“Work Constipation”

Work Constipation /wɜrk kɒnstəˈpeɪʃən/


An inability to plan or decide on a course of action due to the seemingly insurmountable number of tasks required of you. Sufferers are often identified by their mid-distance stare, quiet hysteria and paperwork-strewn desk. Can lead to unusually long bouts of browsing the BBC and Guardian news websites. Condition is known to have lasted several, long, long days.

Yes, work constipation can strike at the most inopportune moments. It has a cousin in the more familiar phenomenon of ‘writer’s block’. Despite the name it’s not something that is restricted to paid work either. I’ve recently been suffering the pangs of work constipation on both the work and study fronts simultaneously.

It tends to strike in the office just after a major deadline has passed, usually just long enough afterward for the glow of achievement to  have well and truly faded and the realisation that everything else you avoided doing for the last x number of weeks now requires doing. Combined with a return from a fortnights holiday and an e-mail inbox from hell and the effect can be numbing. It is at this point that no matter how hard you attempt to clear the backlog, your brain is irretrievably drawn to the simpler pleasures of rolling news feeds and checking wordpress blog stats.

I’ve found my historical studies to be affected by work constipation as well. Being outside of a formal teaching and tutoring environment probably makes me particularly susceptible to it. I find myself sitting in front of the bookshelf and interweb thinking “There’s just so much I want to read, so many directions to go in, but which is the most important to start with given the limited time I have to study in?”. At that point the work constipation manifests itself through either; sitting at screen doing nothing, attempting to read everything simultaneously or ‘just ten minutes of stick cricket/world of warcraft/championship manager [delete as appropriate]’.

The office based work constipation, while arguably more excruciating as it progresses (a heady mixture of guilt and fear), tends be relieved easier. Simply put; the laxative of impending deadlines or a meeting with the boss usually does the trick. With the study I’m yet to find a perfect answer. Without the external pressure it’s often harder to get the required perspective. Often just time spent away from the books helps, though this in itself is enormously frustrating. Having said that, the rewards when the blockage has shifted (er, unfortunate mental image I know, slightly regretting the metaphor now) and you’ve moved your thinking or knowledge on is immeasurably better with studying history.


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