No matter what industry or type of organization you work in, there is a good chance that at some point in your career you have experienced feeling like you are in a bubble. This happens when, although you know that the daily experience of most people is not the same as yours, you are unable to see outside of your world. For example, a nurse may occasionally lose sight of life outside of the hospital.
Living and breathing the work side of your life may be necessary from time to time when responsibilities peak. For example, nobody would suggest that a political adviser try to “step back” in the final weeks of an election campaign. However, being unable to step out of the bubble or staying in there too long can have negative long term consequences for both your happiness and your career.
First, when you become too entrenched, it becomes difficult, or even impossible, to innovate. Great new ideas don’t come from doing the same routine and talking to the same people every day. Second, when your organization is monopolizing every waking hour, the interpersonal relationships between you and your co-workers become more strained at the same time that they become more vital. Third, getting trapped in such a bubble tends to be a self-perpetuating cycle. Routines like this become both comfortable and exhausting making change unlikely.
So how can you avoid getting trapped in a bubble? How can you break the cycle once you are already entrenched?
1. Professional development: conferences and seminars can sometimes seem like a waste of time but they can be vital for the networking possibilities offered as well as simply the opportunity to leave your office and break up the routine.
2. Informational interviews: even if you are not planning to leave your job in the near future, refusing to think about possible next steps or other career paths can make people lethargic. On the other side, if you are established in your career, take the time to have informational interviews with people who are interested in your organization or industry. Hearing the reasons they want to pursue a career in your world may give you a different perspective on what you do every day.
3. Do one thing every day that has nothing to do with work: this could be going for a run, taking your child to the park, or talking about politics with your spouse (as long as your job has nothing to do with politics!) Even if you only have 5 minutes, mentally disconnecting from your job every single day is essential for a healthy working life.
So, which one will it be today?