Oversleeping and Inertia
January 28, 2018 2:44 PM   Subscribe

For the last 8+ weekends in a row I have slept all day to avoid doing leftover -- but high priority!!!! -- tasks from work. This is not mature behavior and I know better than to shirk my responsibilities by hiding from them. The inertia I feel is paralyzing. What are the tactics you use to force yourself to get stuff done when you have to work on the weekend?

I deeply resent having work to do on the weekend, and I know why I default to sleeping all day to avoid it. I am the art director at a small company and I am being shared with another company who requires as much of my attention as my primary job.

My boss knows we need to find a solution, but at the same time they say, well, working on the weekends is part of the job when you're a higher up. I don't care. It sucks. But rather than doing other things like relax and do stuff I actually want to do on the weekend, I stay in bed. Sometimes I shower and eat. And that's it. Then I feel panicked and breathless as Monday approaches and that makes me feel even more inclined to just HIDE.

I am better than this. This is self destructive shit and it needs to stop. It's just that breaking this resentful inertia is so hard. I know I should just force myself and find ways to incentivize completing these large tasks. How do you do it? My current plan is to get myself to a Starbucks and work till they close. I'm afraid to get started.
posted by Hermione Granger to Work & Money (25 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Um, so they expect you to work 7 days a week in perpetuity? Working on the weekend now and then is a reasonable expection, but not working every single day.

How many hours are your projects taking on the weekend? What is the situation that arose that has created this situation? Did someone quit, did they get a new client that has high priority projects—what? Are you hourly or salary? Were you hired with the expectation that you would work weekends, or is this a new thing?
posted by Autumnheart at 2:56 PM on January 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This is a stupid thing that is something for me and may or may not be a thing for you since I have ADD, but like--it took me awhile to realize that I cut my caffeine consumption way back on weekends and that if I want to get things done, part of the reason I was able to do better at coffee shops was that my brain currently does not properly kick in until about my third shot of espresso. Just in general, though: What do you do to get in-gear during the week, and how much of that are you not doing on Saturday morning?
posted by Sequence at 3:06 PM on January 28, 2018

Response by poster: It's a matter of I wear so many hats that when something comes up, I am frequently in a situation where I realize, "Well, I no longer have the time to complete that today like I wanted/should have/was supposed to." Like when I have meetings with my international clients and coworkers that take forever because those calls can't happen very often.

Example: have deliverables due on a Thursday but haven't been able to work on them due to unexpected high priority tasks/meetings on MTW. Must either scramble to complete Thursday task or ask for more time (usually granted)... And then here I am. Needing to work on the weekend. Or at night.

posted by Hermione Granger at 3:07 PM on January 28, 2018

I work every day (an academic) because if I don't I lose momentum and because I have enough to do that I could never stop working and still have more. Working weekends is partly a personal choice for me but it still sucks.

The way I manage it is that I take those days slow and build in a lot of self-care. So in reality I probably get one regular full work day out of the two weekend days, but I also take a lot of baths, have a lot of yummy snacks that I really enjoy around to graze on, I play movies and good music while I'm working. I wear warm comfy pyjamas all day, too. And I make sure to take frequent breaks and build in time where I'm doing fun relaxing stuff too, off my computer, like reading or knitting.

Here's the thing: by either sleeping all day and doing nothing or working all day, you're setting up a dynamic where it's all or nothing -- literally! This is something I used to do as well; it is an easy dynamic to set up when you have to put in the time on days you should have off. But by taking it slow and working some and playing some, you give your brain and body the time it needs to heal up from the frenetic pace of a job like yours (or mine).

Another thing that I do is that I have specific things that I need to attend to each individual day of the work week (e.g., Monday is for working on a specific research project, Thursday is for preparing course materials for one class, etc.) Anything that I don't get to during the work week that needed to be done is something that I take care of over the weekend. So I usually have pretty well-defined tasks on Friday night. I write a to do list before I finish working on Friday and then prioritize that list. What gets done over the weekend gets done! What doesn't gets pushed to its respective day during the next week. This helps keep me from that constant feeling that I'm putting out fires, because I have a structure in place that takes advantage of weekends on an as-needed basis. I'm not sure that would work for you, but play around with structuring your weekends for specific jobs and see if it helps.

Also, eat a good breakfast both days. On days during the workweek I'm usually grabbing something as I'm running out the door. Having a nice leisurely breakfast while reading the news or listening to a podcast that I've been enjoying is a much nicer way to start the day. I can't manage that on week days because I usually have meetings, but I can do it every Saturday without fail.

Best of luck. Having a high powered career is hard. You're awesome for doing it!
posted by sockermom at 3:14 PM on January 28, 2018 [13 favorites]

I also have a problem getting started with important things, and one trick that works for me is to make little deals with myself: I'm going to work on this for ten minutes, and then I get to screw around for half an hour. (Always put the work unit before the fun unit in these deals)

Once I've actually started, it gets easier to keep going. Don't think about "I need to finish this or else [consequences]"; just think "I'm going spend some time working on this".
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:18 PM on January 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Writing/working buddy? That only works if you have an obvious candidate for it, but if you have a friend who's got similar stuff they need to get done, sitting together quietly working, with breaks for social time together, can be very pleasant. Do a few hours of work, then have a nice lunch together, and so on.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:20 PM on January 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

I just don't think beating yourself up about this is helping. Being able to work every single day, especially creative, generative work, isn't a marker of adulthood or achievement. Sometimes it's something you gotta do, but not being able to do it isn't you failing. Muscles need time and space to rest and recover. And I mean, I think they're selling you a load of crap if they're really telling you this comes with being a higher-up. In my experience the privilege to NOT work weekends comes with being a higher-up.

I'm not saying this to say you shouldn't work weekends even if you feel like you need to. You should try to do whatever you feel like you need to do. But realistically you have to schedule time for resting your brain. That's why you want to stay in bed. Acknowledge and make sure you get that time to rest and then maybe it'll be easier to do your work.
posted by bleep at 3:31 PM on January 28, 2018 [11 favorites]

LOL I'm literally procrastinating from work right this second to write this, so, grain of salt.

I also am on a project that requires basically 7 days of work every week. It's not "in perpetuity" but it's been going on a while and will continue for awhile too. Exact same reasons, sounds like -- I could get all my tasks done during a regular work week, if everyone else would just SHUT UP and let me work. (Are you also obligated to pretend like you don't work weekends/work through sickness/all that other shit to preserve your bosses' illusion that this is all doable? Word.)

This is like a perfect recipe for resenting the weekend work, because it's not 1) just an inevitability of the job OR 2) your own fault for slacking or whatever.

So yeah just, don't feel bad for resenting this. It's really shitty.

The way I cope is generally similar to what sockermom describes -- I make sure these weekend days still feel different and better than my regular workdays. In practice this looks like:
-I sleep in late (not crazy late but later than the week)
-I go out to breakfast (even if work eats literally the entire day, I still Went Somewhere)
-If I'm working past dark on a Saturday, I'm working with a beer in my hand.

I also try to remind myself of the ways in which the weekend work is better work -- no meetings, no phone calls, no emails. Just peaceful work. It's ten thousand times better than my weekday job. In effect, it's a chance to do the actual job I was hired to do, for fucking once.

Anyway, who knows if these things will work for me once I've been doing this for 5 months, but for now, they get me out of bed and on the computer.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:33 PM on January 28, 2018 [7 favorites]

You should be tracking your hours, you may not be exempt from overtime.
posted by rhizome at 3:35 PM on January 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't know if anyone can tell you how to get over the reluctance to work. My experience is that I could read all of the advice in the world, but the real issue is emotional. I couldn't just think my way out of procrastination on stressful projects.

What works for me:

1. Keeping a consistent schedule and getting enough sleep. If I get up at 7:30AM every weekday, then I can't sleep in very late on the weekend, unless I'm sleep deprived.

2. Making getting out of bed pleasant. For me this involves making a cup of coffee. I actually think, "If I get up I can have that nice pour-over." I have a cup warmer so I can drink it at a leisurely pace.

3. Dedicating a set time chunk on the weekend for work and leave plenty of time for recharging. I focus better in the morning, so I try to plan for nine to noon. That means at noon I'm done. But if I do it Saturday and Sunday, that's still six hours of work I wouldn't have gotten done otherwise.

The thing is, I think I get as much done by taking care of myself and making sure that I have time to recharge, as I would get done when I forced myself. I can force myself to work, but I can't force myself to be in the zone. And to get in the zone, I really need to be well-rested and well-fed.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:39 PM on January 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

When I have to work on the weekend (which I also hate with a passion) I use a pomodoro timer and generally say, ok, you have to work but you don't have to only work. Commit to doing 2 or 3 rounds of pomodoro (1-1.5 hours total). I often get enough done in that to cover the urgent stuff that didn't get done during the week, and then I'm free. If you do three rounds and you're still way far from done then you have strong evidence for this being a totally unsustainable workload. But you might be surprised at how productive you can be in a focused hour or two.
posted by ch1x0r at 3:45 PM on January 28, 2018 [8 favorites]

You're obviously overworked and I'm sure that's the primary reason, but - any chance you've had the flu (or more than one)? I've talked to more than one person this winter who has had no energy for a few weeks in a row along with various flu-ish symptoms, and then they suddenly felt better and got all their energy back.
posted by clawsoon at 3:45 PM on January 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you have more to do than hours in the workweek. Could you convince them to hire you a part-time assistant?
posted by aniola at 4:15 PM on January 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

one thing that works for me when I feel that JUST HIDE feeling is to start with really really short pomodoro style time periods.

The standard advice is to do 25 minutes, which is calibrated to be an amount of time that's tolerably short, but still lets you get somethings substantive done. BUT when you're miserable and feeling amped-up avoidance feelings, it's way too long. So I do 10 min sessions on stuff I really want to hide from. It's short enough that's it's way less scary, but just long enough to write 4-5 good sentences and look up a fact or detail from and email. Good luck!
posted by mercredi at 4:28 PM on January 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you have direct reports, I'd think about if they are sucking up too much of your time. If they're constantly interrupting you, it will be hard to get in the flow for your own work. Ask them to hold all non-time sensitive questions until your regular check-in. Somehow, you have to reclaim your work week.
posted by postel's law at 4:42 PM on January 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hello, this is my specialist Mastermind subject. Here are some suggestions:

1. Use food as a reward. No coffee / lunch / whatever until you start X.

2. User a timer. You only have to do X for 5 minutes.

3. Accountability. Tell a friend, or a friendly Mefite, or this thread that you are going to do X today and then report back if you did or not. (Having to report the failure is a deterrent.) Apparently there are also Facebook groups for this?

The getting started hump is the worst, so the above can help.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:44 PM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I did this for a long time and my One Neat Trick was doing a fitness class at 8 or 9, hanging out at the gym a bit, and then getting some work done.

However, what you’re describing sounds to me like early-stage burnout and if so, be aware. It’s a real thing. It’s worth trying to address the root cause head-on now, which is that the current state isn’t sustainable.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:48 PM on January 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Take a look at the organization of your work week. I have similar problems, but I am learning better how to manage it by structuring my time, "defensively calendaring" (leaving extra time blocked int he calendar before/after meetings and for sustained work times once or twice a week, 2-3 hours), limiting people's freedom to interrupt as mentioned above, and when slammed with a new project remembering to say to the boss "I can get this done by Friday, but what can we identify that I can take off the plate/prioritize lower so this can get done this week?"

Also, if they can't hire you an assistant, can you get some time from someone else's assistant?
posted by Miko at 5:22 PM on January 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

Aw man I can sympathize. I run a small design agency and sometimes you just have to work on the weekend. Here are things I do:

- I pick ONE weekend day to work. You're already kind of not working both days, so do NOT do the thing where you're like I'm going to work both days! on Friday, then you just hide Sat and Sun. Tell yourself, I WILL work Sat or Sun, or — better yet — Sat until 4pm / Sun until 2pm. Do not work both days EVER even if you think the whole project will burn down.

- And then the other weekend day, do awesome, restorative great things for yourself. Wanna stay in bed? Great, do that! Wanna go for a short, relaxing walk? Go out for dinner and a movie? Just do whatever the hell you want.

- And the weekend day you chose to work, it's a work day. Do the exact same things you'd do any work day — wake up at the same time, eat the same food. If at all possible, GO TO THE OFFICE. If that's not possible, go to that Starbucks or library. You are at work.

- I love a good pomodoro timer and I totally use it when I'm feeling that ol' "But I don't wanna!" I can convince myself to do just a 30 min pomodoro or whatever and then I'm usually in a rhythm and can keep going.

And a couple self-care, less concrete things:

- Just make sure to question the premise that you need to be working weekends. I mean, you effectively haven't been, right? And what has happened? Nothing? Has your boss said anything specific that work is not being done?

- When I am working crazy hours and exhausted, I tell myself: I am NOT saving lives here. Minimum Viable Product baby. Is an acceptable product possible in 4 hours? Then don't do 6 hours to just gild the lily. Your life is worth more than that.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 6:38 PM on January 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

Been there. This sucks. Best case is to visualize the pleasure you'll feel at having gotten this over with and bribe yourself to get out of bed Saturday morning with whatever indulgence feels like a decent trade-off. That's the only thing that works for me, and it works maybe one-third of the time. The only other thing is to have something that makes you really happy locked in, like have plans scheduled to go on a beautiful hike on Saturday. Then you "have no choice" but to put off the work until Sunday, and my experience is that I arrive home refreshed enough that the work flows more easily. If you're too exhausted on Saturday to do the work, then the ideal is to just give in to doing the most restorative thing. But believe me, I know how hard it is to be rational about these things.
posted by salvia at 7:49 PM on January 28, 2018

Can you work later on weekdays and keep your weekends free?
posted by Jacqueline at 4:34 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thats when i spend 4 hours on the weekend at work, 2 hours writing a job req for someone to take a bit of the load off and 2 hours polishing my resume and submitting it to a few companies for shits and giggles.

I do 50-60 hours during the week. I will work 1 weekend a month with no additional complaints. Ask me to do more than that and it had better be for a clear leg up in the company. (Example: Two weeks ago I redlined a proposal from a potential vendor and created a big data 101 deck for a department that wants to steal me for my mind. I now have the job; we are currently negotiating my requirements.)
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:21 AM on January 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

The only thing that has ever really helped my procrastination is planning to do less work per day so work felt achievable rather than an endless slog until I pass out. So I pick one or two important things to get done each day and the rest of the time is available for unforeseen work or relaxation/rejuvenation. Some people would call it lazy but it keeps my output high and my employers happy. Of course, part of the reason I can do this is I'm extremely lucky and in a situation where I can set some boundaries.

If I were you I'd take a holistic look at the situation. Working weekends isn't the only problem here, it's the fact that you are constantly overwhelmed by your employers inability to prioritize tasks or hire an appropriate amount of staff. Even if you came up with a great system for working on the weekends you'd still be completely overwhelmed by your tasks during the week and struggle during the week and on weekends. So I would actually trade constantly sprinting on all kinds of "important" tasks and not always completing them for working on fewer tasks but being very dependable on those tasks. (The adage "when everything is important, nothing is" is 100% true). At the same time that you begin exerting more control over your schedule so you can be more dependable for yourself, you can begin to push back when people ask for unreasonable timelines. When somebody consistently delivers it's hard to tell them that their pushback is unreasonable. Work very little on the weekends so you can dependably get one or two things done but otherwise you get to relax, which is necessary for long-term productivity. Spend any extra time that you gain polishing your resume to get out of this abusive employer relationship. I mean, I certainly don't know any higher-ups who work over the weekend except during once- or twice-a-year crises.

If you absolutely can't improve your overall work situation, at the very least pick very few things to do on the weekend - 1 or 2 maximum - and do an absolutely wretched job at both of them. Spend half an hour on a task that you thought would take 2 hours, spend an hour on a task that you thought would take three or four and pump out whatever you can in that time. Giving myself permission to do not the best job in the world and to do it quickly off and gets me going when my procrastination holds me back. It turns out that a lot of the things we do in our work lives really don't have to be the absolute best thing we've ever done. So throw something together over the weekend and do a little revision Monday morning and you'll be all set. As I said before, recuperation is important for productivity. And if at all possible if somebody asks for something on Monday, tell them that you'd like to run it by someone on Monday so you'll give it to them on Tuesday, that way you don't have to have the finished product over the weekend.
posted by Tehhund at 1:21 PM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

That's a crap situation and I'm sorry you're in it. It's very frustrating when management decides to skimp on manpower and just work certain people to death.

HOWEVER. You have a trump card here. Consider this seriously:

2 hours polishing my resume and submitting it to a few companies for shits and giggles.

I can almost guarantee if you come to your boss with a fresh job offer in hand, raises and assistance and all kinds of nice things magically become priority budget line items. Unless they are dangerously stupid, they will realize that it is far better to retain an experienced employee than to spend months interviewing and training a new hire.

Knowing that soon you will be out of the woods, whatever happens, may be enough of a motivator to get you working for a bit on the weekends.
posted by ananci at 10:54 AM on January 30, 2018

Response by poster: Thank you so much for your input. Lack of coffee and breakfast is most definitely a factor here, and many of the strategies you have each offered will be ones I try.

After talking about it with my therapist I realize, though, that this is depression, and I am depressed because this is not a sustainable situation. I love my job, but I feel inadequate and embarrassed about myself right now and have for a long time, even though I have been kicking ass at so many things. That has to be addressed first. I will keep trying.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:19 PM on February 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

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