Yesterday’s post about separating my career from my purpose was accepted with a less than lackluster response (okay, let’s be honest, there were crickets cricketing in the comment section). And that’s fine, I get it. I know that most people aren’t going to resonate with my purpose and career dilemma, after all it’s about my conflict with purpose and career. But I’m happy to say I think what came out of that realization is going to be some good food for thought today.

At least I hope so.

After realizing that I needed to pull my idea of purpose and career apart, I had a second light bulb moment.

You know how you always hear people say that if you really are in the “right job” it shouldn’t feel like work? That you should wake up each morning bounding out of bed itching to start your workday?

To be honest, I have always been puzzled by my reaction to those ideas – sure I have a career and purpose that are intertwined immensely, I have designed my career with such clarity that it’s amazing and incredible and purposeful and fun and helpful. But my real response to those questions used to be, “Sure, I like my job, and I SHOULD want to bound out of bed and rush to my career each morning, but I don’t. I just wander over to the computer and start working after I’ve gotten ready for the day and eaten breakfast. I don’t really dive out from under the covers into my career with a grin plastered on my face.”

While pulling apart the idea of my career and purpose it hit me; I thought I was working 40-50 hours a week on my career when the real answer was 119 hours a week!

I kid you not.

I have come to realize that for me, work is most largely tied to my inbox. I get orders through email, I get customer service requests through email, I get MML comments through email, I get letters from readers through email, I get twitter responses through email, I get sponsors through email, I get consulting clients through email, and I get bills through email. Having an online business, blog, and consulting business means my email is my access to my business.

Every time I check my email I am working on my career.

Whoa. Hold the phone. Every time I checked my email I was really working? Yep.

I was working because though I may not answer emails at night or before my morning oatmeal, I was still focusing, formulating responses in my head, and dwelling on what what going on in my career.

Which meant that though I may “work” from 9-10am until 5-6pm each weekday, I check my email every 10-15 minutes seven days a week.

My bedside alarm is on my smart phone, so the minute I turn off the alarm, I check my email. I then check it an average of 10 times before I’ve even sat at my computer to work. I check it every 2 minutes while working. In the evenings I continue checking email (excluding dinner) until after my head hits the pillow.

I even have checked it in the bathroom (okay, that might sound gross [it is] but I’m sure I’m not the only one…).

So yeah, I have been working on my career every waking moment for the past two years. Which totally explains why I don’t bound out of bed looking forward to work – I’m already working the minute I open my eyes!

And that is changing. Now.

Since Sunday I have decided NOT to check my email (aka work) after I am done working for the day. I also don’t check my email in the morning until I’m ready to start my workday.

And you know what? I now freaking LOVE my job!

I spend so much time now wondering about what new cool opportunities are coming my way while I’m spending time in the other areas of my life that are also important to me. And it leads to an awesome rush of excitement to turn on my laptop each morning. What neat things are going to happen today I wonder? Before, when I checked email 4-10 times an hour there was no awe and wonder in my career, I knew every second of every day what was going to happen. Which simply wasn’t healthy for my life.

And when I think to myself that this new focus of email during my workday might be too hard to follow I remember that my purpose in my career is to help people design lives with intention – and that means that by doing this myself, I’m also setting an example for others. I don’t want anyone to feel so out of balance in their lives from checking their inbox as frequently as I did. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and I shouldn’t do it in my own life. By choosing this path, I am taking a stand for what can be possible in all of our lives.

So far I’m beyond thrilled with my results, I have much more presence with friends, my mom who is visiting this week, and with Mr. Lively. I am able to get way more done in other areas of my life because my career isn’t inserting itself in every nook and cranny of time that exists.

I have time to stop and smell the roses on the way to the FedEx store rather than check my email on my phone while trying not to stumble on a crack in the sidewalk.


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  • SUCH a good point! You are not alone in your email obsessive ways. I am right there with you. Lately I have been trying to unwind myself from the tendrils of email. It’s REALLY REALLY hard to do though. Maybe I should try an email “cleanse” like my diet “cleanse” – it might actually be harder than that!

  • This totally resonates with me. 🙂 I have about 3 e-mail accounts that bring exciting news and opportunities (since I don’t own my own business and my blog is a separate “job”).

    I just got back from my 2-week honeymoon (swoon) — the first week was fun because I was REALLY excited to get away from technology and disconnect from my e-mail. But you better believe by the 2nd week, I sure was itching to find out what the heck was going on in my inbox! I think it was important to take a break and I really did come back for a new appreciation for my job and my blog.

  • Gavin S.

    Oh my gosh. You are SO right! Why didn’t I think of this? No wonder I don’t look forward to coming to work in the morning. I never really stop working! When I wake up the first thing I do is open my e-mail on my phone to clear out the ol’ inbox before I actually get into work. This stops today. Right now. I even do it on my lunch break. Ridiculous. Thank you for giving me the gift of time and clear-headedness with this post.

  • I loved and identified with yesterdays post so much Jess! Sorry I didn’t comment-I’m bad at that!

    I’m constantly checking my email too since it’s on my phone. I don’t think I will be able to let it go anytime soon, but I am not yet at a point in my business in which it is overtaking my life.

    I look forward to this day! Being busy enough to be overwhelmed sounds great, especially now that I have tips about reigning it in!

  • Jess, this is amazing! I totally resonate with this! I have a live-work job in residence so its near impossible to shut work “off” sometimes but this just makes so much sense! Thank you for sharing! Realizing there are others out there who are living with intention is so reaffirming!

  • I think this is a great follow-up to yesterday’s post! For me, my purpose has always been the big picture from which I live life from, while my career has been just one other vehicle to live that purpose out – as is the volunteer work I do with Young Life, or spending time with my family, or friends, or blogging. So I often wonder if I will ever be passionate about any one career path, one in which I can’t wait to get out of bed and start working.

    On email though – I love it and check it all the time, but like you said, it’s not an intentional way to live. I always find that I love the times in which I am able to separate myself away from my computer and not get caught up in “worries” (whether good or bad) from emails. Besides, taking those breaks and coming back to the inbox helps me to really focus on the things worth responding to versus all the junk I can just delete without reading!

  • Rita

    I absolutely agree with everything you write in here. I too sometimes wondered how people could JUMP out of bed ready to start their day. I NEVER believed that could be me. But the few times I have tried not checking my e-mail until I was really ready to start working, I had a very different experience. I was ready to work, excited, and effecient. Great great post!

  • Laura Steinman

    Yesterday’s posted really hit on something important….don’t take the drop in comments, that readers didn’t like it. I for one loved it!!! I have spent the last 24 hours pondering how it might apply to my own life….remember you took at 4 day weekend at Lifebook (which sounds amazing) to come to that conclusion. This is a great follow up & one I’m sure will resonate with many. Keep up the good work!

  • I just had a chance to read yesterday’s post along with today’s. I completely identify with this struggle. I work in the nonprofit industry for an affordable housing provider and I believe so strongly in that mission that it’s difficult to keep my job from becoming my identity. I think about work all the time, my co-workers make up a major part of my social circle, and most of my personal goals are related to advancing in my career. Thanks for pointing out that those of us that have the unique privilege of having our career reflect our purpose also have the unique challenge of maintaining balance between that career and the rest of our lives…and thanks for the reminder of just how crucial that balance is in EVERY aspect of our lives – career included!

  • I struggle with the same thing! A few weekends ago I woke up on a Saturday morning – I had great plans for that day. It was beautiful outside and I had the whole day to do what I wanted. Before I rolled out of bed I checked my email, which is both my personal email and the inbox that my work email is forwarded to. I saw that someone had written me an email through work, and she was distressed about an article I had written and some of the information that she felt should have been included. It put a cloud over my whole morning. I realized at that point that I had brought it on myself. No one – my bosses, my coworkers – have ever expected me to check my email when I’m out of the office, but I do it anyway. Just in case. Just because I’d rather “stay on top of things.” But it is a huge distraction when I should be taking time away to enjoy life so that I come back to the office on Monday refreshed. So I opened a new email for my blog and freelance business to separate it from my other inbox, which I will only check once on Saturday and never on Sunday. I can check one and not the other, so that I can keep my nine-to-fiver email out of sight, out of mind when I’m supposed to be enjoying my life. And if my family needs to contact me, they know to call me rather than email.
    It’s hard, especially in American culture, not to feel guilty, but it’s so much healthier when we compartmentalize our work from our down time. Thanks for sharing. Good to know I am not alone in this.

  • Totally agree with you 100%, and I’m going to give this a shot too! Goodluck and Thanks 🙂

  • Robin

    I’m right there with you! this obsession with the “blinking red light” on my Blackberry led me to attempt an “unplugged” night once a week…no phone, no TV, no email. It’s fantastic. 🙂

  • A lot of your posts take time for me to sink in, which is why I’m not a big commentor. Yesterday’s post was like that for me. Today’s post, however, was really practical and something like that requires less thinking time, more implementing time. Does that make sense? Anyway, I think that all these technologies can get in the way more often than not. I think what you did in clocking out of checking emails was great, but we also need to give people more time/slack to deal with emails and inquiries as well, since we usually want responses ASAP.

  • I agree. Checking email can be almost like a gambling addiction. You just never know… the very next email might have a big order in it! And just because there was nothing in the box five minutes ago, it doesn’t mean there won’t be something good there now…so check it again! And again! The randomness of it is what reinforces the behavior (Psych 101…intermittent rewards are more motivational than regularly doled out rewards). If email was only delivered once a day like snail mail, we’d have a lot more time to pursue other interests!
    (I am purposely hanging onto my old email-incapable cell phone because once I have email on the phone, I fear becoming even more addicted!)

  • Thank you so much each and every one of you for your thoughts, insights and honest reflections on email as well! I have been inspired by you all and I have an exciting announcement coming up in the weeks to come. So stay tuned.

  • inspirational!

  • Ever since your post ‘If you love your job, leave it’, I’ve realized how much I truly love my job. I work as a Project Manager in IT, but, I have to complete an internship in order to complete my BS. And in working at my internship, I realized ‘holy cow. I freaking love my job.’ Not only that, but because I don’t have my phone set up to receive my ‘real job’ email – I get to experience the same thing you do – getting to work, seeing what’s happened (good or bad lol) and then getting to dive in. I love it. I love love love love being a project manager. I love leading teams, tackling complex problems, and providing solutions to our customers. This really makes it hard to think I’d be able to start my own company any time soon, but is a wonderful realization. I love your blog, thanks for helping me realize!!

  • I wanted to echo all the above posts. When we learned all employees at my office were getting BlackBerrys, I was not excited. I wanted to put boundaries on my work life, so I make sure to turn it off once I get home unless I am waiting for something important to come through. I’m going on vacation next week and really don’t want to get wrapped up in work email… it’s a little stressful either way – checking and seeing what is going on while you are out of the office and not checking and just wondering/worrying! Thanks for another great post!

  • That is kind of life changing. I really am at work all the time. I knew I needed to separate from the iPhone a bit, but this is just a different way of looking at it. Love!! Thank you for the inspiration!

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