Microdosing isn’t a shortcut to professional success

Originally published on Medium

The transition from fully committed to quitting was slow to start. My hours of operation started to sync with my circadian rhythm. The 9–5 became 8–3. Mornings were so efficient that by midday, I’d be fried. Done with screens, done with meetings. So I’d leave the office early.

On a microdose of acid, I’d feel completely in tune with my energy capacity, unable to ignore the afternoon dip. There was no more gray area of hanging around the office or poking around on Twitter, letting the time slip as the outside world turned. No more “should I stay or should I go” debacles in my head. I couldn’t sit (er, stand) at my desk any longer for the optics of working a few extra — unproductive — hours. I realized the work would never be done, so it was up to me when to go. And as soon as I felt accomplished for the day, I’d slip out the door. Down the stairs. Into the sunlight.

I didn’t initially start microdosing at work for the professional edge like many people in tech. I started to manage shifting moods that made it hard to leave my apartment. To feel better just being. And it worked. I felt happier and more comfortable within myself. I took it on workdays because I wanted to stay consistent in my regimen (one day on, three days off). Heightened imagination, concentration, and energy at work were really just nifty side effects. But eventually, this new way of feeling, thinking, existing made it much harder to spend time in the office.

After microdosing for six months, I didn’t progress at work; I quit.

There’s a few reasons why the wonderful effects of microdosing didn’t translate so well into the office. Microdosing may have drastically improved my mental health, but it simultaneously made me more critical of my office environment. I became more aware of everything, including the way work was impacting my health. The repetition, the stagnation, the stress. Peaking cortisol levels, nightmares about my coworkers. I’d turn on my computer and see a screen full of events I didn’t create. My time, energy, and life felt beyond my control. I started to wonder: Who am I really working for?

A feeling crept in. A desire for change, movement. Leaving on Fridays started to feel way too damn good.

Microdosing isn’t just a performance enhancement to power through the day, through the emotions, through the bullshit. It’s not like a shot of espresso, Adderall, or whatever nootropic is trending at the moment. It won’t take the edge off like a glass of wine at lunch. It reconnects regions of the brain and reroutes maladaptive thought patterns, so profound life changes — not just heightened productivity — may take shape. Psychedelic medicine and therapy shouldn’t be taken lightly. Or simply for professional gain. The potential impact could rewrite psychiatric care as we know it. This is bigger than 5-Hour Energy or Moon Juice or Four Sigmatic or Bulletproof-anything.

But some people are trying to market microdosing as such. A pick-me-up. A key to flow states. A way to bring teams together, even. But it won’t magically increase worker productivity or create a tech culture panacea. If anything, this heightened sensitivity could magnify the deep-rooted organizational issues privy to startups and escalate turnover.

Sure, not every company or startup cultivates an unhealthy work environment, but finding a balance these days is tricky. Especially for highly sensitive people overstimulated in open offices. Especially for people keeping up with the news cycle. Especially for content teams hustling information. Always online, always current. It seems easier than ever to spiral out of control and get completely drained in the process.

The thing is: I liked my job. I was the managing editor at Clue, a female health company in Berlin. I got to talk about periods and sex all day and help people understand their reproductive health. It was as good as it gets. But like most mid-level positions, no matter how fulfilling, things started to feel monotonous. A feeling crept in. A desire for change, movement. Leaving on Fridays started to feel way too damn good.

We don’t need to change our biology to be better at work, we need to change the way we work to be better for our biology.

I needed to mix up the mundane. If a 5 PM meeting invite appeared before my eyes, I’d decline. I tried to work remote as much as possible. But then I realized I was just avoiding the office because going in everyday didn’t make me happy anymore. Microdosing only amplified this urge to break free from the same schedule that repeated weekly. It didn’t make me better at my job — it changed the way I perceived daily life at the office and made me more certain that I needed to leave. To do something else.

It’s hard to quit. But young professionals are approaching work differently than previous generations. We’re more likely to leave a job and diversify our skills than commit for life. And yes, having a job at all is a privilege, but we’re still huddling at water coolers like it’s 1986.

So why isn’t our office culture advancing as fast as the technology? How many hours should humans be expected to stare at a screen per day? How many years should we stay at a company? What will happen when some jobs automate? Are there other ways to earn a living? What’s next?

We don’t need to change our biology to be better at work, we need to change the way we work to be better for our biology. Maybe “tune in, turn on, and drop out” wasn’t so far out — a premature, but inevitable, call for escape.

Inside a high mind

The urge to preserve. Keep my few things organized. A pink case for my fineliner and gel pens, separated from the pencils, separated from the markers. Within the case, a small bag for my eraser and sharpener. Everything in its proper place. Set aside to ~save~ some future time or ease this high, racing mind. Compartmentalizing thoughts into objects. What’s the point? It’s a Thursday morning and I don’t know what to do with myself. I could open an app, any app, but they all give me the creeps right now. I could read, I should read. I could pack. We’re picking up and going again in two weeks. But I can’t be bothered to pack. Maybe another bowl. I don’t feel drawn to anything in particular, just pulled by various keys I type into this board. Launching sites and distractions to new stimuli. So much to know. So much to see. So much to hear. But right now I just want to turn it all off. Airplane mode, wifi off, just a notepad. Maybe a book. Why is it so hard to turn it all off and focus on the words in front of me? Others take their place. Sentences keep lining up into endless thoughts. Of what? Mush. This to that to this to that. People places things. The music in the cab home last night. Some concepts of reality and insanity. Things keep moving and I don’t know why. “Slow down, try meditating.” If I had more or less to do would I think less or more? This strain of weed doesn’t work well with me. Override. Overkill. Overthrown. It was free, and it works, so I can’t complain. But it must be an indica. A weird one. Prefer the way sativa rearranges my mind and tricks myself into thinking everything I’m working on is the most important thing I could be working on. Illusory efficiency in doing. This high makes me want to melt into a sandwich or watch HBO or mindlessly think about what to do next, until there is too much or nothing to do next, until I spend an hour, or one minute, thinking about what to do next. Uncertain. Where’s Sam? Maybe if we were both high we could figure out what to do next together. Instead I’m just looking towards west-side Medellín and wondering if I’m capable of reading this book in front of me. One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’m nearly half-way through, but I haven’t picked it up in a while. Read others since. I don’t remember where I was on the family tree. Which generation? So many characters. Trying to find where I left off in lines and names across time.