Marieke de Jong September 06, 2018
How work determines the lives of millennials
We all grow up with the idea that doing what we love for a living is very important. So, it’s no wonder you care about work. The thing is: we care too much. And although loving your job is perfectly fine, we have to realise that there’s more to life than work. There should be, in order to stay sane.
You’ve heard it before, the standard ‘getting to know each other talk’: “Hi, what is your name and what do you do in daily life?” With that last question, one doesn’t per se want to hear that you regularly walk your dog, like reading books or have a finger paint hobby you put a lot of time in. No, that question is aimed at finding out about what type of work you do. Defining who you are by what you do for a living seems to be the new standard.
We’re totally fine with our jobs defining who are. So we think about it and not just that, we talk about it. We do love talking about our jobs. Basically, it’s on our minds 24/7.
Coming from my own experience, I want to present to you the following, probably recognisable, situation: during busy weeks, with long days at work, I lie in bed wide awake caring about work. I stare at the ceiling; feeling so involved that I am unable to relax.
The agonising inability to relax due to work-related stress haunts many young professionals. Scenarios of events that happened, things colleagues or clients mentioned, meetings for the next day; all turn into either a vivid memory or a worrying thought that are extremely hard to let go. Why? We care so much about our job, we care too much.
According to research, people feel especially happy when they feel connected to the people that are important to them: friends and family. And if we don’t have that, we feel bad. Basically, our job is not the most important part of our lives. Yet here we are, most of us battling insomnia because of repeated thoughts that are entirely work-related.
It’s inevitable that you will find yourself in something that is called the ‘busyness cycle’: getting more and more involved in your work. Have you ever caught yourself saying: ‘I have to get this done’, ‘sorry, I need to take this call’, or ‘sorry, can’t make it, things are crazy at work’. Whether you relate to midnight over-thinking sessions or not, we are all guilty of caring too much about our jobs one way or the other.
Despite their importance, our most beloved relationships are on the frontline of war with our jobs. We trust them with only what is left of us after we spent all our time, energy, creativity and focus on work. But when we do finally meet, we might feel tired, distracted or tensed even. So our time with them feels less special and appears less valuable. The result is that we focus on our work even more because that’s the easiest way to fast gratification of feeling valuable. We are spiraling towards work – thát is the busyness cycle.
Work is what defines us. After all, if work goes well, we feel well. If not, we feel bad. And when you come to think of it, both ways are the same principle, and both are not desirable. Do you want these results to really determine how you feel?
Of course, caring about your job is not entirely a bad thing. It fuels our fire to get the best out of our work. But balance is key. Luckily, there are many ways that will help you in balancing your work and personal life.
1. Recognise your warning signs
In order to get out of the downward spiral, you need to recognise your early warning signs. These are small behaviour changes which are telling you that you’re losing focus and work is getting the best of you. This can vary from drinking significantly more coffee than you used to, to isolating yourself with your headphones of eating lunch behind your computer. Figure out yours and gain the ultimate superpower to reboot whenever you notice them.
2. Create a personal worry-time schedule
Worry actively on set periods of the day, for example, five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. Worry about anything you want, reasonable or not. However, the key to this being a success is that whenever you feel your mind wandering off to worries, you have to postpone it to your worry sessions. Trust yourself you will get back to it later and often – when you do get back to it – it will probably be less of an issue than before.
3. Set up a closing habit
Come up with a short routine at the end of your working day which exists of tasks like a final email check, final agenda check and writing down all your to do’s for the near future to get them out of your system. Afterwards, reward yourself in whatever way you find suited – because our day is done!
Work in progress
Many young professionals are work enthusiasts, so caring less can come across as something unnatural. But if you recognise yourself just for the tiniest bit in this article, then it might not be a bad idea to start caring a little bit less. Sure, this will always be a work in progress. Not caring too much about your job comes with experience, and age, probably.