Saturday, January 12, 2019

Always Feeling Behind

In speaking with a coworker the other day, I commented that I felt myself to constantly be under a cloud of stress.  She agreed.  She asked me if I had any sense of why that was, other than just the general work environment.

I thought about it a moment, and then stated:  "I always feel behind.  We have schedules and deadlines and I always feel as if I am not meeting those, so I am always behind.  Always being behind means that I am not meeting expectations.  Not meeting expectations means I am always at risk of being taken to task.  No-one likes to be taken to task.  No-one likes to feel bad."

Now mind you, I have a great boss.  I have never been yelled at for not accomplishing something (frustratedly spoken to perhaps, but not yelled at).  They do not yell at my company.  Yet somehow when I mentioned this, my coworker nodded in complete agreement.  "That is it"  she said.

How did this happen?  This seems like a completely self imposed burden - yet judging my coworker's reactions and those of my direct reports when I ask them about something (and I never yell either), this seems to be a common theme at our company.

As I pondered it further, I realized the that what I had stated was the way of it.  Schedules and deadlines inherently create the potential for individuals to be behind, especially if there are multiple schedules and deadlines.  If someone feels as if they are always going to be missing something, they become discouraged.  One begins to constantly look over one's shoulder for the rebuke that one constantly expects as one is constantly behind on something.  And when everything is deadline and schedule driven (and the completion of one merely means the start of another), eventually everyone feels like the other shoe is always about to drop.

What is the solution?  I do not know.  The nature of the schedules and deadlines is not going away.  The nature of what we do is not going away.

Maybe, in the end, the solution is for me to go away.


LindaG said...

The last sentence is a bit harsh. Find something new, perhaps yes. But not necessarily just "go away".

Not everyone thrives on schedules and deadlines, that is for sure. I spent 20 years in the military. Hubby. 34, iirc. I would guess we did thrive on deadlines and schedules.
Him more than me! But it is not for everyone.

Just like Alaska. I was told when I first got there you love it or hate it. No middle ground.
We loved it; but a lot of people couldn't wait to leave.

Vera said...

What you describe is the modern working environment. My partner is working in a virtual environment but he, too, is constantly stressed in the same way as you describe. I do not know what the answer is, apart from making it a priority to shut the working day firmly down as you leave the office building after each working day, to get out of your working clothes as soon as you get home and put on recreational gear, and refuse to let your mind dwell on any work related subject until you next get into the office.
For my partner this is difficult to do because he works at home, but for him this is not a long term work position so in the near future he will be back to concentrating on the farm, although he will no doubt worry about lack of income unless a magic wand is waved above our heads and an income stream opens up for us!

Because you are so aware of yourself and who you are, I have no doubt that things will sort themselves out for you, but perhaps not as quickly as you want them to, therefore to be patient and embrace each day as its own entire self.

PeteForester1 said...

I was feeling behind for years... Then my wife got annoyed and told me to stop!

Seriously though; it's as simple as this, TB; folks at our age realize that our employers can hire "half the age at half the wage," and that if we don't somehow justify existence, we'll be on the bread line.

I'll be 58 in a couple of weeks, and y'know what? I'm caring less and less about "being behind" as the years advance. There's only so much I can do; only so much control I have. The rest I leave to God. I realized that I've only got a few more summers left in me. Best I enjoy them before there are none!

Glen Filthie said...

What Pete said!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Linda - I dithered about that last line. What I intended with it was really, in the end, I have a choice: stay with the job or leave. Nothing more drastic than that (Thankfully).

To be fair, deadlines have helped me grow. I have become a better strategic thinker because of my job. But at some point the stress outweighs the benefits.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Vera - I thought of Lester as well when I wrote this - I suspect in some ways, we are both in the same sort of general situation.

I have been pretty good for years - but am definitely paying more attention now than ever - about shutting things down when I leave the office. I make a standard policy of not checking my e-mail when I am not at work and not checking it on the weekends. Sadly, this always seems to put me at a disadvantage in terms of getting work done.

The magical wand of income may become a thing here too, perhaps quicker than I imagine. And thank you for your reminder of patience - it is one of my greatest struggles.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Pete - I am rapidly approaching your thinking. I have been through too many "Need to finish" projects to know how important they are over the course of time.

By my count, all but two of the companies I currently work for in my industry have gone out of business or merged. Most of the products I have worked on are no longer on the market. And I realized over Christmas when I visited home that even most of the places I worked before I started in my industry are now gone. It certainly gives one perspective.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Glen - That Pete, right? Always with the good advice.

Glen Filthie said...

You bust your hump building these companies up, invest your time and ego into advancing them and making them grow - and then the owners get old, decide to retire and sell - and the new owners come in and run off half the staff or replace them with their own people. Or their idiot children take over and run them into the ground. Screw the employees, I got mine - now you can go get yours or get lost!

I got lost, myself. For me it was the best option - your mileage will vary.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Glen, I have learned long ago that a company will take every ounce of time and effort that you give and - when the situation is such that you are a liability - will let you go without a second thought. I have since tried to manage my involvement to "normal business hours" and a bit.

That said, I am reaching the point that I care less and less about advancement. Give me another 8 years (until the last one clears college) and I am most certainly out.