It’s been a while since I’ve whined about my life. Alternately put, all my posts are my musings about life, so it’s has been a while since I’ve written about it with intense negativity. In the past, I was frequently plagued by concerns and complaints about my job and career. I haven’t suddenly decided to love my job after nearly four years in a bout of Stockholm Syndrome, but I’ve been able to mold it into what I want and become happy with what I’ve created. I’ve accepted that I can sometimes enjoy work, and gain satisfaction from it. But work is still work.
When people wish me well about work, I react in the same way a kindergartner immaturely stomps their feet and says that they have important homework to do. No, I will not have a good day at work. Work is an annoyance and the goodness of the day does not come from it. When people ask me how work was, I vaguely wave my hands and shrug, never giving anything more positive than a lukewarm response. No, I refuse to feel strongly about how I earn my bread and pay my rent. When people inquire if I like work, I start blowing raspberries à la française and roll my eyes, vehemently disavowing any sort of positive emotion towards the subject.
But since the question is often posed, about my day, about my week, about my sentiments towards work in general, I’ve decided to break down my feelings towards work a little more quantitatively. Not because I’ve a yuppie who needs to track anything, or a nerd who needs to put a number towards everything, but because I need to sort out my feelings towards work in general. Even if I decide to hate every moment that I spend making money for the company that I work for, some days will invariably be better than others, and I ought to treasure that. At my current trajectory, I have another forty years or so of work in me so now is as good of a time to start as ever.
If I were to remain staunchly anti-work, the first measure would be the amount of work I was expected to do during this time period. Banking hours or even consulting hours sound like misery. My ideal hours were when I rang in as a high achiever on forty office hours in a week, or twenty-five working from home hours; I counted the latter only when I put my head down and poured out productivity. Work life balance was as great as could be, and I rarely complained about quantity of work. This amount has fluctuated over the pandemic and as I’ve taken more responsibilities and responsibility, growing into larger roles. Now I sit at thirty-five hours of productive work a week, which is much more exhausting than it sounds, and drains a lot of motivation to do much else outside of work. This averages out to seven hours a day, but fluctuates depending on day, week, and month. Of course, I’d like this number to be as close to zero as possible.
The second measure is my productivity over said time period. Though it sounds weirdly mercenary for someone who professes no grand love for his job, I’ve come to accept that I get satisfaction from being productive at work. As an office denizen, I know that some work is endless. But work already on the docket must be completed at some point; since I’m working from home half the time, if I finish early, the rest of the time in the day, week, or month is mine. I have no qualms about staying at the office if I’m having a productive day, knowing that I can work much less tomorrow. Better work in the same amount of time compared to colleagues also means a favourable recognition from management, leading to possible promotion, dependent on quality of management and role of course.
Alternatively put, the reward for good work is more work, leading to the third measure, the amount of excess work I have been assigned or has been created for me in this time period. Like work expected from me, less is better. I chose to put this as a separate category for two reasons. Firstly, this is generally ad-hoc work in addition to my routine workflow, often not directly related to my key performance indicators. Though it’s not always a chore to do, it is extraneous and disrupts the rhythm I’ve built up in my schedule. Secondly, additional work assigned to me often cannot necessarily be completed in the same day. This means that it weighs on me for the day and subsequent days as additional, unexpected work. This is measured in the time frame that I was assigned the work, not the one in which I complete the work.
The fourth measure is how my responsibilities are faring. In a chairmaking example, it would be the quality and quantity of chairs that I’ve made. However, this isn’t directly related to the amount of time that I’ve spent on making the chairs, or how good I am at making them. Perhaps the varnish provided to me was flawed, or management recently invested in a new sander which performed beyond my expectations. In any example, there is a certain amount of variability between my actions and how they are measured that I can’t control, and this amount increases as the job becomes more abstract and challenging. Ideally, I produce as many chairs as possible, because that’s how I make money, but seeing my efforts come to fruition feels good.
The fifth and final measure is how valued I feel at my job in this given time frame. There are many factors that affect how I evaluate the value of work, such as uniqueness, difficulty, importance, and competence. Are there a lot of people doing what I’m doing? Is what I’m doing challenging? Is my work important to the company? Admitting that this affects how I feel about work means that I derive some sense of accomplishment from it, which I find increasingly hard to deny as work becomes increasingly meaningful. But on a day-to-day basis, what I do may not be any of these things. Or, I could find that I’m slowly becoming less valuable at my job, which indicates it’s time to look around.
All these measures are rated on a scale of zero to two, where zero is bad, one is average, and two is good. They can then be summed up for a daily total out of ten, which quantifies my workday as good, bad, or average. This way, I have a little more structure to my answer when someone asks me about work, instead of a single mixed bag of feelings that is difficult to rationalize. This rating is also useful for me to sort out my emotions regarding work, to resolve any lingering frustration: Long workday? At least it was productive and I didn’t get any excess work. Got a lot of work dumped on me today? At least it’s meaningful, and my sales are up.
It’s constructive to think about why I like my job aside from the money I make from it. Being able to afford living is great, but the activity I do for half my waking hours should at least be tolerable. Like everyone, I wish it were the weekend all the time, and I don’t usually look forward to work. It gives me a second wind at work sometimes, and reminds me that perhaps I don’t have it so bad after all. If I had to evaluate my work this past week, it’d be an eight. Work overall rings in at around a seven. Though I can be convinced to change jobs if something perfect lands on my lap, I’m not looking anywhere. For once, I’m satisfied where I am.