So, Shia LeBoeuf quit a job today, amid incompatibility issues with esteemed coworker Alec Baldwin. Within fifty-five minutes, producers of Orphans (the play LeBoeuf quit) had replaced him with Ben Foster. Even superstars aren't indispensable; there's always an army of qualified people ready and waiting to take your place.
This is something that I've been keeping tucked into a prominent corner of my mind today, because it's been the sort of day that just makes me want to walk out the door. My guess is, most Americans have at least one day a week like this. The dog peed in the kitchen, your toothpaste tube is empty, a Metra train stalled on the tracks blocking traffic on the way to work, at the office everyone's frothing at the lips and somehow it's ALL YOUR FAULT even though you've been on vacation for a week and a half, so you start sifting through your emails to find out that a massive reorganization took place while you were gone and now you have three new bosses and two fewer employees...and by noon, you're wishing you had a nice wooden oatmeal spoon to scrape out your eyeballs, which would be an improvement comparatively.
I could be scraping my eyeballs out. I could walk into my boss's office and explain all the various and sundry office inefficiencies and exactly to whom fault belongs, and then proudly stride out the door never to return. However, $75 in US Savings Bonds from 1994 and $137 in savings don't exactly equal up to "fuck you money." So instead of quitting, here's a list of my top five methods of dealing with a case of the "I-quits!"
1. Take 10 Deep Breaths
This is something my mother always told me to do when I'd start to lose my temper as a kid. It drove me nuts, too. Take 10 deep breaths? Really? And how exactly is THAT going to help? It's taken me a long time to figure out--it won't. It's not supposed to. The deep breaths won't fix anything at all. They'll just help to calm things, and make it easier to think things through logically. So, when it's time to hit the pressure release valve, go ahead and let 'er rip--one deep breath at a time. For what it's worth, I've never in my life made it to the full 10...usually around 3 or 4, I've completely forgotten what I'm mad about, and am typically already playing Temple Run 2 on my iPhone.
2. Take a Walk
Seriously, just get up from your desk and unplug for at least five minutes. Go to the bathroom. Go outside. Buy a soda. Something. Engage a distraction for a few minutes to relax, recompose, and put the situation into a reasonable perspective. With few exceptions (say, astronauts, soldiers, submariners, surgeons...), no job carries the kind of importance that should dictate a level of stress that can bring on a case of the "I-quits!"
3. Write Down all the things you're thinking...and then destroy them
The key here being leave no evidence. But if the day is just that bad, and it's not getting any better, write up all the things about everything that's irritating, and a few horrific things directed at specific people. Read it, laugh, then destroy with no trace. This isn't the type of thing people need to find. It's just a nice, quick, private catharsis. For example:
"Dear Slimy Gasbag Sleazeface, wouldn't it be great if you read more than every fifth email I send you? Sorry I spend forty-five out of every sixty minutes desperately trying to fix the shitstains you smear across my workflow. In future, I'll devote the full sixty to catching your turds instead. Looking forward to dreams of you while I puke up stomach acid in my sleep tonight. Cheers!"
4. Remember: Everyone else is probably doing the bare minimum
Sad to say, but in my experience, no one is ever "striving for excellence." The grand majority of people are doing no more, no less, than exactly what they must to stay employed...which isn't that high of a bar. Calm down. These things will resolve, even if not perfectly. And chances are, jobs will still be intact at the resolution. The angry emails and phone calls popping up? That's just more of the bare minimum philosophy. It's evidence that all people want is someone to blame and someone to push work toward. Screw 'em.
5. Last but not least: Get One Thing Done
Tackle the most daunting task on the to-do list for the day. For me, when I suffer from the I-quits, it's typically because of project stagnation or frustrations with workflow. When I commit to plowing through something to completion, and achieve one goal, others tend to follow and fall into place. It builds momentum that carries through to other projects. Ignore all the fire drills and focus in on one thing, and get it done. Then move on to the next. The sense of completion will help power through, and motivate past the negatives of the day.