Wrong Way Sign

Don’t Just Work – Get a Hobby

If you haven’t seen this Anne Helen Petersen piece, you really should go check it out.

How I’ve Changed My Thinking About Burnout

In it, she discusses the best thing that we can do for ourselves is to find something else to occupy our time and mental energy. To quote:

Back when I first wrote the burnout piece, an accomplished journalist DMed me to say: the only thing that cured my burnout was having a kid. Now, depending on your current parenting situation, you might be cackling at the very notion. But I also understood what she was saying: the only way to stop working the way that she worked was to have something that effectively forced her to live her life differently. For some people, that’s getting sick, or becoming disabled — which can hold a very different valance. For her, that thing was kids.

At the time, I remember thinking to myself: since I’m not having kids, what will cure me? I couldn’t even conceive of having something in my life with as much gravity as my work. But gradually, one month at a time, I began to develop something, several things, that began to take up space in my mind and my day.

To me, this is really the sickness, not only in ourselves individually but also collectively. How many times have you taken some time off to avoid burnout, and spent it mostly thinking about work? For techies, this is not uncommon. I’m away from work, but I’m checking Microsoft notices, learning about new tools that are becoming available, and maybe even experimenting with some new free tool that might be useful or even writing about the same tech I use at work.

That’s a recipe for burnout. What keeps me from burning out? It’s having other interests. Whether it’s being a husband to my wife, advocating for mental health, photography, friends, or family, it’s the time when I commit to focus on something that is just as important to me as the work I get paid for. Those are the things that allow me to be a fully formed human being who is part of a fully formed community of other fully formed human beings.

In other words, I’m more than simply a worker. I’m more than a cog in the capitalist system that pays me for my labor. We all are, but we don’t always act like it, and I suspect that Helen is correct in her assumption that part of the reason is that we have prioritized work so far above and beyond the rest of our lives that we don’t have anything else to do.

That’s not a recipe for a healthy and balanced life.

On a similar note –

Why Having Too Many Hobbies Isn’t a Bad Thing


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