Sustain issue #51 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)
A couple of years ago, I was talking with a co-worker about a project we were working on. It was clear the handoff would land with him after hours. I told him it was totally fine to get to it tomorrow, which is my standard practice when something like this happens.
He then said, it’s fine, I’ll do it tonight. I have nothing else to do. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this throughout my career and it never hurts less. Why do people say this? Why did I once say this?
There are plenty of reasons you can likely come up with. But there’s one reason that’s a bit hard to swallow: What else should I be doing?
This is an easy answer when your identity is wrapped up in your work. When your job is what you do and who you are, there’s really nothing else to do.
But if you aspire to be more than your job, and I hope you do, what else should you be doing?
What should I be doing?
I had this reckoning with myself. I realized one of the reasons I was working overtime for free was because I had nothing else to do. I knew very few people in my new city. And I had few hobbies. So I defaulted to working since it was something to do in the moment.
It kept me from boredom.
This is a growing problem in the last decade and results from our always-on culture. You’re told to work long hours and always be available. By the time you crawl to the end of the day you just want to fold into your couch with Netflix. Time for friends, time for developing hobbies, and time to develop an identity outside of work have been eroded considerably in this time.
This makes now a crucial time to have a stable of other things to do and people to see. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck in the rip current of work.
The time is now for hobbies
When you’re stuck in the hustle culture mindset, it feels counterintuitive to relax and do something other than work or professional development. But it’s crucial to withdraw in order to make a better jump.
It’s also crucial that your hobbies are just for you. Starting a side hustle is not a hobby. It’s doing an activity with the intention to make money. It’s work and should be treated as such. It’s not bad to have a side gig, it’s just important to think about it correctly.
If you love painting, don’t let your friends convince you to start selling on Etsy. That turns something that brings you joy into work.
If you have established hobbies, make time for them (try Three Good Pockets). If reading, for example, is a hobby, consider making it your end of day ritual to signal to your brain that work is over until tomorrow. If you don’t have hobbies, try activities out. You never know what you’ll like. I would have never predicted I’d like veggie gardening ten years ago. But it’s one of the things that bring me the most joy.
Remember, nobody will stop you from working. So it’s imperative that you have activities other than work to turn to.
Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?
Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to eliminate burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it even though I never found a playbook for doing so. So, I'm writing it myself.
✉️ Want my top tips? I share my full step-by-step playbook in How I Quit Burnout, my premium newsletter. Get the next one delivered straight to your inbox >
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