Quick Tip: Overworking Yourself Does NOT Make You Cool
Or more skilled, better at anything, superior, etc.
Burn Out. The action of ruining “one’s health or becoming completely exhausted through overwork”. I’m sure you’ve all felt it whether you stopped to acknowledge it or not, especially now that we are mostly remote and don’t have any real reason not to be working 24/7 — I mean really I’m either working at my desk, sitting on my couch, or working out for 30mins. Right now as I type these words out to all of you, I feel like I’m starting to get maybe strep throat and I haven’t slept well in days — mind you it’s only Tuesday so I still have a long way to go before I get a chance to relax again over the weekend.
Even what I just said — “relax over the weekend”, what does that even mean during a pandemic? For me it means catching up on chores I didn’t have time to do throughout the week. It means scheduling time to do creative, fun work because if I don’t have something on my calendar I feel like I’m wasting time. Anyone else feel guilty when they spend the entire day watching TV? What if you literally never did that ever? And honestly, what’s so wrong with sitting on the couch and doing absolutely nothing? The fact is, there isn’t anything wrong with that, but the guilt I feel is the part I need to change.
And honestly, what’s so wrong with sitting on the couch and doing absolutely nothing?
Let’s back up a second and give you some context on where I’m personally coming from here. For example, If I get that late night or early morning Slack message, I’m the type of person that has to respond immediately, even if the expectation isn’t for me to — trust me it’s not. Everyone I work with lives on the West Coast while I’m over here in New York and they get that there’s a time difference. And yet, I can’t step away or take a break. Once I see a notification, my anxiety goes into full gear and it will NOT go away until I open that message and at the very least write down a reminder to respond to it in my to-do list. This is all my own doing — a part of my workaholic personality if you will.
Then there’s the added pressure from social media to always be doing something. Take LinkedIn for example. I recently updated the experience section of my profile to have all of the internships and jobs in UX that I’ve been working on recently. As of today, I have two internships, one freelance gig, one full-time job, and I volunteer as a UX designer for a non-profit on the side. And people who follow me on there were impressed! Offering likes and kind words of congrats in the comment section. Point being, we all love to brag about just how hard we’re working, what we’re doing at all times, and need that gratification that we’re doing something awesome.
Now you may be thinking at this point “well dang Blair how on earth do you have time for all of these commitments”? The truth is, I don’t. Forget about any personal self-care time or creative projects. My work schedule alone takes up around 12 hours of my day. I don’t get off Zoom until 8:30PM sometimes 9PM and most days start as early at 7:30AM in order for me to have time to get a workout in and eat a healthy breakfast. Am I saying all of this to get some kind of praise for all the ‘hard work’ I’ve been putting into launching my new UX career? Hell no.
I’m saying this to make a point. We glorify more often than not people like myself, people that are running themselves to an early grave with honestly not much to show for it. Being burnt out, stressed beyond repair, and adding unnecessary pressure, hurts you in more ways than one — this is coming from personal experience (remember a few paragraphs ago when I mentioned I feel like I’m getting strep throat?)
The other side of this is to recognize that I’m in control and I’m actually the one who said yes too much, leading to an overflowing plate of work I can’t keep up with. While the external pressure from things like social media or family are there, so much of this over-work stems from me, myself, and I. No one is asking me to respond within five minutes of Slacking me. No one is saying I need more internships or should be working more than one job, or should cut out other things that make me happy in order to “be more productive”. All of this is coming from me and at the end of the day, it’s doing way more harm than it is good. I’m not somehow becoming a more skilled designer because I have all of this work on my plate. One could even argue that my work quality is suffering because I’ve been focusing too much on the quantity — doing MORE projects instead of refining one very strong project.
Bottom line, this work-life balance that has disappeared as we work from home needs to change. I have to take responsibility for my schedule, set bigger boundaries and say no more often. Plus if I’m passing off this advice to my students, I need to practice what I preach, which in short is you’re not cool for working longer hours. You don’t get some big prize and you may not even become more skilled or advanced simply because you slept less than me and were up all night at your desk. Hopefully hearing this from someone else who’s been experiencing it will inspire you to make some changes and form healthier work habits. And if there’s one thing you take away from this article it’s this:
Stop wearing burnout as a badge of honor.