It was a puja on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi and I was trying to read a work message on my phone through the cloud of incense-filled smoke. “Put your phone away and be here with us for once,” I suddenly heard a cousin angry-whisper in my ear. Disappointed head shakes in agreement rippled through my relatives.
At that moment, I knew exactly who I had turned into in the movie of life: that character who seems to irk and anger the people in her life by constantly being at work or thinking about work. The one who can’t seem to find the right balance between her work and her life, thereby making loved ones believe she prioritises her career over the people around her. The one who is ultimately at the receiving end of a soured friendship, break-up, or divorce because “You’re never not at work”, or “You’re always on your phone,” or “Even when you’re here you’re not actually here.”
Feeling like a hassled Anne Hathaway from The Devil Wears Prada or Hrithik Roshan from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara had become regular. I’d always assumed it was because of the nature of my work as a social media manager. Since 9 pm sees good online traffic, a dinner date with girlfriends will inevitably see me pulling out my phone and working from 8 to 9:30 pm. Weekends regularly see me receiving messages about stories to post, or coordinate and post any last-minute creatives that have been made.
Now I wonder if the onus of responsibility for the judgement coming from others might be a little more on me and a little less on my job requirements.
What can someone with a workload or job type that requires them to work outside of work hours do to avoid the conflicts that always come for workaholic characters in movies?
Make Sure The Work You’re Giving Your Time To Is Fulfilling
Is the work that you’re working late nights and weekends for actually making you feel good? Or are you just treating it as another unfulfilling job to ‘get through’, hit the one-year mark and get a good reference at?
If you don’t actually care for your work – if it isn’t adding value to your career journey and is unfulfilling – it isn’t worth it for it to disrupt your personal life.
If only Andy from The Devil Wears Prada had figured this out earlier, she wouldn’t have worked herself crazy on calls with her boss instead of spending time with her father who was visiting, or constantly felt guilty for not being able to balance her work and personal life with ease.
So, set rigid boundaries into the time and effort you put into such a job.
Ignore The Urge To Check On Work – Most Work Can Actually Wait
We’ve been conditioned as people and workers to believe that the smallest delays or errors will cost us our respect, value, and position.
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My time as a social media manager has resulted in an annoying tic where I open social media to check on posts, messages, and followers, every few minutes. This tic is especially active when I’m on vacation or enjoying the weekend.
Break these patterns of letting your mind wander to work during non-work hours. Put your phone away. Condition yourself to not lunge for the phone when you hear the ping of a Slack message or an email notification during non-work hours.
If you’re on a road trip with your best friends, do not stop in the middle of the road to take a meeting (your friends will think you’ve become ‘the mantally sick’ and rightly so). Realise that a small delay in responding to a message or in work being finished is not the end of the world. The work will still be there the next day. The email will still be there on Monday.
Allow yourself to regularly be there with the people you care for and experience life without your mind being clouded by the stress of work.
Don’t Let Other People’s Judgement Dictate Your Decisions
All of this being said, don’t let the fear of what other people think control your decisions. Your friends and family might have the best intentions at heart, but you need to live your personal and professional life the way that works best for you.
Listen to what your loved ones have to say, but don’t let their judgment be the standard by which you measure your own success.
If you’re anxious about the people you love being angry with you, communicate why it seems like you’re prioritising your work over your personal life. ‘My boss will kill me!’ is not a good enough reason. Make them understand that in order to feel happy, meet your goals, or build your skills at work, putting in the time and energy that you’re currently putting in is something that is necessary, and something that you want to do.
You get to set your boundaries, and sometimes the boundary might be smaller than one would hope. Hopefully, by communicating your goals clearly and honestly, and focusing on your personal and professional growth, the boundary will become larger and make more space for balance.
So, be there for the things that are important to you. Sometimes it may be learning and growing in your career, and other times – like right now for me – it’s closing all your tabs, shutting your laptop, and spending some much-needed time with family and friends. If you need me for the next couple of hours, I’ll be unavailable.