I want to tell you a story. When I first graduated from my undergrad business degree and joined a boutique consulting firm, my time was my offering. Since I was green, I believed my only value was my willingness to work, literally, whenever.
Like on weekends, Friday nights and holidays. I remember taking down instructions over the phone from a partner in a different time zone on Christmas Eve while walking to my uncle’s Christmas party (late) through a slush downpour in heels.
There was no emergency; just no boundaries.
Let’s assume you have boundaries
Most people don’t glorify working on weekends. For most of us, that’s a “short-lived” or “no thanks, ever” scenario. So let’s set aside the new-business-grad-at-a-consulting-firm story and choose a more realistic one.
Two words: one third. If you work full time (I’m calling that 40 hours a week, friends), you spend one third of your waking life at work. Which means: even a typical work schedule is a massive time commitment
Before we get existential about what work is (and oh, we’re going there), I want to emphasize the sheer volume of time we spend doing it.
For many of us, it beats sleep, quality family time, personal time, and hobbies, for most time spent on a single aspect of our lives. It’s the winner!
Work dominates our time
Let’s just go ahead and un-separate “work” and “life”.
Because one third of your waking life IS work and it IS ALSO your life.
Whether you’re experiencing motivation, excitement, camaraderie, loneliness, fear, satisfaction, frustration, anger, hunger, headaches, impostor syndrome, a mean boss, temperature regulation issues, fits of giggles… it’s all happening at work.
Your family crisis? Happening at work. Your health diagnosis? Happening at work. Your fight with your best friend, your dog’s diabetes, your basement renovation, your humanness? All happening at work.
How does that make you feel?
If you’ve got feelings – anywhere from apathy to disgust – regarding the facts I’ve presented, you’re driving this bus.
If you’re not feeling good about investing one third of your waking life into the work you’re doing right now, you’re driving this bus.
Even if you feel trapped or unqualified to do anything else, or terrified of the financial implications of anything but the status quo, you’re driving this bus.
And you, my friend, can drive your bus anywhere you want. You can leave. Or, you can figure out how to improve the situation where you are.
The grass is not always greener
Every work situation has its ups and downs. Just like you don’t mail order your partner from a catalogue (that’s not a thing, right?), you’re going to love some things about your job, and tolerate others.
BUT! Unhappiness? Boredom? Depression at the news that one third of your waking life is spent doing it? That’s avoidable.
You can work on the relationships you have at work, or shift the work you’re doing so you find it more challenging, or possibly just take a break for a few weeks.
Time is non-refundable
So when I ask you “how’s work?” think about it in this context: you’re spending one third of your waking life doing it.
Making it feel good and making it work for you – those are top priorities.