There was a time not too long ago when my typical workday went something like this:
Instead of checking my e-mails first thing in the morning, I took my time preparing my breakfast in the office kitchen. Usually I always found someone to chat with, so I sat down at the table and enjoyed my nutella bread and a freshly brewed coffee. At about 9.30 I realized that it was about time to get started with work, so I wandered back to my computer.
Instead of finally checking my work e-mails for urgent tasks to take care of, I checked my private messages. And Facebook. And Twitter. And my blog stats. Running out of interesting things to check on, I finally turned to Outlook – only to find that 9 of the 10 mails I got were useless newsletters. The other one was an out-of-office message from a client. I read the newsletters anyway. By the time I was finished it was already 10.30. Time to get started, so I took a look at my to-do list.
Instead of prioritizing the tasks on the list and working them off one by one, I stared at an almost blank sheet of paper. None of the few things on the list were urgent. I had the free choice. I could start with anything I wanted. But first I had to check my e-mail. Maybe an unexpected task had just come in. Maybe a crisis had arisen and I would be the only one to turn it around. Maybe a client urgently needed a press release and I would be the only one being able to help him out. But there was nothing in my inbox.
Instead of turning back to my to-do list, I remembered that I still had to look up flights for my trip to Valencia over the Easter holidays. So I did. Finding the cheapest flight to a certain destination is a serious business. It requires a lot of thought and dedication. And time. When I was finished it was almost noon. I glanced back to my list. Was there anything on it I could finish within an hour, so I would be done by lunch time? Yes, there was. All 5 of the items on my list were actually doable in less than an hour. Even if I took my time, I would be able to finish them all by the end of the day. But I also needed something to do in the afternoon, so I decided to look up some more silly stuff on the internet instead of getting started. The afternoon wasn’t much different from the morning, though, and by the end of the day I found myself dissatisfied and with only one or two things checked off of my list.
Now some of you might say I should have been happy to have a relaxed working day that even allowed me to take care of some private stuff. But I can tell you: I wasn’t. Quiet days are fun for a little while, but for weeks on end it just leads to discontent and unproductiveness. In my job I’m usually used to work under time pressure, I need to handle lots of different things at the same time which requires an extremely strucutred way of working. And I love it that way, at least most of the time. But when that pressure is suddenly taken away, it’s like my engine stops running and it takes me 10 times longer to finish my work. Plus, a lack of work also leads to a lack of challenges and success – both of which I need to be happy.
So after these miserable weeks (or months rather), I’m happy to tell you that things have changed. The first weeks in my new job have already required me to work several 10+ hour shifts. After the first week I was so tired, I slept through almost the whole weekend. But I’m feeling so much better now than I did before. I can see that what I’m doing is making a difference, that it’s appreciated by my clients and superiors – and I can feel my flow of creativity that I’ve missed so much coming back. Considering that, I hope you understand that this post is a little behind the usual schedule :).