How to Go on a Mind Strike

Define boundaries at your job, and enforce them.

The Invisible Labor of the Designated Worrier

For years now, a couple of us at work have known the life of the “designated worrier.” Writers like Gemma Hartley in Fed Up describe the designated worrier as someone who has to keep track of all the details and logistics. They are the second brain. Sometimes, the only one. They do the crucial but invisible work of keeping everyone satisfied.

A System that Rewards Selfishness

Venues like The Chronicle occasionally publish on the topic of gender in higher education. Female professors get screwed fairly often. They’re expected to publish as much as their male counterparts. But they also wind up doing more of the service work. They serve on more committees. They write more reports that don’t count for tenure.

Inequality Goes Beyond Gender

There’s a wrinkle here that goes beyond simple gender categories. Not every man automatically makes more than every woman.

The Cost of Worrying for Everyone

Everyone tells the designated worrier to delegate more. But delegation comes with its own host of emotional responsibilities. In the end, you’re still responsible for the work happening. Now you’ve got a person and all their psychology to manage, too.

Taking Back Control

It’s ironic that someone on the spectrum like me might wind up as my job’s designated worrier. And yet, it also makes perfect sense. The skills you pick up when managing your own emotions come in handy when dealing with other people’s. The downside is that nobody believes me when I suggest to them I might be autistic. Apparently I’m way too likable.

Making Your Labor Visible

You might not even realize how much work you’re doing for free. Don’t stay blind to your invisible labor. Start keeping track of all the things you do that nobody sees. Come up with language to explain it.

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