29 September 2010, by A. Cedilla
In an uncertain world where it seems security should be the number one priority for everyone, it’s counter-intuitive thing to suggest the following, but it’s true. The things we most complain about can actually help develop our skills and tolerance. Things which in themselves also add to our sense of security.
Running with Nietzsche’s “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” it takes a deliberate, practiced change of perspective to see the hardship we’re living through today and use it to strengthen ourselves.
Mostly we practice evasive maneuvers: “Waaauugh, look out!” followed by, “Damn that was close.”
How many times have you ever actually dared to say, “It’s alright. I can handle it. I’ll be fine,” and mean it?
What do you commonly complain about in your daily workday, or most often strikes you as a Do Not Want in your work? What are the top three stressors you encounter on the most consistent basis?
- The long hours, and work life imbalance? The tedium of mindless drone-work?
- Unreal expectations of productivity and availability?
- The ever-present bogeyman of joblessness?
You are never without options, despite what you may think. If you’re smart enough to identify what’s draining you and stressing you out in your life, you’re smart enough to come up with a solution. What’s in your way?
You’re too close. The problem is too immediate.
In terms of physical distance, if something is “in your face,” or “up your grill,” you won’t be able to see the rest of it. The immediate situation blocks out the rest of the details and context you need to choose wisely, not to mention leaving you little time to collect yourself and your thoughts.
In a situation like this, instinct acts on the fly. You flee, freeze or fight. Good options out on the tundra, but not in the office, or with a client.
If you think of establishing necessary distance in terms of time, that’s better. Sleeping on a problem is one way of letting you distance yourself from the immediate fight-or-flight response. Time lets the adrenaline and stored up irritation drain away and be replaced by a cooler head and some sort of rationality.
Another way this issue manifests itself is when an emergency happens and you’re caught in the blast radius. Without presence of mind and a practiced routine to deal with emergencies, you can succumb to the pressure of the moment.
You’re used to it. The problems are long-term.
If you’re used to it, your tolerance is enviable — to a point.
The heart of tolerance is choice. If you understand and acknowledge that what you’re going through is something you choose, because you’re working your way to something better, something you really-really-really want, then it’s part of the whole process of paying your dues.
If you’re tolerating a difficult situation because you don’t think you have a choice, that’s a different situation and puts a whole new light on things.
If you think the problems are just part and parcel of your work and can shrug them off, it’s fine, but if you’re buckling under the strain, the kind of long-term stress that load puts on your mental and physical health can do a lot of damage. Hypertension, the ever-popular back-pains, and tension headaches are just the start. You should know this by now. Is it worth it? Do you think you can start looking at ways to take control of the situation?
When people talk about slogging through work, there’s always the sense of tedium. Boredom. Yanking the definition of “slog” from Wiktionary, we get the following applications:
- Noun: A long, tedious walk, or session of work.
- Verb: 1) To walk slowly, encountering resistance. (by extension) 2) To work slowly and deliberately (overcoming significant boredom).
Here are a few quick tips to deal with the tedium:
- Settle down –There’s work that needs doing, stop wishing you were somewhere (or someone) else and see to the task at hand.
- Let go, leave a little room — stop twisting yourself into knows about how much this sucks, or that blows, or how it both sucks and blows. Breathe.
- Organize yourself, open up — so you need to do this, do it right so you won’t have to worry about doing it over.
- Go on and do it.
Lets address the examples:
The long hours and work life imbalance. Ask yourself where do the bulk of the hours go? Commuting? Analysis and paper-work? Follow-ups and voice-mail tag? There are many, many time-tracking programs available out there. Get one, track where all that time goes, for a month, say. When you have enough data, use your priorities and your problem solving skills to get out of the time-jam, or rearrange things.
The point here is know where your time is going. What you find out will shed more light on your priorities, your time budget, and the inevitable conflicts between them. When you have data in hand, you can start reconciling your real priorities and your actions, and how much time you want to spend on them.
Imbalance results when you feel you’re paying too much attention and time to the wrong things. Re-examine your priorities.
- Lifehacker suggests Klok, and a few other runners-up. Allnetic has its Working Time Tracker, while Tasktime and RescueTime, are web-based. Mac users also have their pick of time-trackers, so go see which fits you.
The tedium of mindless drone-work.
What else can you do to make the time go smoother? Maybe have audio-books on hand? Self-study to upgrade your skill-set? Simplifying the drone work or automating it? How about devising a way to make it go smoother, faster? That way, you spend less time on what you dislike, freeing up more time for what you want.
If you’re cutting yourself in half to survive by leaving your soul at the office door, better take a look at yourself. You have a personal responsibility to live your life, not half-live it. Response-ability means the ability to respond, not to take things as they come (as-is). You’re not helpless. Don’t wait for some office fairy to sprinkle your workday with zesty, zesty fun. It isn’t anyone’s responsibility to make you happy. Do it yourself.
Unreal expectations of productivity and availability.
How can you communicate your intentions to the people you’re working with about realistic productivity and human needs for rest and recharging? The internal auditors critiquing your every move may only be voices in your mind.
Who knows, once you admit you’re having issues with managing your workload, others may come to the fore with their own experiences and as a group you can come up with a better way to deal.
The ever-present bogeyman of joblessness?
This is one tough issue and can’t be resolved with a few simplistic words of advice. It all depends on you. What you’ve done, what you can do, what you’re prepared to give up to get what you really want… and it’s different for everyone, considering what stage they’re in at their lives, how much they stand to lose, or gain.
But this much you can count on: when you develop your ability to make good choices for yourself and stand by them, you can be sure you’re doing the best you can to take of your future.
Short side note:
What about smaller stressors, the ones that didn’t make the top 3 list? If your big three need time to deal with properly, breaking down the smaller stressors can still take a load off your back. Everyone has to start somewhere. Don’t give up.
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