Twice in the last week I’ve come across Anne Helen Petersen’s ideas around ‘errand paralysis’. It’s this notion that relatively straight-forward life admin stuff somehow feels so overwhelming that it piles up for months on end.
That ASOS package we were meant to return, that invoice we were meant to send, that form we needed to lodge and that heartfelt email response that we owe our friend just sits unchecked on our to-do list for months.
Useless at the adulting stuff, incredible at the career stuff
Petersen argues that an inability to do simple adulting errands does not come down to being that ‘useless millennial trope’ that older people love to pin on us. When it comes to our work we’re actually killing it. It’s just that we have a weird inability to prioritise anything over our careers. We kick marketing goals, stay back at work, fill our calendars with networking coffees and run personal passion projects on the side. So why can’t we simply stop by at Vinnies for 30 seconds and dump that bag of old clothes into the second hand bin?
This, Petersen argues, is errand paralysis and it’s apparently a type of burn out. It was insightful to say the least, but the most poignant part of Petersen’s interview with Jocelyn K Glei was around the idea of joy.
So where is the joy?
When we work, stay back extra hours and kill ourselves in the name of our careers we aren’t enjoying ourselves. But in some twisted way we feel good. It’s this idea that career-related productivity is the equivalent to success and therefore happiness.
Conversely, Petersen notes the feelings of guilt and inability to be present when doing things she genuinely enjoys. Reading a romance novel, painting a picture, hanging out with family or taking a pottery class become sources of guilt. They are eating into your valuable time because they are not productive in a career sense.
How do we live in this twisted world where we feel good for working ’til-burn-out and feel guilty for simply relaxing?
Career vs Life
This was particularly powerful when read through the lens of a dance company director. We used to always pride ourselves on our low commitment model, accepting that driven people live busy lives.
‘You’re hustling we get it’ we’d chime ‘a weekly commitment to a dance class is too much to ask of you go-getters! Come whenever!’
The problem though is this mentality perpetuates the societal belief that dance isn’t something we should take seriously. Dance class is a low priority because it’s not a career-related move.
Every week we hear stories from people about how they’d LOVE to come to our beginner adult dance classes…one day. For these people something always comes up and more often than not that something is work-related. We’re no longer sure if we should congratulate you for consistently putting joy aside in the name of work.
So here’s our thought for the week: Learn how to prioritise joy. Do the thing that brings you happiness and don’t feel guilty for it. Feel the serotonin pulsing through your blood. Observe as your shoulders loosen. Breathe through the knot in your chest releasing. Choose joy.