Caution: Work fills the space you give it

For most of my career I’ve prided myself on being able to restrict my work schedule to just 40 hour per week. Most of my career I’ve been able to stick to this. I even co-wrote a blog post about it at one point.

I took this past Monday off to have an extended weekend with my family. When Monday came, instead of enjoying time with my family, I was stressing about all of the stuff that was likely piling up at work.

Upon reflection, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been consistently working too many hours each week and that it’s probably not long-term healthy for myself or my family. After coming to this realization, I started taking some steps to help me get back to a more manageable work schedule, which include:

  • Removing the Slack app from my phone – My principle for some time has been to only have the app on my phone when I travel for work, and yet somehow the app found it’s way back to my phone and I found myself checking in during non-work hours.
  • Establishing a clear work schedule – I’ll try and start consistently each day at 8am and wrap up at 5pm (with a 1 hour break for lunch).
  • Stop working weekends – Unless there is a fire (which there rarely is) I’m going to try and avoid working on my weekends.
  • I blocked off two days as no meeting days – I blocked off Wednesday and Friday on my calendar as days where I can just catch up on work without having any meetings to break up my day.
  • Meeting audit – I realized that I’ve been over-committing myself to too many regularly scheduled meetings. I’m going to be scaling back the number of meetings that I attend each week.
  • Backing out of design discussions – For now (while I’m the acting Manage Group lead) I will be staying out of most design discussions and leaving them in the capable hands of our Manage Group designers.

The thing is, none of this happened suddenly. It just sort of crept up on me slowly. With time, I just stopped regulating each of these areas and eventually it added up.

I share this openly here for three reasons:

  1. To call myself out.
  2. To support anyone else who notices similar patterns in their own work routines and wants to take steps to correct them.
  3. To remind my future self that without self-regulation, work fills the space you give it.

COMMENTS

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at its@davemart.in.

Published by

Dave Martin

Dave is a designer at Automattic.