I Have a Work Confession

This is a work confession: sometimes I work too much.

A few years ago I found myself working a job that kept me busy 5 nights a week. I would work all day. Eat dinner and then do more.

I’m not afraid of working hard and working long. But as much as I talk about working here, I have limits. You do too. We all do.

After a few years of that kind of schedule, I was spent. I was worn out. I had nothing left to give anyone, including myself. I didn’t know what I needed and I didn’t have many people helping figure that out.

A few years have gone by. I left that job. I went to grad school and now I am mostly self employed. I’m doing things that I love and trying to help people in the ways that really matter to me.

In spite of the fact that I’m pursuing work that means so much to me, I had this moment the other day: I woke up in the morning and didn’t want to work.

I felt spent.

That was a familiar feeling. I’ve been burnt out before and I’m not interested in doing that any more. I immediately began doubting everything that has guided me to this place.

I know that this work matters deeply to me and is an important expression of who I am, yet I did not know what to do with the empty feelings I was having toward this work.

No work is great all the time. Making an impact is hard work in all regards (physically, spiritually, emotionally), so you should expect days that wear you out or weigh you down. But this was different.

As I talked it over with Stacia, I came to realize that I had not had significant time away from work in a couple weeks. The time that I had taken was short compared to how much I had been investing recently. The resistance that I was feeling toward work was an indicator of my lack of rest and self-care. The work is right for me — the things I am doing are right for me — but the way I was doing them was getting in the way of that.

It wasn’t the work that was creating pain; it was the lack of rest and time away from the work.

Sometimes when you dread work, it isn’t the content of the work that you dread but working when you need rest.

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6 Comments

  1. Mallory February 7, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Good words! So are you taking time away? A day off? A WEEK off? I’m curious (possibly in a meddling sort of way!) how you’ll tend to yourself after this brave realization.

    Reply
    1. Dan Cumberland February 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Thanks Mallory! So far this has looked like stopping work earlier and taking time off during the week when I’ve been speaking or doing photography over the weekend. It’s been good so far, but it’s also hard to take a break sometimes! Thoughts?

      Reply
  2. Ross May 12, 2014 at 2:19 am

    Hey Dan. I can relate to what you’ve said, even though I’m not in a job I particularly like. You’ve made me think that maybe I might need to change how I do things.

    Reply
    1. Dan Cumberland May 13, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Thanks Ross. I’d love to hear how what you try and how it goes!

      Reply
  3. Gabriel May 20, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Great article. After just finishing 9 months of being a full-time law student, and working two jobs at the same time, I just graduated and feel completely burnt-out. My mind and body are telling me that I need rest….BAD! I was so mentally exhausted and didn’t even realize it because I was so busy going a hundred miles/hour non-stop for so long.

    Reply
    1. Dan Cumberland May 20, 2014 at 8:44 am

      Wow. Sounds intense! I hope rest brings back your passion. Thanks for reading!

      Reply

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