Welcome to At The End Of the Day. I’m Hannah Sung and I write this newsletter for a people-first perspective on the news. This month, I am focusing on how we work. If you are a regular reader, pay-what-you-wish to grow this newsletter into a podcast.
Advice column #1
Today you’re getting my very first advice column! I’ve wanted to do this since childhood, reading Ann Landers in the Toronto Star.
Why was I, a child, reading Ann Landers? Not sure, but I was often sent to the newspaper box at the top of my street with a couple of quarters in hand (yes, I rode there in a horse and buggy) and Ann Landers is what appealed to me within all those pages of newsprint.
An advice column was my way of learning about how other people think and live while applying my own growing sense of personal decision-making. I pretty much agreed with Ann on everything and followed the controversy over toilet paper rolls for way too long (should the paper roll over the top, or under the bottom?). The rest of you spent your childhood reading classics — apparently this is what I’m taking away from mine.
I’m tapping into that childhood energy, endless possibilities on new, three-holed lined paper with a poised pen, being super-conscientious about this opportunity to take a few real questions and consider them deeply. I’ll be doing these advice columns once a month or so.
Okay? Here we go!
✍️ Too Much Yes
I say yes to too many projects because I can’t get rid of the fear that the work might dry up. Whyyyyy? — Maxed Out In Freelance Media
This question came to me via Instagram. When I shared it, I got many replies that boiled down to, “Is she me?”
Same, guys, same.
Here’s the thing, Maxed Out: A reliable freelancer is worth their weight in gold. Your clients know that you deliver, so they’ll come to you again and again and your good reputation will spread. Media industries are built on relationships (but what industries aren’t?). Over time, you’ve clearly built a bustling enterprise for yourself because you’re excellent at your job and now have more work than you can handle.
Yet the fear of work drying up is still there. Is that a real possibility? The odds might be contingent upon industry. But while industries change (remember that newspaper I bought with quarters?), skills are transferable.
So let’s tease apart your issue into two separate items:
The volume of work you take on
Your fear of work drying up
The first item is logical, the second one is emotional.
Let’s start by appealing to item #1 with your logic.
Map out your year, or the next six months, with how much income you need and how much time you realistically devote to your tasks. Include non-income-generating work because those don’t magically happen in a shadow calendar. There’s still only 24 hours in a day.
Then, write a Post-It with high-level, prioritized criteria for what you want to get out of each job. The fewer the bullet points, the better. Let’s say the list is: “Money, new client relationships, subject matter that ties into the climate crisis.” Put a number on the money to make it specific. Now, your strict list does the heavy lifting every time a new opportunity comes along and your soft, melt-y self starts to say, “This looks good, I think? I can fit that in between brushing my teeth and my pre-9 a.m. daily stand-up Zoom with my client in a different time zone!” No. Let the Post-It list — curated by your logic — take care of this for you.
Meanwhile, item #2, your fear, is screaming, Easier said than done, lady! This item wants to get drunk and karaoke at the end of a hard week (please Covid, when?).
There are many different ways to deal with our deep-seated fears. And I personally don’t think that adult logic is one of them. You could try writing lists, as you did for Item #1, but if that were enough to fight our fears, you would’ve done this already.
Here’s some low-hanging fruit: Write out that logical list of all the work you’ve done over the past quarter, or past year, so that it’s staring you in the face. It’s proof that your fears don’t match your reality. Some people might not have enough work. But that’s not you.
However, no irrational fear wants to be confronted with *ew* information. If there’s anything I’ve learned from watching anti-vaxxer rallies, it’s that factual information is not going to be the key.
So respond to your emotion with emotion. I think it’s important to be compassionate with our fears. These fears are based in an emotional reality.
Understanding your own fears and where they come from is a lifelong journey. One method that’s been really useful to me is taking some regular time out to consider them. For me, it comes in the form of therapy, an hour every two weeks. But it can be expensive.
If publicly-funded therapy isn’t available to you (please check with your doctor, it could be!) and you don’t have that kind of cash, there are great books and links and honestly, a dedicated conversation with a compassionate friend, where you set the agenda in advance (“I need to talk about this problem I’m having! Are you free?”) can take you on a similar path, too.
✍️ Plate Too Full
How do I deal with the fact that I can’t say no to interesting projects even if I can often predict I will be miserable in the end? I’ve got too much on my plate. These projects are undersold in terms of commitment and sometimes run by leaders who ruin the joy in the project. — Fooled Again In Toronto
This question is very similar to the one above. Too much to do and a tough time deciding when to say yes versus no.
Taking on too much is a potential hazard of being an amazing employee and person -- having curiosity, ambition, goodwill and larger goals you want to help bring to fruition, even outside of your job description.
Stick to your job. We’re in a pandemic. If you are caring for others, and that burden is high right now, remember you are working double-time.
Maybe you get dismayed by the fact that you are mission-driven and want to create change in your workplace or industry. Is there a way to reconnect with your basic job description?
If there’s a way to incorporate your values into your everyday core tasks, that is better than signing on to bring your energy to someone else’s project.
By doing your own job well and setting boundaries, you are being a team player.
I’m all about finding meaning at work and often it can happen through being part of new, interesting initiatives. But think of these volunteer, extracurricular projects and committees as houses being built. “Will this house fall over if I’m not here to hold up the framework?” If the answer is yes, and it’s not part of your core job, that’s a problem with the project. Not you.
Ultimately, saying no isn’t a sign of failure or confrontation. When people say no to me, I often find it’s a point of connection where I can learn more about them. I walk away with respect for their boundaries.
I think we can all agree that we much prefer a quick “no” to any of the other array of workplace nightmare scenarios.
Aaaand that’s it for this week! Thank you for your questions. Next month, I’ll do this advice column again, maybe on a different theme. If you have something to add to my advice, please do! Come over to Instagram and drop your thoughts in the comments.
Thanks for reading,
✨✨✨ At The End Of the Day is edited by Laura Hensley ✨✨✨
The Power of Saying 'No,’ Entrepreneur
Why are so many knowledge workers quitting? New Yorker
An IFS Approach to Fear and Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine
Canada will vote in a federal election on Monday. Before you do, get to know your local candidates, their parties and read this open letter called, “We are moms,” from Childcare Today.
Work-related ATEOD newsletters from the archive:
Vacation doesn’t solve burnout But let me tell you what can
How to work with care Rethinking how we work
2020 is not the time to stay neutral Even if there’s professional pressure to do so
Do you have the luxury of time Finding a job in a COVID world
👋👋👋 Please meet...
Every week, I hear back from many of you with super-thoughtful responses. I’d love for you to meet each other! This week, I get to feature a personal friend. Giant newsletter hug to this great lady who is celebrating her birthday week 🎉
Name: Jennifer Hollett
What I do: Executive Director at The Walrus
Secret talent: I once worked at a Chuck E Cheese rip-off called Choo Choo Charlies, where I would dress up as the mascot Charlie and do the running man.
Last great show I watched that I would totally recommend: Veneno, an incredible TV series on the true story of Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, a Spanish trans television personality. Each episode is a movie.
What’s on my mind: The Taliban take-over of Afghanistan. Heartbreaking.
In 2002, I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Afghanistan with MuchMusic and CARE Canada. It was a life-changing assignment and the documentary we made really resonated with viewers. I've stayed in touch with some of the young leaders we interviewed (all managed to leave the country). But I'll never forget one of the key messages they had for our audience two decades ago: PAY ATTENTION TO AFGHANISTAN. WE NEED YOUR HELP.
If you want to do something about what’s happening in Afghanistan right now, one great way is to donate directly to Rukhshana Media. They're a grassroots organization that produces news from the perspective of Afghan women.
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