You Should Actually Work Less, Not More
I had two mental breakdowns at the end of March. That’s rare for me because I’m usually a very upbeat and positive person. But my to-do list had gotten so huge that I broke down in tears. I didn’t even want to get out of bed some days because I dreaded the thought of having to do so many things. Instead of feeling excited in the morning like I normally do, I just felt numb.
That’s because I was working what felt like the equivalent of three part-time jobs. I have my actual day job, which is online tutoring. I have my dream job, which is writing for Medium and being an Instagram influencer, and I was helping my friend launch a business. Plus I have my daily personal growth tasks like working out and meditation. But it had gotten to the point where my self-care activities, which are supposed to make me feel better, just felt like extra work.
I didn’t want to meditate for another 10 minutes. I wanted to lie on the couch for a week and watch trashy comedies on Netflix.
It didn’t help that my family was doing exactly that, while I was glued to my computer. To be fair, I am grateful that I still get to work right now, since so many people lost their jobs recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And I’m grateful to be in my rural Midwestern hometown with my family during quarantine. I feel so much safer being here, in the middle of nowhere, than I would if I were in Los Angeles right now. All of us are safe and healthy.
But it was hard not getting to socialize with my family as much as I would like to before going back to LA. And with the launch date of my friend’s business fast approaching, she was asking me to do a lot more tasks for her than usual, but not paying me more. So I had to set some boundaries.
Knowing My Limits
This was difficult to do though. I’m a bit of a people pleaser and I really don’t like to let people down, especially friends and family. But I had to explain to her that the more work she gives me, the less time I can spend working on my dreams. Like the Medium Partner Program, for example. One of my dreams is to earn a full-time income and then some by writing here, but that’s not gonna happen if I’m not publishing consistently. The tasks for my friend had deadlines though, whereas Medium does not. And anything with a deadline will always be my first priority.
The thing that made me saddest though was that I felt like I was neglecting myself in order to please my friend. Like all that time I spent doing extra things for her could’ve been spent writing, which would’ve gotten me closer to reaching my dreams. And yet, I didn’t even feel like writing because I was so mentally exhausted from everything else that it no longer felt fun.
That was what made me realize that I’m being spread too thin and I need to narrow my focus.
I talked about this with my mom and some of my other friends and they all agreed. The key to success is focusing on one or two things at a time. So that’s what I need to do. My main focus areas need to be Medium and Instagram for now.
I realize now that the more projects I take on, the less focus goes to each individual project. And without focus, I’ll never reach my full potential.
It’s simply not possible to give 100 percent to many different things all at the same time. So a better idea is to pick the few things that are most fulfilling for you and either reduce or completely cut out everything else. Like Marie Kondo says, if it doesn’t spark joy (or serve an essential need), cut it out. Think about what your big long-term vision is or your five-year plan, and cut out anything that will not bring you closer to that.
That was what I told my friend I needed to do. I told her I was feeling burnt out and needed to quit working with her, but I wished her the best in her business ventures. She was upset, which I guess isn’t too surprising, but thankfully she understood.
Now obviously, you still gotta work hard if you want to achieve any type of goal in life. But that doesn’t mean you need to be all the things to all the people. The only thing that will get you is a massive headache.
Don’t feel bad for wanting to work a bit less. I know society is always telling us to work more and hustle harder, but there is a right and a wrong way to go about it. By removing things from your to-do list that you don’t love, you’re freeing up time and energy so you can work harder on the things you do love. You’re working smarter, not harder.
Telling my friend I needed to quit was like having a weight lifted off my shoulders. I feel so much more free now that I’m able to focus on myself and my individual goals more. Try cutting out some things too and see how you feel. You’ll probably realize that you don’t miss them one bit.