Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Workaholic Decides to Prioritize

I love my work. I write and edit all day. People send me things to work on, which I get to do in the comfort of my home office, and in between such assignments I work on stories. I love writing--all kinds, although the stories are the most interesting--and so digging into work each day is not a problem for me.

When I finally settled into a regular schedule that worked for me, I was dedicated. I was on par. Get up each morning, have breakfast with our parrot, read my Bible. Work, work, work. Eat lunch. More work. Take a walk in the middle of the afternoon. Prepare to stop work around 5 pm so that when hubs walks in the door, we can eat dinner and hang out together. I took most weekends off.

It was reasonable, healthy, and routine. I like routines. My brain works better with them.

But things changed. I don't know quite when it happened. When I finished the last draft of a novel, ready to send off to agents, I pulled a few all-nighters. We moved to a new house where my office points away from the street, instead of towards it, so I don't usually know my husband's home until he walks into my office itself. Last November during NaNoWriMo, I struggled with some writer's block and occasionally worked late to try to meet my word counts.

Before I knew it, I was working all the time. The clock would roll around to 5 and I hadn't even taken my walk yet. I'd hop off the computer much later, take a walk, and we wouldn't sit down together and actually see each other until 6:30.

I knew this bugged Nic a little. I tried not to work too far past when he arrived home. Sometimes he would come on my walks with me so that we could be together.

But last week, he confronted me about working late again, an agitated look on his face. Somehow it finally hit me. This really bugs him.

I was prioritizing important things. But I wasn't prioritizing the most important thing.

All my promises of "it's just this once," or excuses of "but I really had to finish it today," and "I'll stop when I get to the end of this section," were moot. I'd used them up too many times. Sure, a few times working late is fine. Everyone has those days where you just get hooked on what you're doing, or where you have a deadline you have to meet right now so help me God. But if you use an excuse every night, it becomes a habit.

Excuses had become the routine.

I am a workaholic. I'm not really ashamed of this on the surface: I love my work. I'm grateful to have a job I love, because many people have to settle for much less. But Nic is the love of my life. Our relationship and our marriage is important to me: more important than writing. I like him. He's a really cool person. I married him to be together, so if that's still a priority, I need to make it a priority.

Besides, it's not like I don't already get 8 hours writing.

So I started ending work before 5. It was hard. It was also easier than I expected. It turns out, there's no such thing as a "stopping point" in my line of work. There's always more to do. At some point you simply decide it's done and the writing is good enough; as Chuck Wendig points out, there's no such thing as a perfect piece.

Hubs was in his rights to be hurt. I wasn't making him sit around for a couple hours each evening so that I could get to the perfect place to stop: I was doing it because I'm addicted to my work and over-working had become a routine.

I'm making a new routine now. For the last five work days, I've stopped before he even drove up to the house. I like it. It gives me time to take a mental break and regroup before talking to a living, breathing human being. I can go on longer walks in the afternoons. In fact, my creativity has spiked now that I have more "space" in my life. Rest, it turns out, feeds the muse.

And you know what? I'm not getting substantially less work done than before. My workload is about the same as always: approaching the end of one project with five more waiting to be started.

Word count: 765.