(This was originally written back in 2013 for a creative productivity blog but, unfortunately, never got published. There are still some important lessons learned though that others may find useful.)
Do you work to live or live to work? It’s a bit of a cliché but be honest with yourself. It’s a good question to ask in such an enthusiastic (and young) industry such as the Web.
Over the past ten years or so, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in a number of exciting jobs where I have been able to do what I love the most – making things for the web. From my early days in an agency through local government, internet giants and the finance sector, I’ve been able to flex my fingers on a wrath of audiences.
For the past few years though, my passion started to dwindle. Rather than pushing innovation within the business, I found myself becoming a defeatist. Previous efforts were continually being knocked back through a combination of reasons. I found I was just becoming a “yes man”, merely playing catch up rather than seeking new challenges.
Outside of work, I have always been keen to push myself with side projects. Back in the noughties, I went through a wave of inspiration with a relatively popular music podcast, local creative community and range of sports based calendars to name but a few. I would also jump at the chance to help friends and family get online with their own website.
Recently though, my commitments to side projects were losing traction. Some projects have been “in development” for over two years. Support and maintenance of my growing portfolio got neglected. I was even putting off any changes to friend’s websites, even if their business depended on it. Everyone was suffering – not just me.
I wouldn’t put my attitude change purely down to my career though. My son was growing up and I feared I was neglecting him. My relationship with my wife was suffering as most evenings were spent in front of a computer screen rather than with her. When we discovered our second was due, I decided my career could wait – no website is more important than my family.
Side projects were put on hold. Requests from friends were kept to a minimum or referred to someone I could trust. I treated my job as a 9-to-5, leaving on the dot with all forms of contact at my desk.
Life had a new found meaning. I felt relieved of excessive duty and enjoyed my family. I could turn off in the evenings and weekends and relax (new-born baby permitting). Everything was good.
That’s the end of the story, right? Think again.
Unfortunately, work was piling up and, with it, mountains of stress. My employers noticed my lack of enthusiasm and started to question my ability. New people joined the company which forced me to question my future.
It didn’t stop in the office either. Those close to me – offline and online - wondered what was happening, where I had gone. My online activity was virtually non-existent which, as anyone who knows me, is not right. I was losing touch with the Web industry and, by doing so, couldn’t keep up.
I’m not a selfish person by any means but I was getting close to depression and that isn’t healthy for anyone. Family obviously come first but I come a close second. Something had to change – and that wasn’t going to happen at home.
Time for a new job.
The CV got a much-needed update and distributed around the necessary evils of the recruitment world. Job offers came in thick and fast but very few that were suitable. (If anyone needs to work on their segmentation marketing, it’s the recruitment industry!)
Thankfully, a few options arose with two highly reputable companies: one for a large financial corporation, the other for an online fashion retailer. Part of me was keen to continue working in the financial sector – it was a familiar territory where I had lot of background knowledge to apply. On the flip side, was it time for something completely different? Besides, I’ve always been hipster attempting to follow fashion trends and the reason I was leaving was for change.
In the end, I followed my instinct – I went for ASOS. With a new office full of new starters, it would feel like a proper reboot with fresh beginnings. It was exactly what I needed.
Two months in and I’m feeling completely refreshed. I have a new-found enthusiasm for what I do. I work with like-minded people who invigorate me. I want to get back in to those neglected side projects but I am also conscious of family demands. In time, Si, in time…
The reason I contributed this story was to ensure other people don’t suffer similar problems. If your work or home life is getting you down, do something about it. It can be quite daunting the possibility of a new job but there is work out there. You just need to persevere and make sure everyone gets something from it – not just you.
Reboots are healthy, regular and infrequent. Apply when you think it’s appropriate.