3 Reasons Why Caring Less About Work Can Actually Improve Your Work Performance

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May 29, 2024 at 8:20PM UTC

We’re stressed and overwhelmed at work. We’re taking our professional failures, missteps and negative feedback to heart. We’re exhausted and throwing ourselves into our projects. We’re doing the best we can, but it doesn’t feel like enough.

Working through two years of a pandemic can be tiring and frankly scary. We’re trying to stay afloat amidst changing office plans, coworkers, families and ourselves getting sick, and a fickle state of the world. 

What if we stopped caring about work…as much?

This question is the axis of writers’ Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel recent article, How to Care Less About Work. In tough times, they propose shifting away from dedicating ourselves to work and instead asking what we actually care about in our lives. 

“Who would you be if work was no longer the axis of your life?” they ask. “How would your relationship with your close friends and family change, and what role would you serve within your community at large? Whom would you support, how would you interact with the world, and what would you fight for?”

The answers to these questions can be hard to extract when work is the default center of our lives; when we have to work to financially support ourselves and the ones we care for. When we have to spend most of our waking hours working, it’s uncommon not to have work be the central element of our worlds. 

Yet caring less about work has tangible benefits, in professional and personal ways.

Caring less about work doesn’t mean that you don’t care whether you achieve your goals or if your company makes that deal. It doesn’t mean that you don’t put in the effort to do well at work. Caring less about work means that you decentralize work as the main source of your identity. 

When we care less about work, we stop measuring ourselves based on our work performance. We stop thinking that when we fail at work, that means we are a failure. It means when things change at work — because they often do, out of our control — it does not mean that we lose or change ourselves. We do not become less of a person when we lose our job. The whole world doesn’t come crashing down when a team member leaves.

Caring less about work also means caring more about ourselves — the person we are outside of work.

Reasons Why Caring Less About Work Can Actually Improve Work Performance

Caring less about work is about giving back to your personal self. But the benefits of caring less actually have a performance element, too.

1. You’re no longer concerned about making every detail perfect.

When we care so much about our results at work and tie them to how we judge ourselves, we’re often tiptoeing, afraid of taking big swings and trying something new. When we take a step back and start to care 80% vs. 100%, we’re more likely to get ambitious with what we’re working on rather than being constantly worried about making a misstep.

2. You’ll be happier at work.

Like how caring too much can make us tiptoe while tackling our projects, it can also make us guarded and closed off at work. When we care less, we’re focused more on who we are as a person outside of work — and maybe even more likely to bring more of that original personality to work!

3. You’ll be more rested when you’re at work.

Caring less won’t magically take away hours of overwork — especially when you’re underresourced or supported at work. Yet it can help fight off burnout by getting us off the “productivity treadmill” and encourage us to take a step back when we’re finished with a task instead of constantly worrying or obsessing over it; it might also make us more capable and confident in saying “no” to work outside of our responsibilities or when we have too much on our plate.

And when we get to care less about work and more about ourselves outside of work, we fill up our time outside of work with things we truly love. We don’t spend time on high alert, itching to get back to our desk or workplace to wrap up that project. We invest in activities that make us feel fuller and happier. We get the rest we need, and we come back to work feeling the effects of the time away.

If we can’t stop working as many hours as we do, caring less can at least help us in the right direction — allowing us to focus on who we actually are outside of work, and valuing that person just as much, if not more, than who we are at work. 

Have you ever tried "caring less" about work? How did affect your work and work-life balance? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

This article reflects the views of the author and not those of Fairygodboss.

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