Help me get out of a work-only rut and be sociable again?
July 18, 2014 6:36 PM   Subscribe

In the last year or so, my life has basically become work and errands, and my social life is barely there. As a result, I find myself becoming unable to be sociable around people. All I seem to do is be able to discuss my job. How can I get out of this rut?

There isn't too much to say, I don't think. My job consumes my life, basically, and when I get home, all I have time for is eating, watching TV, and going to sleep. My hobbies (the few that I had) are shot. My social life is circling the drain, and I pretty much only hang out with my coworkers after work. I'm part of a few groups on Meetup, but I barely have time to make any of the events. (I live with my girlfriend, so that's at least a little social interaction during the day.)

All I can do is talk about work with everyone. My coworkers all talk about other stuff in their lives with each other, but all my interactions with them are related to work (and how much work sucks). I went to a meetup recently and I found myself stuck with nothing to discuss but my job. Earlier this week, I realized how bad it's gotten, but I can't get out of this cycle I'm stuck in.

Yes, I see a therapist, but it only helps so much. I haven't felt much like 'myself', whatever that means, and I'm looking for real things that I can do to break my ennui and get back to feeling normal.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a hobby you used to do or want to learn? This might be a good time to explore one. Think about something that you'd like to learn or miss doing. It can even be simple or short--this doesn't have to be short-lived involved if time is an issue.

It gives you something to do, something to talk about, and people to meet. If you're tempted to talk about work, pick a hobby, like hiking, the gym, knitting, playing board games, etc. This gives you something to talk about while you're doing said new hobby. Plus, if you don't know your new hobby at all, you'll be too busy thinking of how to even tackle the new hobby during hobby time to talk about work.

I had luck by asking around and finding a local shop I liked that also hosted classes and monthly open social nights. I also took a cake-decorating class, because it was something I always wanted to do.
posted by PearlRose at 7:00 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

If your coworkers are managing to balance job demands with life, and you're not, what's the difference between you and them? Do you have greater responsibility? Find the work overwhelming, mundane, not a fit (sounds like this a bit)? Are you a perfectionist? Whatever it is, I'd try to cut some of x out. If your standards are higher than your coworkers' (and they're safe, and you get along with them well enough to survive politics, etc.), maybe you could do an 80% job instead of shooting for 100%. If the job's overwhelming, try to address challenges (maybe with tech solutions, if necessary), or shift responsibilities so you're tapping on strengths more often. If you just hate the job, maybe, keep your eye out for something else.

Also, minimize any non-job related drains on your energy. Get a full physical to rule out health issues. Move, if the commute's contributing.

It sounds like you're pushed beyond your limits, more than anything. If you can clear some of the work stuff out of your head, there'll be room for other things.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:12 PM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about enrolling in some new classes? Do you want to learn new languages? Or, would you perhaps like to take on a new sport like boxing?

Would it be possible to take a couple of weeks off work? Then, perhaps you can plan out travelling to somewhere you've never been before and is quite distant from where you live.
posted by Carmine Red at 8:01 PM on July 18, 2014

I think your only options are to try to do more non-work things or get a less demanding job so your time is less constrained and you're more likely to develop hobbies at a natural pace.
posted by deathpanels at 9:13 PM on July 18, 2014

Yes! Classes! They really work. I was in your position last spring, and signing up for a series of workshops in something that vaguely interested me ended up being a godsend. Your after-work time is limited, but don't make the mistake of waiting for the perfect way to spend it. Just pick something that calls to you slightly more than all the rest and dive in. It will be better than TV and you will feel replenished.

Also, can you delegate? It depends on what you do, obviously, but getting a Zirtual assistant to reduce time-consuming admin tasks like research and spreadsheets could give you some space to reboot.
posted by jessca84 at 9:52 PM on July 18, 2014

One of the ways that we allow work to consume our lives is that we think each little thing we do is more earth shatteringly essential than it really is. One way to dial back on that is to break down what we do into individual tasks and then assess each of them with some brutal honesty: is this particular task really needed and/or is it appreciated? If it's neither, that's a place you can safely dial back without having to worry about consequences to job performance.

Once you've managed to claw back some time for yourself, carve out some time each month to follow your interests. Put it on your calendar and consider it an important appointment that you shouldn't break unless you have a Damn Good Reason.

As to not having anything to talk about except work, once you start following your interests, this will resolve itself somewhat. You may need a different venue to help you do this. I concur with previous comments that taking classes in what you are interested in is helpful. Also, meetups that incorporate a lecture or presentation, or some sort of outing (for example visiting an art museum, going on a hike, attending a wine tasting, etc). The idea is to give yourself something else to do while you are there other than just talking with other people, that you can also use as a conversation starter. Even if it's something you don't know much about, asking questions is a great way to engage with others.
posted by jazzbaby at 7:59 AM on July 19, 2014

You've got to just keep doing it. Once isn't enough, because the first few times you do non-work stuff, you will still feel like you have nothing else to talk about. But the more you do it, the more you'll have to talk about.

You say you only have time to eat and watch TV, which I totally get. But even if that's only like 2 hours, it's 2 hours you could be spending with a friend. You have to eat, so why not have dinner with a friend instead? Or a meetup that involves dinner. Or instead of watching TV, go to a movie.

One good key to forcing yourself to get out of the office and out of work mode is to make solid plans with people for, say, a half hour after the time you'd like to be leaving work.

It might turn out that it's less about having the time and more about having the energy - I've found that in our culture (assuming you're American) people often say they don't have time for things rather than that they don't have energy for them, because it's more socially acceptable to be "so busy."

Inertia is on the side of going home, having dinner, and watching TV, so that seems a lot easier. But doing the same (relatively boring) thing every day can really sap your energy. So again, just try, maybe one or two nights a week, to make plans with someone, or take a class, or something like that. Or instead of watching TV after dinner, go for a walk with your girlfriend (or if that seems like too much work, just go to the pub and talk to each other).
posted by lunasol at 1:38 PM on July 19, 2014

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