When I joined the world of work in the 1980s as an adult it was a domain dominated by sacrificial attitudes. You were required to be an unquestioning employee of the organisation you worked for. Your unquestioning nature translated into being a loyal and productive worker. Your productivity was measured by long hours and endless outputs. It was the era of Big Bang. Working hard, we were told, was the ultimate pay off to achieving your dreams.
I laboured using this ethos for decades. There were even years when I sacrificed annual leave days to prove my mettle. My work ethic, at times, bordered on the Japanese model where you are valued more if you don’t use your leave days up. I wasn’t trying to be Japanese but the sacrificial mentality was the order of the working day in the West too.
I do things differently these days and, over Christmas, I used up my remaining annual leave days instead of losing them.
In midlife, I am reappraising the role of work in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy work. I think that work is important because it contributes to a sense of personal achievement and self-fulfilment – unless you have a job from hell. The difference is that, at one time, I thought work was the be all and end all.
During my three week holiday period I sorted my home, my literary manuscript and other things which I had been wanting to do. Rediscovering my capabilities outside of work was extremely self-empowering. There were days when I almost saw unicorns. Having the time to read books and magazines accumulated through the year which were, literally, gathering dust and making plans for a new year which didn’t consist only of career goals was blissful.
The onset of midlife and living my midlife in lockdown has caused me to reappraise my priorities and the meaning of productivity. I still wake up with a long list of things to do but the contents of the list reflect my changing priorities in midlife. Productivity is, these days, about my personal ambitions as well as doing a good day at my job. It’s about balancing my days between the personal and the professional.