You’re burnt out and making excuses. Quit it.

*Slithers into frame* Heeey guuyysss…

*lizard-like sexy pose* (Use your imagination)

So I got a new jooob.

*sways over to the other hip and continues lizard-like sexy pose*

I’m feeling pretty good about myself. And this news came at such a timely moment. I only just finished writing about how I quit my last job like a dramatic little snowflake! Confidence makes me all preachy so I actually want to share a bit of wisdom and flesh out how I felt at the point of burnout in my last role and specifically focus on some of the excuses I was telling myself to stay in my role.

Btw, if the link didn’t tempt you to read my last post, here’s the TLDR:

Job good. I’m happy. Job busy. I’m successful. Job changes too much. I’m stressed. Random family betrayal. Job annoying. I quit. Existential doubt settles into the crevices of my soul making me question whether I lack resilience and am ever going to be able to cope with the pressures of life. It’s a fun read!

Now that I have a job, I am more distanced from how I was feeling, which is good. I kind of glossed over the specifics of how I was feeling towards the end of my last role so let’s get into what I was telling myself and why it was bunk.

Thing #1: But I’m really passionate about this actually. This stress is normal in my line of work.

You know that end scene of The Devil Wears Prada where Andy is all, “What if I don’t want to live the way you live?” and Miranda, right after yet another divorce with her personal life in fabulous tatters, insists, “Oh don’t be ridiculous Andrea. Everyone wants this! Everyone wants to be us!” Have you seen the memes?

Don’t be held hostage by your passions. I work in the non-profit sector and lemme tell you… people get into it because they deeply care about the causes they support. They definitely don’t do it just for the salary. I understand what it means to be passionate about your work and the desire to let your passions bring about positive change in the world and in your life. But there are many ways to have an impact in this world and who’s to say you can’t find another job in your particular sector with conditions that better support you to thrive without sacrificing your wellbeing? I mean… my new job is still in a charity, with better pay and better conditions. It can happen. Being passionate shouldn’t hurt. Don’t be so kinky.

Thing #2: There’s just a lot to do right now and I need to finish this first…

I’m gonna say this once, very clearly. I am verbally enunciating as I type: Work. Is. Never. Finished.

That’s the whole point. The To Do List never ends! You keep rewriting it on another page because it never ends. Now, if you’re working on a specific project with a specific deadline and there is a natural end point and your company will give you a day off to reflect after… good for you, skip to the next point. But even when I worked in project management, projects overlap and one deadline was a different starting point. There was never a natural end point. And often I would think, “Well things are just getting busy” or “It’s a sensitive time” or “Things have just started improving so maybe I should stick around…” And 6 months later I was still thinking those thoughts. How long have you been thinking them? Work doesn’t end. Rip that band-aid of excuses off! (Or don’t, I’m not your mum)

Thing #3: I just need to get better at managing my time. I’m the problem.

Okay, this one is sneaky and I get it if you haven’t noticed it happening to you. Your problem may just be that you don’t understand how managing time actually works. I say that with love *forehead kiss*. If you feel you’re constantly struggling to get everything done but are a competent human being, you’re actually under the false impression that you can somehow achieve twice as much in the same amount of time as any other competent human being. But time management is not about magically cramming everything in, it’s about knowing what to say no to and prioritising. 

Here’s a quote from an article from Psychology Today. I actually Googled to further convince you: “Psychologists have studied decision making within conditions of scarcity and found that scarcity consumes attention, working memory, and executive function and elicits many counter-productive behavioural responses. In other words, when we perceive something to be scarce, we stop thinking rationally and our emotional brain takes over.”

So, if you perceive your time to be scarce and keep thinking there’s not enough time to do what you need to do, you are messing your brain up and making things worse. And then you feel bad and work harder and are trapped in a vicious cycle of inefficiency and self-blame.

That To Do List ain’t getting done. Be ruthless. Trim the fat. Once I did that, I realised that the reason I was cramming so much was because I didn’t actually enjoy the core aspects of my role anymore. I was reaching for other things to do because I wanted to be doing something else. I was enough, the role just wasn’t.

Thing #4: This place will fall apart without me and I’ll have its blood on my very capable hands.

You little martyr you! *lizard slap!* Stop it! 

Here’s a Hot Take: Actually sticking to your contract or job description is what helps you be a better worker. If the organisation you work for has any sense, they will have written out a contract and role description outlining what they expect from you. You should be engaging with this and discussing  how it looks in real life with your line manager during any and all  1-2-1s.  Everything you do, how you perform, what you prioritise etc needs to reflect your role description. If things are unclear, politely raise them and figure out what you should be doing. This isn’t being dramatic or work shy, this is gaining clarity and providing the organisation exactly what they have asked for. They have the power to change the role description in discussion with you if something is missing. It costs them very little to do that but the description then operates as a sort of bible directing both of you. It’s professionalism dammit.

I was doing so much. So much. And a lot of it was self-inflicted. Because I’m just oh so passionate! *gag* I kept seeing problems and kept making up solutions. And at one point my manager (bless his soul – he was really good) just bluntly had to tell me, “That’s not your role, it’s not what I need you to do”. And I was affronted. Like, “Dude, I’m saving your organisation here. I’m working so hard!”

But I listened and went back and read my contract and job description, and found that I had taken the wrong turn a while back. I was performing my main duties, but I was giving equal priority to all this other “growth” stuff that I had developed. I changed and things got better. But then Thing number 3 happened. Those two circle around each other a lot.

Thing #5: I’ve done a lot for this organisation and if I leave it’ll be for nothing.

I think I told myself this because I was afraid. Afraid of becoming the small fish in a big pond again. Afraid of not being appreciated in another role. Afraid of putting myself in the starting line somewhere new. 

I think this is ego. Maybe you’ve brought in changes, new ways of doing things or hired people in your role. I did all of that in my last role. And I definitely thought about the “legacy” I was leaving behind and wanting it to be maintained. Look, at the end of the day, I learned a lot by doing all those things. The thing you have built is not some system or team, it’s yourself. You have built yourself, which is what you want from a career. You are now ready to take this levelled up version of yourself elsewhere. So do that. Be proud. You’ve likely left behind a pretty good situation. They’ll figure it out. Off you go! *consensual bum tap*

Thing #6: I’m the most valuable person they have!

See last point. If you’re the smartest person in the room, find another room.

Thing #7: I feel guilty…

Shhttaaap! Unless you work for your 100 year old family business or your best friend, who also donated you a kidney, hired you against the advice of her entire board: You have done enough. I don’t care if they adapted the role for you, or if they got you additional training or if you think they’re good people. All of that was true for me but the truth remained that my head had hit the ceiling of what that role could provide. It was time to move on. Yes, it can hurt, yes it can be scary. But moving forward and bettering yourself is more fulfilling than any misplaced loyalty.

So, those are all the things I told myself to convince me to stay in a role that was making me miserable. The people I worked with were lovely, the cause is important, my manager was nice and I gained a lot by being there. But these excuses were all red flags and I was slowly becoming a disappointed, sadder, more miserable human over time.

I offer you this wisdom: Don’t become a boiled frog. Be a sexy lizard.

*sassy lizard wink*

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