Does the title of this article itself feel anachronistic and/or resentful? Yes, yes it does, dumplings, because I feel it too. Recently, newspaper headlines have been flooded with “quiet quitting,” “quiet firing,” and even “quitfluencers“—quitters who influence others to also hand in their notice. The news also are focusing on the dangers of decreased labor productivity in the U.S, an alarming trend especially combined with our skyrocketing inflation. We’re familiar with tales of workers who are simply burned out after three (!) years of COVID and societal upheaval. Also the changing mindset of the well-balanced Gen Z, who work to live—not live to work. In a precarious and disenchanting age such as this, why should we work our butts off and try to earn some badge of honor for sleep lost, blood pressure raised?
I can understand completely. But the reality is that pulling back for a more peaceful existence is just not an option for many people, including me. I came of age during PEAK hustle culture. “Grit” and “hustle” were the cultural buzzwords during that time, okay?? I also graduated in 2009 during the subterranean depths of the Great Recession. Our Millennial generation believed the only way to get ahead or even stay afloat at that time was to be extra. And if I didn’t have that hustle, I have no idea how I could’ve climbed out of poverty in my twenties. Work = food! More work = more food! Of course it was exhausting, but burnout was something to get over with a few low-key evenings and weekends. You didn’t then decide that you just can’t work no more.
At this point in my life, I do understand the disillusionment over the constant hustle. But as a woman in peak working years (mid-thirties), I can’t easily slow down and reduce stressors. My family depends on me for financial and logistical support. I have people older as well as younger than I am (parents, friends, neighbors, professional contacts) who need my help and leadership. It is very different from when I was 22 and could just be the recent grad who only had to meet her own needs.
Not being able to just “be cool” and “quiet quit” and fill my days with cloud-watching makes me resentful sometimes. But there are ways to continue to be responsible while staying calm and being even more productive. Here are simple tips that help me the most.
- Schedule one day a week for housekeeping (literally and figuratively). Since I control my own schedule, I work six days a week, pretty much any time of day. But I always look forward to Saturday, which is my day for housekeeping. I clean and take care of shopping and other things. I don’t fit in work on Saturdays, unless it’s joyful creative work I’d do for fun. One day a week of doing whatever I want washes away a lot of resentment build-up from when I have to do things.
- Organize your days according to tasks. I don’t try to do ALL of my various duties on the same day. On alternate days, I won’t even look at the HOA board inbox (I’m the president, woe is me). The switching of gears is what makes work so stressful. Some days I focus mostly on administrative tasks like forms and appointments. Some days are big-thinking creative days.
- Start your day with walking outside. Having any kind of morning ritual should help, but I’ve observed that a morning walk is absolutely correlated to my productivity. And if you can’t in the morning, go in the afternoon.
- Go to an office (or a designated space). A huge boost to my productivity happened when I acquired an office outside the house. It’s only equipped with a desk and a chair, so it’s completely free of distractions. I also feel compelled to make the most use of the space, so at least 4–5 hours of work go by quickly—but efficiently.
- Write down everything. I’m not a fan of solely using Google Calendar (or Slack) to manage tasks—it’s imperative to write it down on my weekly calendar (made of actual paper!) and for me to check it off, to be at all emotionally satisfying. Sometimes even the act of writing down my to-dos has the effect of clearing my brain, because it’s one less thing to remember.
- Put a timer on your social media apps. This alone has saved me hours and hours of mindless gazing. Also, don’t open your social media apps before noon and after nine p.m.
- Close all the tabs while doing deep work. Actually, even if what you’re doing isn’t “deep,” close all irrelevant tabs. Moonlight your chattiest contacts, so that you don’t get notifications (esp on your laptop). Your focus is worth gold.
- Label emails. I’m not a fanatic when it comes to email organization. That said, I know when I see an email whether it can stay in the inbox or should be filed away under a label. Some people recommend creating folders named after days of the week, and putting them away according to the day when you’ll do this project/ address this issue. I personally find it a bit confusing, but create a system that works for you.
- Learn how to say no—graciously. If I absolutely can’t accept someone’s request for a favor, I say that I can’t—with kindness. Usually people are very understanding and appreciative that you explained why you can’t do it.
- Share your work life & feelings with a trusted friend. My best friend and I have similarly super stressful schedules and a high level of work accountability. When we’re slammed, we text or call each other to commiserate—and it’s a blessing to have someone who doesn’t judge me for working “too hard” or conversely, for not handling all of it well. We accept each other for whatever we are that day.
- Don’t compare your work style with another’s. It may seem like everyone else is quitting without you—and somehow having fun, finding peace, looking great, getting tan and enjoying life. OR it may seem like others just get more done in the same 24 hours. But you don’t know what they’re going through. Someone who is a quitfluencer might be internally worried about living costs or have wealthy parents who are a safety net. Someone who looks poised and efficient might have a lot of hired help or actually struggling to manage everything on their own. It’s your own journey that matters.
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Photo: Marissa Grootes via Unsplash