Are You Taking Your Work Too Seriously? Try These Tips and Lighten Up!

There’s something to be said for “going pro.” 

It’s an idea I first encountered in Stephen Pressfield’s “War of Art,” and I loved it!

Going pro means taking your work seriously: setting a schedule, showing up consistently and beating resistance every time. It’s a great way to get work done.

But can you be too serious when it comes to work?

I think so.

Last week, I experienced more success with my blog than I was used to. Traffic was picking up and more visitors were commenting than ever before. I should’ve been thrilled.

And I was! But I was also scared, because with this victory came pressure. I started to take my work too seriously.

“Oh damn…People are reading now, and commenting…You MUST succeed!!”

I became a little frantic, a tad uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to the attention and the progress. It threw me off and made me realize that maybe this is the real deal. Maybe ZenCaffeine really will be what I want.

That was scary - SO scary that I avoided writing all of last week.

But after a nudge from my grandpa (thanks, gramps!) to get writing again (he missed his Zen, he said :) ), I’m back, and feeling a little more comfortable.

However, I must remain vigilant. I could start to take my work too seriously again at any time, so I’ve come up with a list of symptoms to look out for.

Here are some signs that you might be taking your work too seriously:

  • You’re paralyzed. Afraid to act. You can’t move forward and do the work because you’re making it such a big deal that you’re afraid to fail.
  • You can’t imagine quitting. I’m not sayin’ you should think about throwing in the towel every day, but if you’re putting all your eggs in THAT basket – you might be taking it too seriously and closing yourself off to other great ideas.
  • You’re stressed out. Stress happens, but if you’re feelin’ it constantly, something’s wrong.
  • You’re inflexible. Your mom’s 70th birthday is this weekend, but you can’t take her out because you HAVE TO write that post. That’s a little extreme, but if you can’t take unscheduled breaks once in a while, you might be taking it too seriously.
  • You don’t find joy in your work. This kinda goes along with being stressed out. If you’re not enjoying yourself most of the time, why are you doing it?
  • You’re scared by success. Things finally start going well and, rather than feeling joy and moving forward, you screech to a halt.

Have you experienced any of these? How did you combat them?

Here are some of my tips to lighten up when things get too heavy:

  • Look at the big picture. It’s likely a long journey from where you are to where you wanna be. Why take every little step so seriously? You don’t have to tread so carefully – try skipping for a while!
  • Have a little fun! Make a list of all of the things you really enjoy doing – things that may not have any other purpose than to make you smile. On mine are: watching kid movies, going dancing, playing video games. Enjoy one of yours, forget about work for a minute.
  • Try a little flexibility. Can you work outside today? Would it hurt to take a longer lunch and invite a friend? Try something outside of your routine today. Notice how the world doesn’t end.
  • Imagine other possibilities. It’s normal to be attached to your dream – it’s like your baby! Trust me, I get it. But shake loose that attachment for just a sec, and imagine other possibilities. What else could you be successful at? If you weren’t doing this, how else could you express your passion? It may feel uncomfortable, like you’re abandoning your dream – but you’re not. You’re simply recognizing that there are other options. When you can recognize this, it takes the pressure off.
  • Answer this question: What if I fail? What if your current dream doesn’t work out? What if your blog falls apart or you quit? What if your business doesn’t produce profit? You may come up with a horrible scenario, but remember: the end of one thing can be the beginning of another. If you fail, so what? It’s not the end of the world – it’s the beginning of a new one. Accepting the possibility of failure relieves some of the anxiety you feel when you think you must succeed.
  • Take a break. Whether you like it or not, breaks are necessary to maintain your sanity. If you can’t bring yourself to take them on a whim, pencil ‘em in: from 1pm-2m, for example, nothing work-related allowed. If you’re super stressed, could you take a weekend off? Or even a few hours? The work will always be waiting; don’t let it stop you from taking care of yourself.
  • Change your attitude about success. Take it with a grain of salt. Let it excite you and fuel you, but don’t let it intimidate you. Appreciate it for what it is, smile at it and recognize that there will be more of it.
  • “Instead of focusing on how much you can accomplish, focus on how much you can absolutely love what you’re doing.” - Leo Babauta

It can be tough to lighten up when it comes to your work. It’s your heart and soul, your passion – that’s serious biz!

But remember: it’s also your joy.

Or it should be! If you’ve lost that bliss, join me in reclaiming it.

You’ve already heard some of my ideas…Now let me hear yours in the comments!

What do you do when you’re taking your work too seriously? How do you get outside of yourself and lighten up?

Peace, love and a steaming cup of Zen,


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About Kaylee

I'm Kaylee. Through the last several years, I've embarked on a journey of awakening, of striving to live a Zen-inspired life. The changes have been remarkable! My goal is to help others along their own journey by sharing my insights and experiences.
This entry was posted in Empowerment, Feeling Stuck?, Intent, Living Your Dream and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Are You Taking Your Work Too Seriously? Try These Tips and Lighten Up!

  1. Bobbi Emel says:

    Kaylee, you are wise beyond your years and I bet I’m not the first one to have said that! Great post and, even more, great observations on your part about your own behavior. You are right: success can be very scary. But I hadn’t really thought about it as taking my job “too seriously.” I love that thought. It allows me to put play back into what I love to begin with.
    You rock, Kaylee!!

    • Kaylee says:

      Hey Bobbi, way to make me smile like crazy! You’re too kind. I’m glad you found the post useful and can put the play back into your work - that’s what it’s all about! Isn’t that why we’re creating the life of our dreams anyway?

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. I appreciate your presence!

  2. Really loved this Kaylee!  Having fun & being more flexible is something I need to do more of.  It reminds me of the saying ‘Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly’.

    • Kaylee says:

      I’ve never heard that Claire, but I love it! Thanks for sharing. :) I’m glad you enjoyed the post and hope you find more fun and lightness in your work. Peace!

  3. Ani says:

    Hi Kaylee. Really nice post. I would say that the work pressure is much lighter when it is about your ow business/blog, because you know it is yours, you know itss worth the effort and you know what you do it for. remembre that full time workers have the same pressure but do it for someone else and at the end do not get much in return… then you will feel much better!

    • Kaylee says:

      Hey Ani, thanks! Technically I do still work for someone else, but I’m blessed with the freedom to work on my blog while I’m here. The thought that I COULD be still stuck in the cube farm, working for someone else’s dream, definitely makes me feel good about where I am – you’re way right about that.

      I find though that I feel MORE pressure when it’s MY business! It’s my baby, y’know, I don’t want it to fail. But it’s definitely more enjoyable for the reasons you said – I know it’s worth the effort!

      Thanks for the feedback and for stopping by. Peace and blessings! :)

  4.  oh totally agree!  I was most annoyed a couple weeks ago when JB wanted to go for a road trip right in the middle of what I was doing, it took me about 30 minutes to cool off
    1) taking a break is good
    2) this IS the lifestyle I wanted, to be able to take breaks and spend time with family or in nature WHENEVER I wanted.

    After a shift kick in my own butt I spent the rest of the day having fun!

    • Kaylee says:

      Nice! You’ve worked hard, no doubt, to create that kind of lifestyle – you owe it to yourself to enjoy it! And I’m glad you did. An impromptu road trip sounds like a blast!

  5. saraholeary says:

    I agree with Bobbi – you are wise beyond your years girl! This post is infused with that wisdom. Steven Pressfield has got a lot going on – we need to structure our time – but then it’s so important to break free of those restraints sometimes and let the creativity bubble up. I have always had the tendency to take my work too seriously and struggle to allow myself unstructured time during the “work day”.  but time and time again I find that when I do allow this, I come back to my work so much more inspired and motivated. 

    • Kaylee says:

      Aw, thanks Sarah! :)   You’re right, Steven Pressfield definitely has a lot of good stuff to share. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to take off the blinders once in a while, take a look around, and get a good stretch. Like you said, sometimes the best inspiration and creativity come when you’re off the clock! I hope you find time to check out regularly – sounds like it totally works for you.

  6. Kaylee says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one. ;) I like your idea of doing just one thing everyday – it’s a great way to stay focused without getting stressed. I’m gonna try that – thanks for sharing!

  7. Kaylee says:

    Hey Joel :)

    Thanks! It definitely is scary…For the past 8 months, I wrote for an audience of 3 or 4 (and that’s including my mom). It IS way different when others start paying attention.

    That’s awesome that we’re at the same place – I’m happy to enjoy the journey with you! Thanks for the encouragement Joel!! :)

  8. Vito M says:

    Hey Kaylee, this is terrific!

    Sometimes, we need to open up and just have fun with what we’re doing. After all, that’s the reason we started our journey in the first place. As a professional magician, our lives are built around playing. The second we take ourselves too seriously, the real magic is lost.

    Whenever I’m losing my creative bug, I e-mail a friend of mine about anything other than what I’m working on. We’ll start an e-mail exchange back and forth until both of us had a good laugh and are ready to get back to work.

    • Kaylee says:

      Hey Vito, thanks! I love that your work is built around playing – how fun! I may not be good at magic tricks, but I try to find the magic in everyday life – that’s my play. Sounds like you know when and how to take a step back from work, good for you!

  9. I liked this, Kaylee and the timing was right. Been obsessing over stats for my blog and I’ve been on a steady increase. But this week I may say numbers going down because I decided to decrease post frequency – and that’s what’s bothering me.

    I’ve been bent on increasing the numbers so much that I’m slightly panicking with the drop in visitors. After reading your post, I smiled because it made me realize that ups and downs are all part of the blogging journey. (Sigh. It was good to vent a bit). :D By the way, found you via a-list.

    • Kaylee says:

      Vent away, girl! I totally understand! In fact, I just did the same thing as you – I went from posting nearly everyday to just every 4 days or so. And, like you, I’ve been obsessing over blog stats. I first saw an increase…then decrease…then increase. It’s an emotional roller coaster! Which is why we just can’t afford to take the numbers too seriously. ;)  

      I hope your numbers have evened out. Even if they haven’t, how do you feel, writing less frequently? I feel less stressed and more apt to produce good content. I’d say that’s worth a temporary dip in traffic!

      Anyway, I’m glad this came to you at the right time, Anne. Keep smiling, enjoy the journey, and stop by anytime! :) Peace!

      • Kaylee – I resolved to write and publish 3-4 times a week and honestly, it feels better. (Although I am used to writing and publishing 5 times a week – it was difficult to keep quality up, but I tried very hard.)

        I now have more time to write better posts and promote them. I like the way I’m not pressured to come up with next week’s line of posts right now. 

        About the numbers, I should be the first person to know that they will dip and fluctuate. The thing is for the past 6 months, it’s been steadily rising so it would really kill me to see it take a dip. (Haven’t checked analytics by the way).

        Thanks for letting me vent though. I REALLY appreciate it. This blogging thing is soo…. well you get the picture :) But it’s rewarding. 

        • Kaylee says:

          Psh, no thanks necessary! I know how it is – it’s sooo.. frustrating? fulfilling? terrifying? thrilling? Yup. I get ya. ;) You can vent here anytime – we all need to sometimes!

          I’m glad you’ve found a schedule that works for you, and bravo for posting so often! Less pressure is definitely a good feeling – it leaves you more room for positive energy, for enjoying your work. And it sounds like you are, which is faaantastic. :)

          I’m definitely seeing the same thing with post promotion – if I’m not posting everyday, my poor readers aren’t scrambling to try and get through days of posting and commenting. I’m well aware that many of my readers do follow other blogs – I can’t expect them to be here, commenting, every single day! So it really is putting less pressure on myself as well as my readers.
          Btw, good for you for not checking analytics! I know that can be super hard, and I can’t always manage to…but it really does give your stats time to even out. It’s like stepping on the scale everyday – minor fluctuations will freak you out! But check in once a month, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

          Now that I’ve written you a novel…yikes! Ha ha, peace and blessings, Anne! :)

  10. CiaraConlon says:

    A great reminder Kaylee to do what you like and like what you do! At times when I’m getting stressed and not enjoying what I am doing I take a step back and reconnect with my goals. Then I start to eliminate the things that don;t need to get done and start focusing on the work that really matter. When I am doing the most important work I start to relax and enjoy myself again.

    • Kaylee says:

      That’s a good strategy, Ciara. I think it’s easy to get bogged down by the extra stuff – the e-mails to answer, design to perfect, etc… When really, it’s all about the core of your passion – in my case, writing. I’ll have to remember this next time I start getting stressed. Thanks!

  11. Farouk says:

    i needed this post
    thank you Kaylee :)

  12. Pingback: Choose Your Own Adventure For Your Life

  13. wa says:

    After reading this article..I literally saw my worries fade away But putting it to daily practice is the real deal.

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