Every day is an exercise in futility.
Oh, what? I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear you over my raging self-pity. Also, you are likely located hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from me, so you might want to consider speaking up.
What’s got me so glum, chum? I don’t know. That ol’ clock just keeps on beating me down. Father Time: what a dick, right? Talk about the long arm of the patriarchy — they can even screw me over metaphysically.
Every single day I wake up in the morning feeling arguably not unlike P. Diddy, though since I’ve never had the appreciable pleasure of being P. Diddy what exactly that feeling entails remains open to speculation. Regardless, my wee hours never fail to brim over with optimism and wide-eyed opportunity. Hey! I think to myself. I’m gonna get up early! I’m gonna get all my work done by 5:00 p.m.! I’m gonna write a post! No — I’m gonna write three posts! I’m gonna vacuum the entire house! I’m gonna reorganize the entire house! I’m gonna save up money and buy us a new house! Before dinnertime! I’m gonna pay off all my student loans before breakfast! I’m gonna stand in a golden shaft of sunlight smiling so wide that all my teeth show as my skin emits an ethereal bronze glow and the breeze gently ruffles my hair without mussing it up, just like how women look in commercials for feminine hygiene products and those pharmaceutical drugs you should ask your doctor about!
Needless to say, by the time I actually get out of bed all of these good intentions have already begun to deflate. From there, the rest of the day is just one long slow sideways slump into chaos and disappointment.
Very un-Diddy-like, indeed.1
Lyn, you’re saying. Lyn. What’s going on? What could possibly be causing you all this inner turmoil? Or maybe you aren’t saying that at all. Maybe you’re actually saying WHAT IS UP WITH THIS WHOLE LIBYA THING or PLEASE GOD I NEVER WANT TO SEE A BUD LITE COMMERCIAL AGAIN or THEY SHOULD TOTALLY RELEASE A BIOGRAPHY TITLED CRAY-CRAY IN THE HOO-HA: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF KATY PERRY. I don’t actually know what you are saying, because like I said, the distance issue. SPEAK UP.
But back to me, here. The source of all this malaise is my new job. Which, by the way, those of you who are new here (I’m sorry!) or too drunk to remember the times I virtually wrung my hands about New Jobs and the Having of Them should probably know that I have a new job. And for the sake of this post making any sense, here’s a very boring but necessary bit of backstory about how that works:
While I occasionally go into the office, 90% of my time is spent working from home. My bosses assign me to-dos via a software platform that manages the design/meeting notes, login information, timelines, goals, due dates, and other pertinent information for each client all in one place. As I work throughout the day, I use a timer widget on my computer’s dashboard. Each time I start the timer, I select the client, the project, and the individual task. When I switch gears, I stop the timer and restart it with new information. Everything is automatically tracked over time, which makes both billing the client and getting paid really easy.
It’s an incredibly cool, incredibly efficient way to work.
It’s also an incredibly frustrating, hair-pulling, time-obsessive way to work.
When you work a typical office job, maybe you come in in the morning and fix some oatmeal. Maybe you check your personal email first. Maybe you do some work, make a couple of phone calls, get caught in an awkwardly polite and dreadfully protracted conversation about babies or dogs with a coworker by the coffee maker. Maybe you read a couple of blogs, do some more work, someone stops by your cube to complain about that meeting yesterday. Then lunch, more work, more blogs, check your personal email again. At some point you look up and notice it’s 5:30. So you pack up and head home, secure in the knowledge that you successfully worked a full day.
Now imagine that an evil troll sits above your desk at work, his gnarled hand hovering over the start/stop button on a stopwatch. He watches you all day long (creepy!). He lets the stopwatch run as long as you’re steadily plugging away at your work tasks. But every time you click some link a friend emails you, every time you gab with a coworker, every time you wander away from your desk for coffee or tea, every time you spend a few extra minutes trying to smooth down your cowlick in the bathroom mirror, every time you answer a personal phone call — the troll stops the clock, cackling insidiously all the while.
What a bastard, right?
Now, it’s 5:30 pm, yet somehow the clock shows you’ve only worked 5.78 hours so far that day. You, my friend, are accountable for another 2.23 hours before you can actually go home. Better get back to work, you lazy-ass punk!
This is basically my life, now. Except not inside an office. Also, I haven’t actually seen that troll around here, though I’m pretty sure if I did, I would punch him in the face.
If I could write the biggest thing I’ve learned over the past few weeks on a piece of paper, and underline it twenty-seven times, and draw fifty-three stars around it, and maybe put, like, purple glitter glue all around it in circles, it would be this: it’s really fucking hard to do eight solid hours of work per day.
Until I had this revelation, those first few weeks of the new job were like a smack in the face. I kept working until 8:00 p.m. every night and then wondering where I’d gone wrong. I slowly became obsessed with my daily schedule. If I could just get up an hour earlier, I’d think to myself while lying in bed, then I could start work an hour earlier, and then I could finish an hour earlier! Tomorrow I’d be better. Yes, tomorrow would be the day!
Then tomorrow would inevitably backslide into so much fail.
Each day is an epic battle with the clock. Never before have I been so keenly aware that my time literally equals money. Every time I pause during my workday, whether it be to fix lunch or wash some dishes or run a necessary errand or even just take a brain break, all I can think about is how I’m losing viable working time. Every time I stop the timer, I’m effectively pushing back the time I get to stop working. My boss invited me out to lunch recently and I actually almost declined because I knew I’d have to work that much later into the evening to make up for it. Appointments I used to love scheduling during the workday because it got me out of the office now give me the fits, because oh my god, TIME LOST TIME LOST PANIC PANIC DIE.
Look. I realize I’m painting a pretty negative picture of my new job. Let me be perfectly clear: I still love my job. I’ve already learned so much. And I love the process of it; I love the software I work with and the satisfaction of literally checking off my to-do list. It’s just been a really rough mental transition. I still wake up optimistic, but I still can’t quite seem to seize upon that ecstatic ambition, to wrap my hands around its neck and throttle it into submission.
Um, not that I really could before, when I had an office job. It’s just that lately true accomplishment has seemed even further out of reach.
But it’s getting better. I’m learning to forgive myself, learning to lower my expectations, learning to build in extra leeway during the day, and learning to accept that sometimes I’m just going to have to work until 8:00 p.m. And thankfully, my work hours during the week are closer to 30 than a full 40, so with hard and diligent work Monday through Thursday I can have most of Friday for my own personal projects. You know, like redesigning my website. Or penning a novel. Or replacing the fuel filter in my car or learning Polish or uncovering the secret of clear skin.
What about you? Do you find yourself railing against the clock on a daily basis? How do you cope?
1 Unless Diddy is accustomed to feeling slothlike.