Reality Check: Is it Overwork? Or Discouragement?

If you’re feeling dissatisfied, can you put your finger on the cause? It might be harder than you’d think.
For example, regardless of one’s stage in life, a common dissatisfaction is perceiving that one is overworked. Too much to do; too little time. Sound familiar?
Let’s take a look at two situations. In one case, you’re involved in an important cause with like-minded, enjoyable people. There’s an event coming up. You work non-stop. After the successful event, how do you feel? Perhaps physically tired, but satisfied by having met the goal. You may have even had some fun!
Contrast that with a situation where you are trudging away at a million tasks for people who never show appreciation. At the end of the day, how do you feel? Exhausted, frustrated, overworked?
What’s the difference? It’s not the amount of work, is it?
Having a full to-do list doesn’t have to be unsatisfying. Many of us get satisfaction from work, and that’s not necessarily paid work for an employer. Maybe you are increasing your skills, growing your garden, helping your friends, or simply keeping up with the demands of daily living.
Work can bring joy—from the work itself, from relationships with people, or from the benefits that result from your work. It’s satisfying to do useful work that’s appreciated.
However, joy doesn’t always come from work. If you’re run off their feet and getting no satisfaction, ask: Is your dissatisfaction from overwork? Or is it discouragement? Why bother to distinguish between discouragement and overwork? If we want to make something better, it helps to know what the problem is.
Now you may be thinking, “If I don’t have time to do my work, where would I find time to think about this?” It’s a valid point. On the other hand, you could look at the time spent as a small investment in long-term life planning, Maybe you’re worth it!
If the issue is too many tasks, here are a few suggestions. I’m guessing you already know them, but perhaps seeing them written here might prompt you to take action.
Look at priorities. Weed out tasks that don’t really need to be done. If you’re a perfectionist, accept that not everything requires a perfect standard. Consider looking for help—can some tasks be done by others, even if they won’t be done as well as you do them?
That’s all easy to say. But what if you realize that your issue is discouragement rather than overwork? It’s quite possible that your work is underappreciated. It happens. You may need to encourage yourself. How?
First, if the work is important—if you know it needs to be done—then recognize that you are acting on your values and purpose. You deserve to take satisfaction from that, even if no one else notices.
For the record-keepers among us, it can be helpful to write down what you’ve done at the end of the day. Rather than perceiving that days slip away with no progress, you may realize that you have accomplishments every day.
Finally, do you need recognition to prevent your discouragement? Knowing what it would take to reduce your discouragement may help you find a way to get that recognition.
Does this sound like I’m suggesting that you reframe your situation to be more satisfying? Yes, indeed. If your tasks matter, then you may as well try to find a way to get satisfaction from them.
Knowing that our work matters can help to keep us going. It can satisfy our need to belong, our need for recognition, even our need for fun. Is it self-serving to consider, “Do I get satisfaction from this activity?” You be the judge of that.

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