Introspection on Becoming a Workaholic (And Learning to Step Back)

Working three jobs is like throwing a hundred rubber balls in the air and attempting to juggle them all perfectly. I was handling it quite well for a while.

As most of you know, I’m an office manager/estimator/account manager/many hat wearer at a landscaping company, the production coordinator of the guest publication for an upscale hotel and spa, and an adjunct professor for the Winter Quarter, which spans January-March. (Almost done).

I delved into this job-juggling slowly, and so maybe that’s why for the most part, I didn’t realize how crazy it would be. I was working part-time at both jobs, then switched to full-time at one and kept part-time at the other. Then I began teaching. That was when I realized my evenings were nonexistent, I had piles of grading, waking up in the morning became the hardest task of my day, drinking some type of espresso in the morning became routine, and I often looked more disheveled than I preferred.

As I slogged through these three months, people got sick all around me. Coworkers, family members, students, friends. Puzzled, amazed I hadn’t yet gotten sick, I powered through everything as usual. I hadn’t even gotten a flu shot, although I’d been meaning to each weekend, and each one not feeling up to driving to Napa from the exhaustion of the week.

Getting sick ended up happening anyway.

It was a Wednesday night. I was preparing for class when I started to feel extremely nauseous. To be fair, nausea is not really unfamiliar for me: I’ve been dealing with various forms of it (and various causes) ever since I can remember. But it got so bad that I almost thought I’d cancel class, then thought, “Nope, I’m going to teach class, then go straight home afterwards.”

My class that night went well, and I started to feel better. Thinking maybe I had just had an extreme bout of hunger (which happens, especially when you don’t have the chance to get dinner until almost 8:00 p.m.), I went home and began doing some organizing, invited Josh over so we could have some dinner, and suddenly it hit me again. I sat down at my kitchen table from my frenzied search for my camera battery charger and dish-washing and laid my head back. Josh arrived a few minutes later, realized how bad I felt, and made me grilled cheese sandwiches while I talked and tried not to think about my stomach. I ate most of the grilled cheese, and being unable to finish, he hugged me and told me to go to bed and get some good rest so that I would feel better the next day.

Despite my hopes, I didn’t.

The next two days were trying to rest as much as I could while sick. At first I tried actively keeping up with what was going on in the office through LogMeIn, but eventually went back to sleep instead. I laid in bed and played WoW, read books, or slept. I tried to eat soup and was unable to finish it either, bouts of nausea making it impossible. The first day I had already had the Journal done, but the day after had to rely on my coworkers to get it done for me, sad to have to put them in that position. The night I got sick, all the balls in the air fell down, one by one. I had too much on my plate and I knew it. It was apparent in having to have others do my work for me, in realizing the weekly Journal for the other property was sitting in my backseat instead of in its place at Housekeeping, and it being delivered a day late. It was apparent in being unable to bring myself to do any grading over the weekend. It was apparent in the comments I got from my family and friends, “Well at least you’ll get a break from it all.”

By the middle of the second day sick, I finally let myself relax, and just told myself that my coworkers would take care of it, and I’d catch up later. This was a hard thing on a personal level. I don’t just let others do my work unless I am completely incapable of doing so. Letting the balls drop was probably one of the best things I could have done for myself, however. It gave me a sense of peace and relaxation for the few days I was home sick, and gave me a new perspective on how I should handle things.

It’s been a few weeks since, and I feel like I’m finally starting to get a handle on everything else. I’ve installed a new to-do app assistant on my phone, am trying to drink at least a 1 quart bottle of water a day (if not more), and eat more substantially when I do get to eat for lunch (I’ll work on that more when my class is over). Ultimately, I’ve learned a lot about my capabilities (and my juggling skills). More importantly, I’ve learned when I need to let go, and when I should say no to things in order not to overload myself. The more rest I get, the better I take care of myself, the less I will get sick, the better I’ll feel, and the quality of my work will go up and I will rarely miss work, if I do at all. (Of course, I already rarely miss work, but it will be even more of a sure thing.)

So wish me luck, as I finish up the last week or so of the adventure that has been these past three months. Tune in soon for an overview of my teaching experience.

Have you ever been so overwhelmed from taking on too many things at once? What did you like and dislike about it? Did you burn out like I did? Let me know in the comments.

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