“Since my holiday I have been at work again for a couple of days. I notice that I start to work really hard when I have to do stuff that I find annoying. Chores like writing the final report for NWO, or revising a manuscript. I know I have to do it, and I have a deadline. Automatically I stop working soft, because if I work hard the chore will be done sooner. But with the way I am currently tackling these chores, afterwards I am exhausted and have a headache. How can I stop working hard in such situations?”
As she is finishing up her VENI project, Maria (pseudonym) decides it is time to regain her enthusiasm for her research and find her next dream job. She enrolls in the online Working Soft course because she senses that the real issue is the way she approaches her work rather than the work or her job-search itself. Enthusiastically, she begins working softer. She is doing well, but after a while she runs into the above issue. How can she stop working hard automatically when she has to revise a paper with a deadline?
It is impossible to stop working hard immediately
First of all, working soft is something you have to learn step by step. Your training as a hard working academic took years. Don’t expect to be a working soft expert instantly.
One of the ways in which I help clients take their first steps on their journey to working softer is by carefully observing and unraveling what happens.
Watch your step first
So, what happens exactly when you cannot seem to stop yourself from working hard to finish annoying or boring tasks like writing reports and revising papers, paying the price of exhaustion and headaches?
Imagine two voices in you: one represents reason, the other your energy. When you are working hard to complete a chore and you cannot seem to stop it, the voice of reason dominates the conversation. Reason dangles a carrot in front of your nose: once you have finished this chore, it is over and you are free. Or it takes out the stick, threatening with the horrible consequences of not doing the task or failing to meet the deadline. Reason has the best intentions. It wants to protect you from painful consequences and risks. It wants you to succeed and be brilliant.
Carrots and sticks are misleaders
But reason gives false hope. The carrots-and-sticks strategy makes you run to an elusive, utopian future. After all, after this chore will come another one, and the next, and so on. Meanwhile you completely ignore your energy here and now. You no longer listen to her. You no longer notice her. Especially with annoying chores that draw you into hard working mode the trick is to notice what your energy says. What does she need you to do now? Put her in the drivers’ seat, not your reason.
Of course you have to deal with a hard landscape of tasks and deadlines that others determine for you. But even there you can find space, e.g. for lunchbreak-walks, a yoga exercise, powernaps and other activities that genuinely recharge you and make your work more effective and of higher quality.
Guidance on the new road
Initially it can feel strange and forced to put your energy first when you have an Urgent Chore. Make sure you consciously observe the positive effects of listening to your energy and it will become easier in time. Even your reason may be convinced by experiential evidence.
Do you want to know what fits in your personal journey to turn your hard working ways around? Contact me for a free 30 minute Right Question session.