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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Buyer

#57: Has Work Gone to my Head?

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

It’s no secret that I’m an obsessive person. I get hyper-fixated on one goal and it overtakes

my life. It sometimes feels like it would be more difficult for me to lead a balanced lifestyle than climb Mt. Everest. (Well, that’s not true. It just feels like it.) The more success I have with something, the more I want to do it.

Work has been amazing recently. It was never bad, but I finally feel like my team recognizes the quality and quantity my work. It’s frustrating that it took 4 months, but I understand that it takes time to build trust with someone whose new to the team and the workforce. I had an internal interview the other week. I realized how much I learned and accomplished in the last year alone. I used to feel like I was making up BS in interviews. This time, I wanted to be asked more questions so that I could “brag” about my work.

With trust comes additional responsibility. I decided to sleep in until 10am after July 4th for obvious reasons (I worked over the weekend to get work done ahead of time), and I woke up to TEXT messages from a teammate who needed help. We work with people in different time zones, so I get pinged at all hours of the day and on PTO from business partners. I need to draw boundaries between my personal life and work, but I LOVE feeling needed and important. I’m sure I won’t feel this way forever…

I don’t have much else going on in my life right now – in the best way possible. I have a workout schedule, friends, and family, but that doesn’t take up an overwhelming amount of time. Honestly, I’d rather be working most of the time. I know that I only feel this way because I’m making a choice. I go to bed at night and look forward to getting up in the morning to go to work. I get excited when I know I’ll have a busy day. I’m grateful that I feel this way. I’m switching teams in about a month, so who knows how I’ll feel then. I’m excited to to settle into a new team for good this time. Rotating every six months is a great opportunity to learn, but it’s exhausting. As soon as I get to know the team and processes, it’s time to transition again. I’m sprinting to make an impact before I have to move again. Even so, I’m amazed at what I’ve been able to learn and accomplish in the last six months. I picked up a deal today without having to read the template form ahead of time. No matter what it is, I know I can do it. I even lead a team meeting today while my manager was out. That’s WILD.

As much as work has been going great, I’m afraid of letting it get to my head. I live for positive feedback (which is a problem) but I need to remember that 1. This won’t always be the case and 2. I can’t get ahead of myself. I have less than a year of experience. I’m worried I’ll become conceded. There’s a distinction between being full of myself and proud of myself. I haven’t discovered the line yet, but I know that if I’m going to work this hard, I deserve to be proud of myself. The other day, my friend told me that I was one of the most motivated people she’s met. That was the biggest compliment someone could give me. I don’t think I’m different than anyone else, but it meant the world to me. When I receive positive feedback at work, my instinct is to share my excitement with friends and family. I’m learning to cherish my excitement on my own, or share it with family only. I’m not hiding anything, but the last thing I want is to come off the wrong way. Everyone I know in Seattle is so talented that we’d never get the chance to talk about anything else if we only shared our success.

I have to be careful of my health, too. I studied for the Cloud Practioner exam for the last few weeks. I crammed a few weeks ago, which resulted in 12-hour work days. Did I have to work 12-hour days? Probably not, but I wanted to and I had an excuse, so I did. (In general, I only work 9-5.) Friday was an insanely busy day. Outside of the 2-hour exam, I handled 3 “emergencies.” I was exhausted, but it was honestly the time of my life. Within 2 minutes of submitting the exam, my skip manager pinged me about another “emergency.” I truly didn’t think I passed the test, but I somehow did? Anyway, I had plans with friends on Friday night and slept in on Saturday. I tried to get up to go to the gym, but literally couldn’t. I was too weak to even play ping pong on my new table. I think I slept for a total of 20 hours over the weekend and did absolutely nothing. I didn’t feel sick, so I probably just overworked myself. This was a wake-up call to myself. Even if I’d rather be working, resting is just as important to future productivity.

I received the feedback at work several times that I need to make sure to take care of myself so that I don’t burn out. I don’t feel burned out, I don’t think. I enjoy my work and I rarely work over 45 hours per week, unless I choose to. Now that several people have mentioned it to me, I wonder if I’m burning out. I can’t feel it, but I’m paranoid that I’ll burn out and not realize until it’s too late. I’m not always the best at realizing my emotions. What if I wake up one day and don’t have anything left? I don’t want to slow down now though, because I love what I’m doing and work is keeping me going.

I also notice that I’m 2-3x as productive when I work early in the morning or late at night. During regular business hours, I’m constantly getting emails and pings of questions or requests to distract me. I feel pressure to check right away, and then have to refocus. Even if I don’t answer immediately my mind still shifts and affects my efficiency. This is called “task-switching.” As someone who struggles to focus, this is detrimental to my productivity. My new strategy is to set a timer for an hour and focus exclusively on that task – unless there’s a fire drill. Literally or figuratively. When the timer goes off, I respond to everyone who needs a response and move on. I find that this also helps me to work through difficulties, since I’m forced to keep working on something for the hour instead of procrastinating by doing something else.

I love playing ping pong with my team at work, but I struggle when they ask me to play while I’m in the zone. I don’t want to explain how difficult it is for me to re-focus, and I don’t want to miss out on a fun game. I usually end up stopping the timer to play unless I’m incredibly busy or in the zone.

In high school, I had this theory called the “Trainwreck Theory” which said that you can only be good at so many things. The person who has an IQ off the charts might lack social skills or physical ability. The most charming person might not have the best grades. However, the most frustrating and dangerous person of all is the person without apparent flaws. I used to be so insecure that I had to find what was wrong in others, which is why the theory sounds so negative. I’m much more confident now, nor do I have time to find flaws in others, but the general principal of the theory applies: we can’t be the best at everything. (Honestly, that should be so obvious. But it’s not.) The main point of my theory was that by process of elimination, the person that has everything must have something going on in their head.

I used to agonize and constantly comparing myself to others. I had to figure out who was skinnier, prettier, smarter, etc. To some extent, I’ve grown out of that. I don’t spend my energy looking for flaws or ways that I’m “better” than others. However, I still have a fierce competitive desire to be the best at everything. That’s technically a comparison, right? If I know I’m going to lose, I don’t keep score so that I don’t have to face the fact that I lost. I wish I knew how others saw me, because they might see something that I don’t. I spend more time than ever alone these days (by choice, and due to independent work) that I feel like I’ve lost perspective. I don’t know how others see me or my personality. Do I overshare? Do I come on too strong at work? Am I self-obsessed? I can’t see what’s “wrong” with me on the outside, which means that I’m either missing it, or it must be on the inside. I can’t tell if I’m lost or if I’m just a normal 23 year-old.

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