How to stop feeling guilty about unfinished work?
I am pretty good at making sure to take care of myself, because I know it’s important. I can force myself to go for a run, get something to eat, participate in a regular activity that’s not related to academia. But I can’t turn off the voice in my head that keeps nagging me about the work that’s waiting for me back at the office.
This is especially true when there are deadlines and people relying on me to meet them. On top of my research, I have mentees I should be spending more time with, students we won’t be able to hire if I don’t get my grant-writing act together, collaborators who keep asking when I’m going to write up that work we did together last summer. If I don’t do this, nobody else will; it’s not like a normal workplace, where your boss can reassign an important task if you are too overloaded to handle it.
One technique I’ve tried with limited success is to make a daily to-do list that is limited to three items, and tell myself that I’m not allowed to feel guilty about not doing things that aren’t on the list. It works when I’m not terribly busy. but most of the time it doesn’t.
Also related is How should I deal with discouragement as a graduate student? but those answers seem to address how to convince yourself that your efforts are worthwhile. I (usually) realize that my efforts are worthwhile, I don’t know how to convince myself that I’m putting in “enough” effort (whatever that means).
“it’s not like a normal workplace, where your boss can reassign an important task if you are too overloaded to handle it.” I think you have a very idealized image of non-academic workplaces if you think this is the rule. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but if something has to be done, it has to be done, no matter how “overloaded” you are. Like one of my former bosses used to say: if 24h are not enough, you have to work through the night 😉 This is just a bit of perspective from an applied research, but non-academic, context.
“A consequence of working in research is that the end is never in sight – unlike other jobs, there is always more work for you to do. ” -> As Christina said, your view is very idealized. There is not much of a difference regarding the “State of Done” between project based work and academia. A lot of people do week- or even year-long project work; nothing special about your job in that regard 😉 My knowledge of human nature says you are about 25 years old right? This is the age I observed many people seeing themselves in a very special situation (me too) that really isn’t. Time will tell you:)
I’m not sure if this question can really be answered here; the source of guilt can be very straightforward or very deep-rooted and varies greatly from person to person, and dealing with those feelings can range from simple self-reassurance all the way to identifying underlying causes through possible therapy. You’re touching on potentially deep psychological behaviors. Personally, I suggest taking the “little-kid-asking-why” self-examination approach: Why do you feel guilty? Why? Why? Once you get deep enough and hit a wall coming up with answers, you know you’ve gotten to the good stuff!
Unlike other jobs? Maybe you need to reconsider this. Most jobs are never-ending, and many are even completely unrewarding. Imagine retail. You will never “finish” retail. There aren’t even nice sub-tasks to finish.
Give Zero F*cks
Too many times we’re relying on other people’s opinions about us and our choices. The truth us, no one knows you better than you do. Take a day, a week, a year – however long it takes – to decide what you really want (regardless of what other people think you’re capable of), identify what is really good for you (regardless of what other people want for you), and make those convictions more important than anything anyone else says.
Only you can know what the right path is, and as they say, there is a voice that speaks without words. Listen to that voice; that voice is your highest self. Trust your gut, follow your instinct.
Insecurities, fears and doubts about ourselves only have power when we feed them with our attention. The more we pay attention to our insecurities, the more we feed them, and the stronger they become. Stop feeding your insecurities, stop obsessing over your fears, stop playing stories and thoughts about all the doubts and criticisms about your life and your body in your head on repeat. Give zero f**cks to the thoughts that make you feel bad about yourself.
Instead, start feeding your conviction. Start thinking more about the parts of yourself that you love: your creativity, your compassion, your ability to problem solve, your curves. Start obsessing over what you think is great about you – feed those thoughts, repeat those stories. Whatever you feed becomes most powerful; so take the power away from your insecurity and put it back where it belongs. Yes, your mind are strong enough to do that! Stop giving away your power!
Sometimes ignorance – as in ignoring something – really is bliss, especially when that thing is a hateful rant or a judgmental criticism. I learned this the hard way after writing an article on why I’m not ready for marriage even though I’m in a years-long relationship. Reading the comments is rarely a good idea, because other people will always provide over-stepping opinions that will just piss you off. On your instagram and facebook posts, on your blog, on celebrity gossip websites, wherever. If there’s a chance someone has something awful to say about you or to you, just stay away from that. Keep in mind that constructive criticism is very different, and you’ll need to learn that difference in order to grow. (You can usually tell the difference because criticism offers guidance for your potential and comes from people you admire, as opposed to harsh judgments and rudeness from total strangers.)
Only you are in charge maintaining the quality of what you allow into your mind, and that goes for what you read, watch, and listen to.
Validation. A better work environment. Forgiveness. Anything – if you want it, give it to yourself. Trust yourself enough to know which paths and efforts feel right for you, individually. This is about honoring and trusting yourself enough to believe that there are rights and wrongs for you, that there are things you are worthy of (like love), and you’re in charge of putting the rights into your own life.
Empty bank account, in a fight with your sister/bff, you showed up late to work today and your boss has been giving you side-eye. There’s a lot of things that could be going very wrong. Don’t brush it off, don’t try to avoid it; give a little breathing room for circumstances that aren’t going your way. Accept it rather than try to deny that it’s happening, or lying to people about it.
The only thing that can make your life worse when things aren’t going your way is when you don’t let your heart break, don’t allow space for the disappointment or pain, and try to judge yourself as a failure on top of trying to deal with everything going wrong. It’s ok to struggle, it’s ok for things to be a little messy, that’s just life. It’s not ok to make a conclusion about your own worth just because things fall apart. And trust me, they will fall apart now and again. The strongest bridges in the world still need maintenance to hold things together. So things aren’t ok? It’s ok that they aren’t ok, ok? You’re doing the best you can.
The point is that you understand your time and energy are limited. You do not have enough of these to be giving them to everyone and everything around you. Focus on what’s important to you. Be cautious about where you give your attention. You are a powerful, vivacious being and what you allow in your mind and heart ultimately affect the quality of your life. Stop giving your f**cks to things and people that hurt you. Start giving your all to things and people that help you evolve into a better and better you.
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TALK TO AN ADMISSION OFFICER NOW.
Okay so maybe now you’re convinced that you just need to chill out a bit over work and not take your work life so seriously. But how do you do it? It’s not a switch you can just flick off. If someone is are acting like an idiot at work, you can’t just turn that emotion off right? It takes time and practice to chill out so below are a few ways to help:
1.) Remind yourself that your job is for paying the bills, and the lifestyle you want.
Set goals in your personal life. For example for me I want to buy a house, and I know that my job contributes towards saving for that house. This is what my job is for, my job doesn’t define me. Just because a colleague was being dick today doesn’t mean I’m shit, it means I’ve ticked off another day towards getting paid, and towards living in that dream house with my husband.
2.) Remind yourself that there are more senior people than you who can do the caring.
There are leaders in the business who are probably paid more than twice what you earn so let them deal with it. So if they are happy to let the company make the wrong decision or turn a blind eye to problems, why are you caring more than them?
If your company is rotten, you’re not really going to be the one to change that. These are systemic, structural and cultural problems that you alone will not and should not be responsible for fixing.
3.) Put across your opinion, but if they don’t follow up, shrug it off and let them reap what they sow
Again there is a fine balance between not giving a shit at work and caring less. So still use your brain, offer your opinion and practice using your voice. You don’t want to get into a habit of not thinking and not being confident enough to air your views, you may eventually move to another job where people do value your thoughts so you don’t want to lose that muscle. However if your company isn’t listening, then that is their problem. End of.
TALK TO AN ADMISSION OFFICER NOW.
4.) Realise that there is no point constantly trying to prove your value to people who cannot see it
Some things in life you will never be able to change. If your boss or company have labelled you as junior when you’re not junior and they don’t respect or value you then it’s possible you will never be able to change their minds. If you’ve already thrown everything you can at it and there is no improvement accept that they will not change. Don’t get into the downwards spiral of constantly trying to prove yourself. Your 200% effort will become the new 100% and so you’ll have to put in 300% effort and then 400% and so on, just to try and prove you’re more than what they see of you. It ain’t gonna happen. This is when work starts to become your whole life. Don’t let work take over your entire life or let it define who you are or how you feel about yourself.
5.) Try ranting a bit less! Create boundaries between work life and personal life.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to offload frustrations. But set a time limit like 30 minutes and then start living your personal life. Do you really want to be that person where your friend asks you how you’re doing and you spend the next entire 2 hours moaning about work?
The more you start creating stronger boundaries between your work life and personal life, the more you stop work becoming such a core part of who you are and letting work define whether you’re happy or not happy.
This means switching off from work when its 5pm. It also means taking your unpaid for lunch hour. Of course there are times you may need to work overtime to get some things done, but on the whole try to really limit working more than you need to.