There’s a half-empty cup of tea sitting next to my laptop on my desk. I heated it up about two hours ago, so it’s beyond lukewarm; it’s downright cold, largely thanks to the fact that I keep our home’s thermostat at a chilly 62 degrees in the winter.
I don’t particularly like drinking cold tea, yet every morning, I begin my workday by heading down to the kitchen (I work from home, using a corner of my master bedroom as a makeshift office) to heat up a cup of tea. I almost never finish that initial cup. It’s become such a habit of mine that my husband will often text me in the middle of the day, asking how much of my tea I’ve actually managed to drink that morning. It’s rarely more than half a cup.
Why am I telling you this? Because I feel like my half-empty cup of tea says a lot about who I am as a writer, an employee, a professional.
I Am A Workaholic
Yes, that’s what I’d like you to believe. In fact, I think that’s what my half-empty cup of tea leads people to believe.
When I used to work full-time in an office before transitioning to freelance work from home, I was known as a diligent worker. During my five years with my most-recent employer, I took exactly three lunch breaks away from my desk. Yes, three – I clearly remember them all. Every other day was spent eating lunch in front of my computer. “Elizabeth is such a hard worker!” my coworkers would say; my bosses often complimented me on these habits during my annual review. I still have a copy of one of these reviews, in which my supervisor wrote, “Elizabeth is dedicated to her craft, putting in long hours without taking a break, neither to eat nor socialize. I believe it is for this reason that she’s never missed a deadline.”
I Am A Micromanager
This is an odd thing to say about myself, given I’ve never been a direct supervisor of anyone else on the job. Instead, I micromanage the details of my own work; maybe that’s why I get so absorbed in what I’m doing – or thinking about doing – that I take a few sips of my tea and then abandon it for hours at a time. I will nitpick over a comma, have an internal debate over a semi-colon; I obsess over these details.
It’s that realization – that I am fascinated with details – that forces me to acknowledge the biggest problem with my “cup of tea” situation.
I Am Missing The Big Picture
When you become so engrossed in details that they start to control your life – whether your professional life or your personal one – you start to miss out on the big picture. You start to worry more about how you’re writing something instead of why; you begin to think the process is more important than the result. You lose perspective, and when you lose perspective – especially as a writer – you lose touch with your audience.
Sometimes, we become so engrossed in our work that we can’t take a step back and really evaluate what we’re doing – and when that happens, our work suffers. Being a workaholic and a micromanager are not attributes that necessarily lead to quality results. It’s tough to admit that, especially to myself. It’s tough to say that my extreme focus on my work has made my work less than what I want it to be.
That’s why I’m making a big effort in 2013 – a New Year’s resolution, you might say – to step away from my inner thoughts (and my computer) to finish that cup of tea. I’m making an effort to put the breaks on my work from time to time. Sometimes, I surf the web; other times, I call a friend, or walk the dog, or walk down the stairs to reheat my cold cup of tea.