I am coming out of the corporate closet: I don’t buy into the “I’m so busy” culture anymore. More and more it seems to be the cultural norm (preferred in fact) to commiserate about how “swamped” and “exhausted” and “drowning” we are with our work.
The people I have known who put in the most hours seemed the most miserable. They chained themselves to overflowing email inboxes, sighed bitterly when asked to add one more thing “to their plate,” and appeared to have the most disorganized work spaces. Others would see them as dedicated, loyal, hard-working employees. I have no doubt they were but at what cost? Did they lose the rest of themselves in the identity of “employee”? Is the perception of dedication, loyalty, and hard work only granted to those who live to work rather than those who work to live?
If I tell you I’m “soooo busy” it more than likely means that I don’t want to hang out with you or don’t want to do whatever you’re asking me to do, and I am too chicken to say it. My secret’s out.
When I first started my current job four years ago I wasn’t very good at managing my time or my workload. I succumbed to the “urgency” of other people’s menial tasks and last minute changes. I created hours of busywork for myself that never saw the light of day. I would arrive at home with just enough energy to burst into tears of frustration. A few months into the job I discovered the urgency/importance matrix used by President Eisenhower and popularized by Stephen Covey in the book “7 Habits for Highly Effective People.” It changed my life, and the day after I read about it I posted a defiant little note up on my cubicle: “I am in charge of my time and my workload.” I never had a long day of unproductive tear-inducing busywork again.
These days I come to work positive, refreshed, and eager to learn and contribute BECAUSE I don’t let my work impinge on my home life. Ten years in healthcare has taught me not to sweat the small stuff, although I still sometimes fall prey to it. People are literally doing brain surgery and curing cancer around the corner from where I work. That powerpoint presentation you started at 4:55 PM on Friday can wait until Monday. I promise. And if anyone from work is reading this–I have PLENTY to do, don’t worry.
What does this have to do with martial arts?
Getting involved in taekwondo has reminded me that I am worth a lot more than what title is in my email signature or what income is reported to the IRS. The physical challenges and mental frustrations of tkd has given me a deeper sense of determination and accomplishment. Taekwondo has helped me become more responsive rather than reactive. I’m more relaxed, and as a bonus I have something fun to look forward to after 5PM.
During a stressful meeting or complicated project I remind myself that my biggest worry that day will be trying not to get hit in the head during sparring. I remember that I’ll be trading heels for a dobok and making a happy fool of myself doing flying side kicks. Companies are finally starting to recognize the importance of having a happy, healthy workforce. Work-Life balance isn’t the elusive Holy Grail. It’s at your fingertips. If we all step back, take a collective deep breath, and focus on what’s truly important then we can find the balance and sense of purpose we so desperately crave.