Can Hard Work at the Day Job Beget Hard Work at Home?

Yesterday, I completed all my planned tasks in half the time I’d allotted. But I’m not telling you this to show off – I want to emphasize how baffled I am by my lack of fatigue. Let me remind you that I’ve spent the last year crawling into bed as soon as I get home. I’d feel accomplished if I could push out a mere 800 words in the evening. I am so used to being tired and apathetic and depressed that feeling normal is….well, it’s weird.

On top of that, this sudden renewal has not just impacted my productivity, but my overall mental health. A few months ago, I was counting calories because I was devastated about my weight. Right now? Pass the brownies, because I couldn’t care less. I was conflicted and stressed about my engagement, wondering if I’m even fit to be married – now, I’m reminded why being with Austin is the easiest thing I’ve ever done. And while the idea of socializing normally stresses me out, I happily drove downtown last Saturday and attended a party full of strangers.

What’s given me all this positivity, especially at a time of year when I’m usually weighed down by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? The 60 degree winter hasn’t hurt. I also have a wakeup lamp which helps the mornings feel brighter. Maybe the B12 supplements I’ve taken for 6 months have finally kicked in.

But none of that seems powerful enough to cause such a profound shift. And then it occurred to me what changed the most in the past month – the Day Job.

I spent last year slaving over a project that would not end. I dreaded getting up in the morning because I knew I would be asked to tackle problems without a solution. On top of that, only having one project left me with a lot of thumb twiddling time. I felt like a lame employee who wasn’t doing enough.

At the end of 2015, my boss decided to close the book on that project and introduce me to two or three new projects…one of which may result in a patent. All three have been coming along without much frustration, and I have enough to occupy myself on a daily basis without being overwhelmed.

Here’s what I’ve learned from this – while it is certainly tiring to be overworked, it is equally tiring to do nothing. I’m the opposite of a gym rat, but every fitness buff I’ve met swears that exercising gives you more energy, despite exercise itself requiring energy. I wonder if this relationship between idle living and productive living is somewhat the same.

It was a little hard to admit that a bad year at work affected the rest of my life so drastically, but I can’t deny it anymore. As much as I’ve tried to handwave it as “just a place I have to be five days a week”, my job has a HUGE EFFECT on the rest of my life. Maybe if I realized this sooner, I could have taken steps to stay more engaged and active during my 40 hrs/week as a chemist.

So for anyone feeling bland after the daily grind, I implore you to look into why. If any of my story sounds familiar, perhaps talk to your boss about how you can be more engaged, or how you can move past a major roadblock. On the physical side, try taking frequent breaks to stand or walk around your workplace so your body does not grow stagnant from sitting (my job, when it’s actually giving me something to do, has this built in. And I’ve noticed I feel a lot better when I’m not sitting all day).

I realize that for most people, their jobs do not have much wiggle room for change. Heck, it’s not like I could have made last year any easier – that nightmare project was something I had to ride out until it was over. And I’m not saying you have to be in love with your job either. Even as mine has given me tolerable and engaging activities, I would drop it all to work full time on my artistic pursuits if that was possible.

But perhaps being aware of this relationship between your energy at work and your energy at home may still help you. Boredom is an enemy of progress, and you will undoubtedly carry that boredom home with you. So if you have any choice about how to conduct your work life, the last thing you should choose is to be idle.

5 thoughts on “Can Hard Work at the Day Job Beget Hard Work at Home?

  1. Glad you were able to move on from the work project that was holding the rest of yourself back. I know the feeling of having our jobs affect everything else in our lives. Sometimes a reshuffling in the current job (if one can manage it) is all that’s needed.

    • It surprised me how much a difference it made. I was convinced I was having a quarter life crisis or something. Looks like I just needed something to do at work that didn’t make me want to jump into one of the vats!

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