I’m good at my job but I’m worried I’m lazy

This post, I’m good at my job but I’m worried I’m lazy , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have worked in a demanding and creative career for almost 20 years. I have no college degree and no formal training, and I lucked into my first gig due to timing and strategic volunteerism. When I started this work, my only previous experience was in retail and I was desperate to excel so I could have a professional future. I was a workaholic in the beginning –- it wasn’t uncommon for me to be at the office till midnight, but I loved it, the work was meaningful, and all that investment made me very successful! Some of my friends were worried I was missing out on other aspects of my life at the time, and they were probably right … but it was what I felt I needed to do to have a secure future.

I have achieved some really terrific results in my career so far, but in my current job I am the absolute star of my department. In the past year, my work has brought in more revenue than the rest of my 30-person department combined. The CEO has sent out company-wide emails praising me to 20,000 employees more than once in the past few months. I am compensated very well, I have terrific relationships with my colleagues, and I love my job. But I am starting to worry about my work ethic and how it’s changed over the years.

Today, I am lightning fast with many of the elements of my job – think complex research, writing and creative design – so my colleagues tell me that I have insanely high productivity. But I am only really engaging in the work for a few hours a day. Maybe three? Four max. I spend the rest of my day walking my dogs, doing yoga, making art, taking naps … just generally goofing off. This trend started before pandemic working from home, but it’s gotten more pronounced since then. Despite all this downtime, I am still a rock star – I even won our company’s Employee of the Year award a few weeks ago! My manager recently told me that I am the reason she knows working from home can be done successfully without damaging productivity (I have not told her about how I spend my days, and she’s so busy she will likely never notice).

Lately I am starting to wonder: should I feel guilty about all this downtime? Am I behaving unethically or somehow sabotaging my future? I know sometimes I will ponder a problem while I am walking my dog or exercising, and the lightbulb goes on so I can start doing the work when I sit back down at my desk … but a lot of my time is unproductive. The work is never boring, and I still get excited by it, but it’s just not difficult for me to execute. While everyone around me is working like crazy and having a billion zoom meetings, I have found a balance and an ease in my life that I love so much, despite the demanding nature of the work we do. In basically every way, I am happier than I have ever been in my life. But I also am starting to wonder: am I stealing time from the company? Am I somehow hurting my ability to re-adapt to a demanding environment in the future?

If I tried to spend eight hours a day being productive, I would really have to hunt down additional work to do, and I don’t think I would see much benefit. I am basically maxed out on compensation, and because my work is so niche, any promotion would result in me supervising others instead of doing what I am good at. I have zero desire to do that. When deadlines approach and self-discipline really matters, I can absolutely kick into high gear and put in the time, so I know I can crank when I have to.

If you were my manager and you knew the truth of how I spend my time, would you be upset? What would you advise me to do?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

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Author: Ask a Manager