Working Guilt

To become an actuary, at a minimum you need to spend two years post degree working full time and studying. Very occasionally, people do it in less, but it’s a very vocational piece of study, so you are much better off working at the same time. Most exams have pass rates lower than 50%, so it’s hard work, for people who are not used to failing exams.

So you live with a subconscious feeling of guilt at all times – I should be studying, while I’m sitting here enjoying myself (or washing the dishes). When you know that you should be studying, you end up doing little things – reading trashy books and magazines – rather than getting stuck into something really enjoyable in your spare time. One of the best things about qualifying as an actuary is losing the guilt.

I realised that over the last 10 years, I’ve got back to that feeling. I constantly feel guilty for not working. I’ve got more to do in my work than I can get done. There are always things I’m not doing. And the downside of leaving work between 5 and 5.30 every day and taking work home if I need it is that every evening, I know that I could do some work.

I know that I am effective in my work. Generally I make the right calls about the things I do, and the things I let slide. But the gnawing feeling of things I could do more means I always have some guilt in the back of my mind.

I’m starting to wonder whether that’s why I’m not reading literature with a capital L these days. I used to think it was because I was too tired – a combination of a full-on full time job and two small boys at home takes a fair bit of energy. I think it’s also because I feel guilty somewhere in the back of my mind of spending serious intellectual energy on something else.

I’m going to have to work on compartmentalising my time a bit more. The guilt is draining my psyche too much.

  3 comments for “Working Guilt

  1. March 2, 2007 at 2:20 am

    Yeah, I know this guilt very well. I have a long to-do list, and yet somehow every week part of it gets hijacked by reacting to things that come up. Like you, I feel pretty good about my decisions about what to drop vs. what to do, but it’s still wearing to have to keep making that decision over and over again. And it does feel like work is never, ever done.

  2. March 3, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Oh guilt! How I’d miss you if you left! I’m now six months through an MSc I’m doing in addition to my day job and feel exactly the same thing – I shouldn’t be commenting on your blog, I should be reading some organizational behavior paper or other. I go through phases of junk literature alternating with with something ‘serious’. I suppose the solution is serious non-fiction?

  3. March 8, 2007 at 11:50 am

    I hate that feeling! I have it now too as I’m doing literature courses which require me to read novels in every spare moment. I’m trying to relax about it and think of it as enjoyable (which it is) but that feeling of “have to” intrudes.
    If you always have more work than you can do, isn’t it time to think about offloading some of that or getting more structural support?

Comments are closed.