Nah, nah, why don't you get a job?
June 16, 2011 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Employment angst - what to do when not motivated by current fantastic job?

I’ll try to make this succinct. I have employment angst.

I’m a sort of Research Assistant. I know a bunch of academics throughout one particular field (at least 4 different universities) and am employed by at least 6 currently, on up to 8 separate projects. I get to work from home most days, and travel maybe once a week (up to 3 hours public transport each way) to work on campus. I recognise that I’m pretty damn lucky to have this opportunity, and could probably build on it, with other academics I know (simply by sending out a bunch of emails / flyers). (Work I do: manage international journal, design and format documents, literature searches, data entry and minor data analysis; diagram design; presentation design, use inhouse CMS for online survey creation. I quit the minute taking. There's a promise of a re-branding job, and one of storyboarding for maths in the near future).

But, unlike working from home in the past, I’m totally unmotivated by this now. Some days, I sit and don’t work at all (I don’t charge if I don’t work-if I don’t charge, I don’t get any money to pay the mortgage or buy the food). I used to be more disciplined, but now, I find it hard to give a fuck, even as my savings dwindle.

It seems there are two obvious choices: keep this job or get another.
Pros for keeping to my current work: diversity, opportunity to develop more skills, freedom to choose hours, great people when I see them, great rate of pay. Cons: I’m having trouble making myself do what I should, no sick or rec leave, no guaranteed work, travel’s a bitch some days, I don’t feel connected to the organisation anymore, no social interaction.

So Pros for getting a proper job, regular income, sick leave, holiday pay, some sort of social life, actually forced to work. Cons: travel everyday of about an hour most likely, less interesting work, less freedom, lower rate of pay. Probably have to go back to admin work (oh drear). Actually managing to get a job, job apps, interview, competing with people half my age.

Other factors: It’s important to me to earn enough to pay my share of the mortgage/taxes on this place, as this is sort of my superannuation (or as you may call, 401k) which also means cheap accommodation but can't move.

So it’s obvious - right? Apply for other work and when I get it, quit all the uni stuff. But every time I make that decision, I change my mind in the next 3 hours, and then back again and back the other way again. I feel like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I could do fantastic things, if only I cared about it. So I switch over to the idea of a new job, but then, I’ll probably hate being supervised again. I've been having these circular thoughts for weeks now.

Any suggestions or ideas?
posted by b33j to Work & Money (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
So it’s obvious - right? Apply for other work and when I get it, quit all the uni stuff.

Pretty much. If you've already cooled to the job, it won't get any more interesting over time.

That said - If you don't outright dislike it, and make enough to keep your bills paid, it sounds like a pretty awesome job as far as working conditions go. Don't make the mistake of thinking that if you just look hard enough, someday you'll find that perfect job out there - Yes, you very well might, but they call it "work" rather than "fun" for a reason.
posted by pla at 8:07 PM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Are you sure it's the job that's making you unmotivated, and not depression making you unmotivated? It sounds like you are really isolated and disconnected from your co-workers and that's hard on you. Is it at all possible to team up with another person or two in your area who work from home, and be work-buddies?
posted by Ashley801 at 8:16 PM on June 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

I've gone through periods a lot like this, I think. Deadlines looming, work to do, and somehow I couldn't get over the insurmountable inertia to just do something, anything. And every day that passes like that makes that inertia just a little heavier, so I felt worse and worse and it got harder and harder to do anything at all. Ugh.

Some things that helped me to pull out of this cycle:

* Co-working with friends. Even if they weren't doing the same thing as me, just being in a more social situation spurs me on to do more than, uh, reading MeFi all day.

* Exercise. A big part of my problem was *anxiety.* Crushing anxiety. Exercise helps keep my crazy down to a manageable level.

* The Tron: Legacy soundtrack. That thing is magic for getting stuff done, yo.

* And, yes, finishing off the projects that were the hardest for me to do because they were low-feedback, isolating, or otherwise triggered that anxiety of mine.
posted by Andrhia at 8:18 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Write an imaginary dialogue where one side of you takes the position that you shouldn't switch jobs, and the other side of you takes the position that you should. Write a dialogue where each one argues against the other, but then genuinely has to take the other's arguments into consideration. See what comes of it.
posted by shivohum at 8:36 PM on June 16, 2011

In response to a very kind memail and comments above, I really don't think it's depression. Of course, I'm adjusting to a new single life, and all the changes that are involved in ending a 20 year marriage, but I don't feel like I'm depressed. (I recently consulted my doctor on the issue too). If I am and are unaware of it, I still have the issue of the employment thing to clear up.
posted by b33j at 8:39 PM on June 16, 2011

I'd like to second the cowrking suggestion. I was in a similar state of losing motivation while working at home, but when the org I do most of my work for moved into bigger offices, I started going in. It's helped me immensely. I'm getting more done while also regaining some of the shiny-newness of telecommuting when I do stay at home. If co-working options are too pricey, maybe rotate through a couple of local libraries?
posted by smirkette at 8:57 PM on June 16, 2011

Not to threadsit, and thanks for the co-worker idea but it's just not possible. I don't know anyone here a. who does work from home, and b. making my resources (twin screens, printer, multiple accessories) mobile is just not within my budget.
posted by b33j at 9:00 PM on June 16, 2011

Don't write it off too quickly, b33j. Could you find a co-worker anywhere in Australia (or the world, for that matter)? Skype them. Have the window open in a corner of one of your screens all day; a friend of mine is a luthier, which means he spends lots of time by himself carving and shaping timber. He has a 'bench buddy' (a bow-maker in Melbourne) who he skypes with most of every day - they banter or ignore each other as the mood takes them, but basically just keep each other company.

I reckon you could find someone to do that with, too ;)

Also, you still need to come into #mofirc ;) We can keep you company too, give you welcome distraction from the daily drudgery
posted by coriolisdave at 9:06 PM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

I for one like thread-sitting.

Can you mix up your work to make it more tolerable? One of my work from home tips was to schedule phone calls. 8-10:30am was productive no matter what (thank you, coffee buzz!). So I'd schedule an 11 am call every day so that I'd then spend 10:30-11 prepping for the call, then get 11-12 as a freebie, no self-discipline required! Do the follow-up steps right after the call, and bam, 5 hours checked off my list!
posted by salvia at 9:07 PM on June 16, 2011

It's winter down there, isn't it? Are you getting enough sunlight or time outdoors?
posted by schmod at 9:17 PM on June 16, 2011

Is there a reason you have to work from home those other days of the week? When I was in graduate school, one of the hardest things to do was motivate myself to get work done when I stayed at home. Even though I could have hardly ever left the house, I found that forcing myself to go in on an approximately regular schedule did miracles for my motivation.

It seems to me that you could remove a lot of the cons from your current job by simply driving in to work most days. Say, decide that Fridays can be "work at home" but the other four you force yourself to go in. You'll get social interaction, you'll probably find it much easier to get work done, and you'll feel more connected to the people. The downside is that you'll have to commute in but if I understand you right you'd have to do that for a different job anyway.
posted by forza at 9:17 PM on June 16, 2011

I don't want to minimise your angst and frustration but I just have nagging suspicion that this might be less about the work and more about you not getting out of the house enough for your particular personality requirements. You don't need to know people who work from home, you need to meet people who are working from home, or freelancing, or running startups, or writing thesis or whatever. Start an Open Coffee or something. See if there's any traction for a co-working space. Build a daily schedule that involves going somewhere for coffee or lunch or anything to structure your work day.

Also, I find money very motivating. Mortgage payments are good. Food is good. Tracking your time, taking extra hours you've worked in really busy week and banking them towards a vacation or big treat or whatever is also good.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:37 PM on June 16, 2011

I do appreciate all your suggestions.

It's winter - but I go outside every day for bit, and try to get in a long walk every second day.

I track my hours very carefully, both in terms of billing and motivation. Each hour worked shows up on my calendar in a big read box. The daily hours completed have consistently being going down over the last 6 weeks.

Driving is not an option, I don't yet have my license or a car. Yes, I intend to get my license (I have a learners, but I need to earn more money to pay for driving lessons). The travel time to get to the campuses where I would work is 3 hours (each way). Going everyday or 4 days a week is not a potential option. Really.

It occurs to me that it is connected to the end of marriage in that I am now rudderless. I used to be working for the family, and now it's just me. BUT that doesn't really make sense because I still need to eat, and I'd like to travel and stuff.

Thank you for all your help, it's great to have a sounding board, even if I still can't come to a resolution.
posted by b33j at 1:04 AM on June 17, 2011

Are you sure you can't move? If I understand you right, the forced savings of your motgage to own your house is your retirement fund. But if you sell the house you will have that money to invest in another house. You also say it is cheap accomidation but I would look at that assumption and calculate the lost hours of productivity, commuting time/expense and career stagnation in terms of real financial impacts. I think your gut is telling you to move, and move on, but your heart hasn't been quite ready for it.
posted by saucysault at 2:20 AM on June 17, 2011

It occurs to me that it is connected to the end of marriage in that I am now rudderless. I used to be working for the family, and now it's just me. BUT that doesn't really make sense because I still need to eat, and I'd like to travel and stuff.

Don't underestimate how big a change that is. I find there's all sorts of stuff that I'll gladly do for someone I care about, but won't bother to do for myself. Even something as quick as as cooking a decent dinner is a big slog if it's just me that's eating, if I'm not Being A Good Provider For someone else.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:25 AM on June 19, 2011

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