do, to say the least.
After two or three “nos”, I was able to get back on track, and am now back at… 10 hours a day. Which remains tiresome, but a downward trend I will try to honor.
While I’m not unhappy about work (even if I were, the years have afforded me the ability to carry on through most things), the grind has been getting to me somewhat.
Getting interrupted on an hourly basis and having zero time to relax between context switches wears you down, and doubly so when your plans for the next few hours shift constantly and you can’t even follow up on previous commitments.
Toss in a couple of completely unrealistic requests and at least one particularly “zigzagging” initiative that has been all over the place, and I decided I need to take a serious break. If not immediately, then gradually so.
(I am also starting to have neck and back trouble from overwork–which my standing desk has helped mitigate, but not completely keep at bay.)
The fact that I can work like this (and achieve measurable outcomes while doing entire days’ worth of 30m context switches) doesn’t mean I like it, but after a while you need to question why and what and be extremely selective about what you actually do.
Under pressure is fine. Short on time is fine. We’ve all been there. Chaotic, however, is not fine, and my short term goal is to wrap up as many things as humanly possible and move on to a more manageable, saner subset.
I’m not mad, or sad, or depressed, or even annoyed at things, but merely tired of this messy, tiresome way to work and in need of a long(ish) break, preferably spent someplace I can take long walks, read voraciously, and maybe even work on something different (which, at this point, means anything not involving documents, presentations and endless meetings).
The most annoying thing for me this weekend was that even though I’ve been reading technical and musical history books, spending time coding or playing music was just not something I actually wanted to do, which is completely unlike me.
After a fair amount of pondering (and some fabulous ice cream) I realized that when your office has all of your gear in it and you spend all your waking hours there, even doing the dishes is a welcome change of scenery.