Chaos does not equate to crisis. For our purposes today, chaos is the day-to-day whirlwind that you experience at work. This is an ode to all you office chaos junkies.
You’re managing simultaneous projects, there are several upcoming deadlines, that meeting at 2 PM, and the 45 emails that you haven’t opened today. Chaos.
When I was in that space, like many of you, I carried the chaos home with me.
I got an official work Blackberry and it was never neglected for more than 30 minutes for the next three years (although it certainly didn’t last that long, accepting burn out long before I did). My head was always in the chaos, juggling all the balls because I had no idea how to put them down and where they would be safe.
It’s a particularly slippery slope if you “love” your chaos.
You do the work to get the hit and the emotional and financial high is amazing. But, the bonus check isn’t actually all that much money and the temporary euphoria of completion fades the next day with the next project. The whole process only feeds your hunger for the next hit.
Just like chemical dependency, your real life withers around you.
Your genuine relationships atrophy with your reliance on colleagues for social interaction. Your body morphs to fit whatever shape you take at the office (for me: hunched over the keyboard like a question mark). You can’t remember the last time you read words that weren’t backlit. It goes on…
Certainly there’s a continuum of being in love with the chaos pressure cooker, but whether you are a full blown junkie like I was or you simply lack a life outside of the office, it’s time to get one. A really interesting and fulfilling one.
Why? Because you and your work are suffering.
The obsession with those shiny balls in the air isn’t actually helping your career. Your cruddy real life is reflected in your performance. Without time to reflect, recharge, and release, you bring a slightly higher level of stress and crazy to the job each day. Then you bring an even more elevated combination back home. The work high becomes harder and harder to achieve because you’re so darn unlikable and edgy. Pretty soon, not only do you have no life, you no longer have exciting and temporarily fulfilling chaos to turn to.
Don’t get so far down the rabbit hole that you have to go cold turkey following some regrettable experiences.
Go skydiving. Get that hobby out of the basement closet for a few hours each weekend. Find REAL friends. Turn off your chaos I.V. drip (yes, you can turn off your iphone for the weekend). Take a cooking class. Read a novel about aliens. Stop relying on the fact that you have a spouse and kids to suggest that you have a life, or conversely that you don’t have time for all this living.
Living it up outside of work brings about a constant awareness of the bigger picture, which creates a calm sense of surety that carries you through the chaos gracefully each day, garnering respect and resilience. Most importantly, if and when you (or your boss) cut the chaos cord, you won’t spin out in a crazed panic attack. You’ll simply take advantage of the multiple opportunities that you’ve been nurturing around you.
All because you got your D&D group back together on Saturdays. Good for you.
I have to admit I am somewhere on the bad side of the continuum. There’s something nice about having the most projects of anyone on my team, and handling them better, too. But it becomes a little all encompassing. My tell tale sign that something is wrong is when I start waking up in the middle of the night, worried about a project. My wife knows something is wrong because I audibly say, “No!” when I wake up, worried, and she knows what to say by now, “It’ll be okay, babe…it will work out.”
It’s a pretty sad routine but I am, like everyone else, trying to find that work/life balance. But even if I fail to find it while still working, in seven short years I hope to follow in your footsteps and walk away from the corporate life…if I never found a healthy balance, I figure I’ll still live. Like my wife says, it will work out. 🙂
Hey, your finding time to blog and travel which is better than I ever did!