I used to love most of my work. Worked long hours completely immersed into problem solving, coding or engaged in an exciting encounter with business partners.
Right now, everything feels like a chore. What went wrong?
Why does everything feel like a chore?
The answer is complicated, but I think the reasons can be categorized as
- Lack of focus
- Lack of overview
- Boring tasks instead of flow
Lack of focus
One of my first report card stated that I'm easily distracted. Almost 40 years later this hasn't changed. I love being immersed in creative work, trying to figure something out, designing something or writing computer code. Until that door flings open and someone asks me if I have a second. Then my thoughts, ideas and goals vanish; sometimes forever.
I feel terrible because I can't get into the happy working mood I was in before the distraction. Suddenly that half finished thing sits in your task list and it pisses you off every time you see it.
I must work on making my environment as distraction free as possible.
Lack of overview
Often times I focus on the wrong things. My love of deep work sometimes lead to me spending hours, days or weeks on a pet project that might never show any productive result.
Even after completing such a project, I feel bad because I know I should have done something much more important.
GTD helped me find the right thing to focus on.
I must work on getting my GTD projects aligned with my responsibilities, goals and abilities.
It's easy to agree to all the little, boring tasks that need to be done. It's not hard to make that annoying phone call or to sift through that stack of papers.
The problem with these tasks is just that they impose resistance on my work. Most work is emotional work and if there are tasks that you hate, those can derail your complete workday. Instead of doing that dreaded boring chore, your mind finds something a lot more interesting and before you know it, you spent your day on some unimportant internet research, doing phony projects, or happily agree to any new work that shows up.
At the end of the day, those boring tasks that probably would have taken 30 minutes out of your day, still sit there untouched and feel like shit because you didn't accomplish anything.
When I'm finally done with work and I have some free time, I find myself stuck doing chores again, just in my free time.
Make it lovable again
Do I have to work on my attitude?
Yes. Maintenance work is not a waste of time. Do it with all your hard and be proud of the little things. They are the foundation for great work.
Better work-life balance?
I'm terrible at this. Feeling guilty for not accomplishing something on a day off is a question of attitude. Structuring my life so I can enjoy this short time on earth, spend time with my kids growing up and bonding with good friends should be my number one priority.
Consider everything work?
Applying principles of responsibility to free-time activity. Making work-time fun. Can I look at everything as work? After all, even sleeping serves a purpose. It is maintenance work on body and mind.
Don't take friendships for granted. It takes effort to keep in touch and have a good time with friends and meet people who matter to you. Is that work? Probably not in the way most people view work, but since it requires your time and energy, it is. It's fun and extremely rewarding, but that should be true for everything work related, too.