My Cup of Tea and the Big Picture

by Elizabeth on February 12, 2013 · 5 comments

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.

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.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 krantcents February 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I can relate to your plight! I have a simple solution which I use myself. I heat a pot of tea and put it into a thermos like pot. It stays hot for roughly 4 hours. I go through 2 pots of tea a day on the weekends because it is a little cool in my office. I keep my thermostat at 65 degrees, but it ialways cooler in my office.

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2 Michelle February 12, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Wow, that is pretty deep and a very honest reflection of how your habits of excellence…isn’t always excellent! Isn’t it funny how you can give so much to others hard work, energy, and time. And in the end you’re like was it worth it?

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3 Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin February 13, 2013 at 11:53 am

I definitely see where you’re coming from. There have been times when I’ve worked so hard on my blog that I literally approach a breaking point where my entire mind just shuts down and I’m forced to take a break.

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4 eemusings February 22, 2013 at 6:44 pm

I definitely work along similar lines. I’ve always been more of a details person than a big picture, strategist. And when you always have too much to do, it’s difficult to carve out time to step back and consider things strategically and make directional plans that are really important if you want to make real progress…

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5 CashRebel March 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I envy your focus and dedication. I take a break at least once an hour to walk around, get a snack, or maybe do some pushups while working from home. Balance is always good, but on the other hand it sounds like you know how to tune out all distractions and just get your work done which is an enviable trait

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