As Managing Editor for Actionable, I have a really nice problem: my colleagues all love what they do, and often turn in drafts of blog posts that focus on all of the amazing things about working at Actionable. Our virtual, work anywhere culture encourages collaboration, and results in a very happy team.
It’s part of our brand to be engaged at work, and no one who writes for us wants to post something off brand. Many of the drafts I receive, are more about what we are doing right, than what we can offer to help others get it right.
I know. I should view this as a non-problem. Everyone loves it here! Myself included! What’s not to like? We work together on reframing so that the posts will provide helpful insights for anyone who does not have the pleasure of working on our team. Problem solved, right?
But there is a bit of a downside.
Because we want, as an organization, to make the world of work better for everyone, there is a constant pressure (whether real or perceived) to only ever talk about the good things. We are a team, we collaborate, we like each other a lot. We see the challenges of other workplaces—at least 70% of people are unengaged at work—and we feel fortunate to be part of the other 30%. It’s hard not to feel at least a little smug about it.
Things can get a bit meta, and therefore difficult to parse. My work is related to improving the world of work, writing and editing content that will help people improve themselves and their careers. I have to adopt a stance of authority to get the tone and content just right. But the truth is, I’m not an expert in this stuff. I do my best with the support of a great team, but like so many others, sometimes I feel like an imposter. It can be difficult to keep up the positivity: to not let the creeping feeling of being not-quite-good-enough take over.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the scope of my job (and by several personal reactions to world events that I won’t get into here), and in response, I’ve let self care fall to the wayside. My exercise routine has suffered, and my fridge has been empty for weeks.
Despite my intellectual knowledge that eating well and exercising regularly are two of the best defences against stress, I’ve been struggling to make it a daily priority.
I feel especially silly about this because I am able to set my own schedule. Our work anywhere culture means I can decide both where and when I work. I have a lot more freedom than the average employee to work when and where I want. I can take a few minutes in the middle of the day to run an errand or squeeze in a workout.
I wrote recently about what it’s like to work in a ROWE, but what I didn’t mention was the pressure that I put on myself to constantly be on. I love this job, and I want to be great at it. It can feel more urgent to edit a post or respond to an email than to go for a run or pop out to the vegetable stand.
I’m so engaged in my work (again, really great problem to have), that I find it difficult to unplug at the end of the day. I’ll be relaxing with my partner, talking about the news or our upcoming plans, and my attention will start to drift to a Slack message I should send, an idea for a blog post, or how to address that email I’ve been sitting on. Many of my colleagues keep different hours than I do, and when I hear from them during what is supposed to be my down-time, I still feel compelled to read their messages, think them over, and respond. I have it in my head that that’s what a good teammate does. Our work anywhere culture sometimes makes me feel like I should always be working.
But Actionable isn’t the only team I’m a member of. My partner and I are a team. My friends and family are a team. My fiction writing group is a team. And I’m working on ways to be a happy, engaged member of each of these groups.
Yes, I want to be great at my job, but I also want to be great at my life. Each of these teams deserve my attention.
So what am I going to do about it?
Luckily, I have incredible colleagues and a strong framework to back me up. I’m going to make sure that I have regular and meaningful conversations with my peers and managers. I’m going to make daily commitments to make small, manageable changes, and work toward incremental progress. I’m going to manage my calendar and prioritize self care, and go offline when I need to. I’m going to exercise, and I’m going to recognize that when my partner and I are debriefing at the end of the day, that he deserves my full attention.
I’m also going to cut myself some slack. I’m just now approaching the three month mark as an employee of Actionable, and I know I’m not expected to be perfect.
With the contagious enthusiasm of the Actionable team, with the values that make working with them an inspiring experience, and with a strong sense of personal accountability, I hope to improve a little every day.
And right now, even though there are posts to edit and emails to answer, I’m going to go for a run.