How to dework yourself

Couplepreneurs... It's a (work) date?

By Eric Koelma | Dare List Dad

Let me be honest about this. So far I suck at de-working.

I'm a pretty positive, confident person in general, and at the time of writing this I've been out of my traditional workplace for a matter of weeks. I've been more frustrated, irrationally short with people, feeling unproductive, feeling worthless and generally unmotivated in the last few weeks than I've EVER been in my life.

Let me follow that up by saying this: this is good.

No. Great!​

It is a great, and hard process to go through. And the best way to analyse why is to take a step back and dig into the history of where I've come from.

The society I've grown up in (albeit not my family necessarily) sets expectations and applauds being 'busy' and working long hours as being honourable or good.

I've recently heard things like:​

"It's hard at the moment, but at least she's working full time, so that keeps her busy."​

Hold on a sec.

How the HECK is that a good thing? Distracting ourselves with the false presumption that being busy is a 'good' thing​ is just dumb.

What's to say we're creatures of productivity only? To take such a myopic view of the world and life is total BS.

We joke about it with friends on the weekend, make excuses for why we can't be there for people or events, we never quite get around to finishing painting, we put our kids in daycare, all the while cringing inside because we feel stuck.

We take stabs at the truth with side comments, but never follow through and then just accept the reality of the mundane existence that we've carved out for ourselves and trudge into work. 

Some people love their jobs. Good for you. more than 50% of the population hate theirs. The other 50% is therefore made up of people who can tolerate, like it a bit, like it a lot and then finally the small few who can legitimately say, if you drilled down to their core that they actually, 100% would not trade it for anything.

So where does this 'being busy is great' thing come from?


Think about it.

If you do every task to the will of the teacher and 'succeed' in the way that they want you to, you win. Do what comes naturally, and if it's against the grain of the regimented structures of the school day that's been predestined in the lesson plan of the teacher and you're screwed. You get the label of disruptive, distracted, or worse, diagnosed with some sort of disorder or condition.

And so we get taught to work in the system and get told what to do - routine, security, safety in repetition, owning/decorating your space for comfort, going with the crowd, suppressing that desire to just run outside, helping a friend who's struggling to grasp a concept because it's time for the next activity.

Is the corporate world school all over again?

From my observations and experience in the corporate world, in many ways a traditional 'job' (working for an employer) is just like school. Here's a few examples:

People wear uniforms (albeit less formal, it's often an ironed shirt, business pants etc), 'mufti days' (otherwise known as 'casual friday'), people slack off (water cooler conversations - there is not necessarily a direct correlation between output and value), 'team building' activities (like a school excursion - is your job that mundane that you need to go on an excursion?), friend groups or 'cliques' (like a group at school - would you actually hang out with these people if you weren't forced together like this?), annual awards/christmas party/AGM (like a school assembly or awards night to give the hardest worker a pat on the back)

The list goes on, but above all is a search for meaning in a place that may not be able to give it to you. And so it becomes distorted as 'meaning equals being busy'... as if such busyness will eventually bleed success or satisfaction or meaning.

We become satisfied with less and less

When you work for an employer in a salary based position, it's comfortable and susceptible to decreased productivity due to the security of the job. I had days where I easily could have achieved one small task and gone home getting paid the same as if I had slogged it out all day and done 50 tasks.

What if you could create periods of hyper-focused activity so you got all your required work done in 3 hours instead of 8? (I do)

When you think about it, it's remarkable that so many full time jobs require exactly 8 hours per day to complete... and yet each role is so different. Hmmmm.

There's no definitive right or wrong

If you work full time at the moment, I'm not saying what you're doing is wrong. I'm just questioning whether you're fulfilling your purpose.

Like really, dig deep.

Is this the purpose for your life? 

Right now it might feel like your only option. If that's you, make sure it's temporary. It might be 5 years, but treat it as temporary.

Don't let it be the default.

After all of that, if you make the switch from corporate to working freelance or for your own business you'll need to dework or 'dejob' yourself. 

So here's what I've learned so far about deworking myself.

Here's the struggles and how to dework that out of ourselves:

How to dework yourself

Myth 1: I'm failing if I spend the day playing with my son and not 'being productive' between the hours of 9am and 5pm.

Deworking: If I work my ass off between 8pm and 2am every night (I do), then why does work need to be completed in business hours? With the freedom to choose when you work, you can structure the rest of life too.

Myth 2: My clients are going to get annoyed if I don't answer them during business hours

Deworking: Do they really need an answer right there and then? I was an email slave in corporate, so I'm choosing not to now. Generally, nothing is so urgent that it needs to be answered within a few hours if it's an email. Get your clients to email you for general stuff, and call if it's crucial (like "my website has completely crashed").

Myth 3: It's been a few weeks and I'm 'not successful yet'

Deworking: As long as we are pushing in the right direction, then we're becoming more successful. As Gary Vee says here, the problem is that we want that promotion or want to get success quickly, but in truth, sometimes it takes just getting your message out there and providing value to people. No one who's successful is just lucky. It takes time and consistent effort. The great bit is that once you start, you never have start to again.

Myth 4: Now that I'm working for myself, I need to smash myself to make this work.

Deworking: This is both true and false, depending on your situation. I'm finding that I have intense periods of work and then a bit of down time. Ebbs and flows. Rhythms. With a kid, you're forced to regulate it a bit. That's been frustrating for me in these first few weeks. But forcing myself to work smarter rather than stupid long hours is better. Don't mistake activity for productivity. I've been putting that pressure on all of us, and it just stresses everyone out and makes us irritable.

Myth 5: I need to take a rest before I can take on this new job of working freelance.

Deworking: Again, depending on your situation it might be appropriate. It's taken a few weeks but we're now getting structure into our days and allowing ourselves daily downtime. I used to commute 3 hours to work every day. Why can't I now spend that equivalent time at the beach every day, feel rejuvinated and work every day. I feel like I'm cheating the system - for the first time there's no-one determining when I need to show up for work. It means I can work everyday without feeling like it's a burden (no one's telling me to), but also feeling rested.

It's vastly different from the conventional way of working.

The Dare List Family is all about questioning the embedded assumptions of life.

Sometimes it feels against the grain. Sometimes people get a bit 'offended' because what we're doing is different and therefore must be rejecting the way they live. Get over yourselves, we're just human guinea pigging. We're just willing to throw away comfort and ask 'why' - and that's not to say this alternative path is better or worse (because sometimes it is worse - like not having a home is freeing, but also sucks).

Tell me how you're de-working, or tell me how you're working through some of your 'work assumptions'. What are you doing to be counter-cultural when people assume that being busy is a good thing?

Eric Koelma

Eric is husband to Grace and Dad to Leo, exploring the world and doing everything he can to align the travel itinerary with world sporting events (hello Tour de France!). He's all logical precision and epic decision-making. Eric's also a rare kind of super-human who works best between 9pm and 2am, and still manages to get up early and chase that wilful toddler, WITHOUT coffee (he hates the stuff!)