Why I’m working at home alone on a Friday night

It feels like this sometimes...

Christian has gone out to a samba in the neighborhood, and I chose not to join him.

To be honest, it’s been hard for me to drum up energy to “go out” and socialize. Going to capoeira 3-4 times a week is about all I can manage. After reflection, I think I’ve figured out why:

1) English classes use up all my extroversion energy

Although I’m somewhat on the line between extroversion and introversion, I definitely fall towards the introverted side. Time with people tends to drain my energy, and time alone recharges me. And the problem with teaching English is that I have to be in extrovert mode 100% of the time. Differently from an office job, which alternates periods of interacting with colleagues with periods of working by yourself.

I always have to enter the classroom with an upbeat, enthusiastic attitude, because I’ve noticed that it causes my students to engage and participate more. And I have to be a master conversationalist – particularly in 1-on-1 classes – as most students don’t yet have the English skills to speak at length or to fully hold up their side of the dialogue. (Yes, I just split an infinitive. I’m an English teacher, I’m allowed 😉 )

So that’s 16-20 hours a week of constant extroversion. It’s like going to a 4-hour social event every single weeknight. No wonder I have no energy.

2) Three jobs all seem to make constant demands on my time

I teach at two schools, do translation work as it comes up, and maintain 8-10 hours a week developing web content for a non-profit in the States. Although I like the variation and non-traditional schedule (well… sometimes) – the nature of these jobs makes it really hard to “leave work at the office.”

Why? Because I may finish teaching a class, but there are always next week’s classes to prepare. I may manage to zero my inbox from my U.S. job, but a dozen new e-mails are guaranteed to appear by the next day (and I never can quite get to the bottom of my to-do list). With Christian’s job, he can turn off his “work brain” the instant he leaves, since there’s nothing he can do from home, work-wise.

Basically – it feels like there’s ALWAYS something I “should” do. Always something hanging over my head.

I’ve tried to reduce this feeling with strategies such as scheduling my class prep time and only checking my U.S. e-mails when I actually have time to work on them. But the mental obligation seems to overshadow me 7 days a week.

Anyone have suggestions or strategies for keeping work from constantly running in the background of my thoughts?

  • hello from david in maine USA

  • Hello! Happy Friday night! I also decided to pass on socialising tonight. I see if as kind of a failure on my part, but I find socialising in another language really exhausting – I just don’t get the relaxation that I would from the same activity in English. And after a full week at work, I actually find coming home to quiet (well, as quiet as it gets!) more relaxing than going out.

    I totally understand the difficulty with trying to switch off and that feeling of always having something that you feel you should be doing. After my undergraduate degree, I spent a year doing academic research for a Masters. I worked from home and so it was like I never left the office. My housemates would come home from their days jobs and fully relax, but I’d be sitting with them in the evening thinking “Hmmm, I slacked off a bit in the middle of the day. I should probably go upstairs and work some more on that statistical analysis…” – yuck! It was the main reason I decided against a PhD.

    Some people find this kind of time management easy, others (like me) struggle. I never discovered the solution, other than to get myself out of the situation that I was in. Not much help I’m afraid. 🙁

    • Shayna

      I had to do a thesis for my undergraduate degree, but fortunately my major was chemistry so all the work was in the lab rather than at home!

      I’m experimenting with a new strategy – look at what I have to do for the day, choose 3 MITs (most important tasks) – and if I get those done, choose to be satisfied. Anything extra I get done is “extra credit” rather than an obligation. We’ll see how it works out…

      • That sounds like a good strategy. I think it’s really important to work some breaks into your schedule so you can take some time off with a clear conscience. Good luck!

  • Man, I understand this, too. From jobs, to undergrad, to grad school…..boundaries are hard to find when you’re working from home. One thing that occurs to me is that it sounds like you are working A LOT. For teaching ESL, full time is considered 20 teaching hours a week. And if you’re introverted, you need some time where you’re not producing in your down time.

    One thing that helps me is setting aside blocks of time to plan. IDK how long you’ve been teaching, but if you keep each thing that you added onto the textbook, you will prepare very little in the future. For example, I always use New York, New York as performed by Frank Sinatra just after teaching colors in a beginning class. The entire lesson is ready for me, form 8 years ago!

    Good luck setting boundaries with yourself. 🙂

    • Shayna

      I’ve only been teaching for about 2 years, and I do keep things and re-use them – when I can find them! Organizing the zillions of files in my “ESL” folder is another story entirely!

      20 teaching hours a week is about my limit. I think it wouldn’t be quite as bad if the hours were “blocked” together, like I go to the school, teach for 4 consecutive hours, and done. But instead it’s a schedule like – 7-8:30 AM class, 12-1:30 PM class, 6:30-9:30 PM class, all in different locations. So I end up all conflicted – feeling guilty for relaxing in the middle of the day, but then again I HAVE to relax in the middle of the day because I’m working at night, etc etc.

      I’m sure I’ll find the balance, eventually 🙂

  • No good suggestions from this quarter. I’ve struggled with this for years, opening my store was supposed to help divide my time better, but it hasn’t helped much. I still have work hanging over my head when I’m home, which sucks.

    Can Christian relate to your introverted side? In a country seemingly filled with extroverts, my wife still doesn’t get it, although she’s learned to accept it.

    • Shayna

      There are introverted Brazilians, but they seem to be few and far between (particularly in Bahia). Fortunately, Christian is starting to understand it – he knows he’ll have a happier, less stressed-out wife if I stay home and putter around the house, as opposed to going out and, almost inevitably, wanting to leave before he does. Last night’s decision ended up being the right one – turns out the capoeira crew that went to the samba was all men, so I would’ve felt a bit out of place as the only woman in the middle of guys’ night out. AND I got a nice jump on my weekend work 🙂

  • Andréa

    Grab hold of Scripture: cast your cares upon the Lord…….for my yolk is easy and my burden is light. His grace is sufficient for you. Believe that and RECEIVE it. Remember you can do all things through Yeshua Hamashiah who strengthens you 🙂
    Mediate on these Scriptures daily , confess them aloud: your mind will be renewed and the grace He has given you when you first accepted His Son will cause you to be victorious – you won’t be striving to do things “in the flesh” anymore – you’ll be actuating the grace you’ve had all these years!! Love you Shayna xo

  • I have to put things on my “to do” list having to do with fun, relaxation, or rest. If it’s scheduled in there, then I’ll do it. I guess that seems kind of silly but it seems to work if I categorize it as a necessary item for health and contentment. Otherwise, i totally have the same problem and whenever I’m going out I think about all the things I could be achieving at home.

  • Luasol

    I am also an introvert. What people don’t realize is we need down time to recharge our batteries. My in laws had a tough time understanding, even my husband is slowly coming around. I deal with people on the phone all day, so the last thing I want to do is talk when I am off the clock. As long as I have an hour or two of quiet time, I am good to go. Introverts are highly misunderstood!

  • I found your blog through Miss Minimalist. This post caught my eye because of the bit about using up your “extroversion energy.”

    I’m probably around the same as you, or maybe slightly more introverted. There have been a few times (especially as school gets busy) that I’ve decided to stay home on a friday night – clean my room, get some laundry done, make healthy pancakes for dinner… I used to feel sort of guilty for doing this, like it makes me a boring person and I should be doing something. But I’ve realized that I need my “me” time otherwise I’m constantly stressed, and I’ve realized that I have an awesome life with awesome friends and I don’t need to party to be interesting.

    One of my housemates is an extrovert – she gets home from work or school and immediately picks up the phone and calls her mom and calls her friend… it’s interesting. I would find that totally exhausting!

    • Shayna

      Hi Chloe, thanks for reading and commenting! You’re right, the great thing about “me” time is that it makes us introverts much more pleasant to be around when we DO socialize.

      Here in Salvador, we just finished Carnival – an enormous week-long street party. Last year I went out a couple days, but got tired of it after a few hours. This year I stayed home and worked on some fun personal projects, which was super invigorating! I think the hardest part is “defending” my decision to others (“You mean you DIDN’T ENJOY Carnival?!?” – “I enjoyed it immensely, just in a different way!”)