At approximately 9 p.m. tonight, I closed my work email once again and promised myself to keep it closed… for the fourth time since picking up the kids, making dinner, cleaning the house and telling myself that taking a bath wasn’t a luxury I could afford tonight. You see, there were fantastic articles that had to be passed on to my team members. If I sat for another hour, I could knock out a project early (and actually enjoy dinner tomorrow night without working my way through it.) Like most nights, there were almost two-million things I wanted to get done; personal life, be damned.
It was then it all dawned on me… I was never truly, “off-the-clock.” In all reality, for those of us with high-level, (or high-touch) careers, when did the guilt seep in about not “working” at 9 p.m. at night? If the television is on, I’m researching. If I’m in bed, there’s always a Google doc or my work email in the background. Tonight, I flipped between Reddit and our accounting system. This can’t be normal, but sadly it is; especially in the world of start-up cultures and social media. When is the last time I felt alright simply shutting down my Facebook before re-opening it and wondering what I’ve missed? Last night I angered a friend who had come into town from Kansas, when I pulled out my phone and answered a coworker about whether or not I could come in for a few hours this upcoming weekend. If you choose one, you let down another. It’s a difficult balance for a self-appointed perfectionist.
This is entirely my own darn fault. (In fact, I’m the one who routinely emails at midnight or 2am.) The post-its next to my best are a reminder that my levels of productivity, (which one coworker touts as “alien”) are my own doing. I am truly, my own worst micro-manager. What happened to just watching a movie, or actually enjoying reading an article without worry about Minority-Report like skills for responding to emails that haven’t even hit my inbox? Seriously, what about my life?
“I work for my family, I don’t family to work, right?”
It started about 4 years ago. I wanted flexibility. I knew that if I worked from home from 7-9 a.m. and then in-office from 9:30-4 p.m. (going home to finish emails and projects between 9-11 p.m, occasionally pulling up documents in the middle of the night,) I could have an unbeatable edge on each day. Some days it was 11 hours, most days it was 12-14. When businesses started utilizing Google Apps, I could simply chat a coworker at 8 p.m. at night, (much to their utter delight, I’m sure.) It all happened so suddenly. Most of us leave our email up, so we were constantly “available.” In the past month, the “growth-mode” strategies have taken over almost every aspect of my life.
Percentages. Numbers. Leadership. Ideas. Strategy. Cost-effective measures of improvement. Buzzwords. Booze. I’m creating amazing things, but feeling incredibly exhausted. Ebb and flow, this period is one I’ll call, “Water bottle lunches and dreams of 37 Signals products.” The guilt is the most exhausting. I need to practice turning off my mind, more. Going out to the world, more. I work for my family, I don’t family to work.
Perhaps you have some ideas for me, in turning off the guilt-monster and creating a culture of “family” and LIFE at home outside of the office? For someone that has a hard time saying no, I need to learn to say, “this can wait,” a little more, because it can. I am an architect. I build systems and processes that lead change, but I one helluva slave driver in myself. At 31, I still have entirely too much to prove to the person who looks back through the mirror. They call this, growing up.