An Ode to Leaving Work On Time

Worked Hard. No Friends, Money or Assets.
From Workchronicles on Instagram

I have always left work on time.

Or, I have tried my best to. When there’s a genuine emergency, there is no option but to stay back.

Even at my first job, when a senior demanded I stay overtime to complete *his* work, I refused. I knew if he actually sat down to do his work, he wouldn’t require any help. He kept complaining about his age (he was in his 40s) and how he could not take too much burden at work anymore. This unreasonable emotional blackmail did not work either. The 40s is the new 30s or 20s or whatever you choose it to be. It is all in the mind. If you feel you are ageing and you cannot do much, then damn right, you cannot.

The end story is that I got what I wanted – not to work overtime.

I have to say I was privileged when I first started working. I was not in dire need of money. I had a support system. If I were desperate, I would have compromised more and said yes to a lot of work I did not want to do. Work was not a priority in my 20s. I was preoccupied with living my life, having fun, getting my heart broken, and spending all my money without saving a bit.

Many people compromise at work because they do not have a support system at home to fall back on. Maybe they are the sole earning member; maybe they are in a lot of debt. When the responsibilities pile on, which they will as you age, so does the burden of compromising. You tend to become more afraid of losing your job, and you play it safer and become more diplomatic.

I see many employees working overtime mainly to please their bosses. They take that first step – to work overtime. Their bosses never asked for it. I realized that once you start working overtime, there’s no going back. Your coworkers (and boss) would keep expecting you to put in those extra hours. “You have done it before, so why not now?

Once you establish a boundary that you are available to work only during your scheduled hours, things become simpler. Everyone will stop nagging you to stay back. Your body will also nag you to leave work on time. Some stay back out of habit. They are used to working overtime, and it has become a part of their life now.

What makes us work harder than required might also be due to imposter syndrome. That feeling that you are not good enough and you need to try extra hard to safeguard your job. Some do this by working extra hours. But when the work you produce within your work hours is of good quality, working extra is really not required. Try to focus and give your work your full attention during work hours. This should be more than enough. 

You might have to deal with people asking, “Leaving already?” when you exit on time. Pay them no heed. It’s your work-life balance that is at stake. If you feel working after hours is the only way to live, by all means, work overtime. If you wish to have a life outside of work, make it a point always to leave work on time! The ones who are spending too much time at office are creating the wrong standard for the rest who wish to maintain a work-life balance. Some (like my senior I mentioned at the start of this post) do not know proper time management. Or they are plain lazy. They spend hours chatting away with coworkers and then suddenly realize they have a lot of work to do at 4 PM. The rest who spend their working hours productively get reprimanded for leaving office on time—office politics at its best.

I am not as privileged as before. I need to work to earn my bread and butter. I do not have a robust support system, yet I cannot get myself to be at the office post my work hours. I have many interests – my job is only a part of it. To deprive myself of all other interests for the sake of my career is plain sacrilege.

To maintain sanity, pursuing your hobbies and interests is a must. Why wait till retirement to do what you like?

An Ode to Not Checking Work Emails on Weekends and Holidays

Photo by Ivan Samkov

We bring work to home and home to work.

We find it challenging to keep our professional and personal lives separate.

People say you should never talk about your personal problems at work; that your coworkers can use that info to bring you down. You never know who is plotting against you to climb that corporate ladder.

When it comes to bringing work home, though, things are a bit more relaxed. Many workers are guilty of committing this sin of not switching off post work-hours. We take it for granted that our loved ones would understand. No one is going to plot against you. There is no ladder to climb, except when the ceiling fan needs cleaning up, we need to fix a bulb or pull out something from a top storage unit.

The number one red flag that you are a workaholic is that you check your work emails during post-work hours and holidays. There is no urgency at work. There are no production issues. But there you are, checking your email like you are checking your fridge for something new.

I was guilty of this too.

I used to check my email after work hours. I wanted to know if my bosses replied. Sometimes the replies to my emails were neutral, sometimes positive, and sometimes negative. As expected, the negative responses were joy killers. Imagine facing anxiety during your day off. It is more than enough to ruin the rest of your day.

This is why I stopped checking work emails outside work hours.

Armed with the new understanding that checking emails would wreck my breaks, I consciously started staying away from work emails after the scheduled hours, on weekends and holidays. I would pull myself back from checking them. It was never easy, especially when you are anticipating a reply to an important email. But I would tell myself that enjoying the moment is of prime importance. If I were to find out I had tons of work for the next working day, I would spend my breaks coming out with an action plan. Breaks are not for making work plans! It is meant for rejuvenation.

Switching off from work made my holidays more enjoyable and relaxing. I was able to pursue my hobbies and also spend quality time with family.

I find many people around me committing this sin of checking emails post-work hours now.

A friend, during his vacation, worked almost every single day. He couldn’t stop checking his emails. Many like him tend to forget to create boundaries at work. It sends a message to your organization. That you, as a worker, are ready to work anytime, even if it is your vacation.

It is not the company’s responsibility to look after your well-being. They will never beg you to look after your own mental or physical health. They will never stop you from working after the scheduled hours or on holidays. That onus is on you!

I know many in their late 20s and early 30s who complain of backache. Each one of them works 10+ hours every day, and they have wrecked their health in the process. We overwork ourselves because we are brimming with energy, and we want to do impressive work. It is only over the years that the side effects start to show. People in their 30s and 40s are increasingly facing heart attacks. Stress is a significant contributor. There is no time to sit back and enjoy the pleasures of life. A fast-paced life only contributes to more stress.

The easiest way to kickstart your journey towards physical and mental well-being is by separating your personal and professional lives. Learn to switch off from work after the scheduled hours. If you cannot complete your work on time, learn proper time management, or better yet, ask for more time. Extra time for a project submission means improved deliverables.

The first step to post-work wellness is to sign out from your work emails.

Please do it for yourself. You highly deserve it!

An Ode to Reading Without Eye Strain

Kindle and Hot Chocolate
Kindle Love. Photo by Adrienne Andersen on Pexels

It goes without saying that our screen time has doubled (maybe even tripled) after COVID-19 induced lockdowns and quarantines. All that time indoors has made us reach for our devices. So it is not surprising when studies indicate our eye problems have worsened in the last one year or so.

For someone who is working in the field of Information Technology, spending a lot of time staring at the screen is nothing new.

But there is another problem – I love reading.

Physical copies are expensive, and there was a storage problem at home, so I had resorted to using the Kindle app. It was highly convenient. I loved it. But then the eye strain began. Dryness and a heavy feeling above my eyelid. I knew this was happening because of all the phone reading, because when I stopped, the discomfort would subside.

I realized it was time to finally invest in a Kindle.

For someone who loved reading so much, why didn’t I pick up a popular e-reader like the Kindle sooner?

  • I am frugal. I don’t buy something unless I am absolutely convinced that it would add some kind of value to my life. The reason why I wasn’t convinced is the next point.
  • I never knew Kindle was anti-glare & easy-on-the-eyes. All I heard from fellow readers was about its space-efficiency. Yes, storage was a problem at home, but that was not a serious concern for me, which leads us to the third point.
  • I was ignorant. I did not know the benefits of using a Kindle. I did not bother looking too much into it, because a) it wasn’t cheap b) mentioned in the next point.
  • I was truly happy with my Kindle app. Everything a Kindle could do, my Kindle app was able to do perfectly. The app could even highlight in colors, something the Kindle device could not do. So why even bother?

I am sure there are more, but these are the reasons at the top of my head.

A couple of days back, I finally succumbed and got this Kindle.

In just a day, my eye strain considerably reduced. I do not feel any heaviness or pain. I think I even shed a few happy tears over how relaxed my eyes feel now.

A few reasons why I got the Kindle Oasis.

  • I initially thought of getting the basic model. But through some research, I realized it is best to invest in an e-reader that offers at least 300 ppi resolution (for sharp text). The basic Kindle model has 167 ppi.
  • I thought of going for the Paperwhite next. This model generally has the best reviews. It was a close call, but what made me finally get the Oasis was the a) warm, adjustable light b) the page buttons c) a fantastic Amazon Prime Day sale!

I find the warm light really helpful & relaxing for night time reading. The page buttons are okay, but I would have been fine even without them. That said, if there wasn’t a sale going on, I would have gone for the Paperwhite.

An investment for the eyes. That’s how I would prefer to look at it.

An Ode to Not Being Positive All The Time

Photo by Keenan Constance on Pexels.com

Covid anxiety is real.

As the number of cases in India continue to increase, it has induced a sort of panic attack in most of us in the country.

Needless to say, I have been posting available resources (oxygen cylinders, beds) across my private social media accounts so that those who need them can utilize the info. All this fact sharing does not make for entertaining, positive, motivational or inspirational viewing. No one is going to feel happy seeing such posts.

But somehow, when you can’t really do anything else, all this resource sharing matters a huge deal for someone like me. That hope that maybe you will be able to help at least one person is what keeps you going.

Take a good look into Indian Twitter, and you will find many doing the same. Everyone wants to contribute in a way or other to help out. It is heartwarming and sad at the same time. Heartwarming because people want to help, sad because of the unending doom.

We keep seeing quotes similar to “share only the good news, share only positivity, see only positive things” but I wish we could see posts on how we need not pretend to be fine all the time. Let’s normalize NOT being positive 24×7. It’s okay to vent out. I hope venting out gets normalized.

I know happy posts (song, dance, smiles) generate a lot of positivity but I know many like me who are suffering along with the country and do not feel like indulging in entertainment as such. There’s a word for this: languish. It borders between happiness and depression and that’s what exactly many are feeling at the moment. For us, too much positivity can be draining and to be frank, slightly annoying.

If you are feeling it all way too intensely, it’s fine, as long as you are in control. If not, please reach over to a professional! Friends & family might not always give the correct advice in dealing with the situation whereas a professional is trained in handling such matters.

Stay safe and don’t forget to mask up!