Drop some spinning plates: thinking about priorities for work

It feels like you have six million plates in the air, all of them teetering, gently threatening to topple. You wake at 3 in the morning knowing that you’ve forgotten something but never quite sure what it is. Knowing that your to do list is already endless but knowing there’s probably at least 3 things you’ve forgotten. And then there’s the stuff that is important but you don’t put on the list: the nativity plays, meeting a friend for a coffee, school assemblies, date nights. Maybe they are non negotiable for you, maybe you keep your to do list for work only, fun stuff never gets forgotten. But maybe, if you’re something like me, then they are the first plates to drop.
Now I’m honestly not here to make you feel guilty about that time two years ago when you missed something and it broke your heart. Instead, I’m here to say maybe even if you let some of the other plates fall, the world won’t actually end. If you have spent more than 5 minutes around me, then it’s probably obvious how I feel about working for a large organisation. We work so hard to be acceptable to our employers and the wider fields that we situate our work in but hospitals / universities / councils / big 4 accountants are uncaring bastards. We fret over how our tiniest discretion will be viewed by current or future employers – what if I don’t go to the conference? what if I’m late with the deadline? what if I call in sick? But big organisations don’t have the capacity to care. Contracts end. Work is delivered or it is not. What can be measured is managed. So, in the end, we are simply the sum of our outputs minus the cost of us filling a chair in the open plan office.
This isn’t a nudge to work harder or just pack it all in but let this be the little bell that reminds you to find your focus again
You deserve to experience joy daily. Now I’m not saying the workplace should be all sunshine and roses all day every day, but we can find joy in ordinary moments. We must find the joy in the ordinary. And if work manages to crush the joy out of every single moment, then we have hard choices to make. Sure we can dance with the devil and play the game to a certain extent but we must remember that these large organisations will not be loyal to us. They are explicitly designed to avoid loyalty. We don’t owe work our loyalty and we certainly don’t have to keep plates up in the air for it at the expense of our mental health and precious relationships.

If you want some help either negotiating difficult choices around work or finding joy in the ordinary, don’t hesitate to get in touch.