Seventeen-hour work days were my norm. I was often so exhausted I couldn’t get out of bed. I was constantly unwell. I couldn’t think straight.
But it didn’t matter. I wore my crazy work hours like a badge of honour. Society agreed. As a workaholic, you’re celebrated.
You’re making it big.
You’re a hustler and go-getter.
You’re disciplined and committed.
After one too many episodes of exhaustion, I took a step back and faced the truth.
What society teaches us about work is wrong.
What I learnt?
You will never be truly successful if you think 24/7 hustling is something to be proud of.
You can change things. You can learn to work less, but do more.
So much more that people will wonder how you do it all.
Here’s why the 24/7 work attitude will destroy you and what you can do to change it today.
Because it’s more about ego than results
“Oh you worked 12 hours yesterday? I worked 12 hours straight then came home. Worked on my side hustle for 7 hours as well. Trump that.”
Workaholism has become a way to feed our egos. It makes us feel significant. It’s water cooler talk in the office to show just how important we are. It sounds sexy to call ourselves “hustlers and grinders”.
Repeat after me: I do not need to work all hours to feel important.
To overcome this:
- Stop taking pride in working yourself to the point of exhaustion. Don’t get sucked in to this dangerous cultural norm.
- Don’t derive your self-worth from how many hours you put in. Find more healthy ways to validate yourself. What makes you valuable and special? There is much more to you than a working 12 hours a day. This should not be what defines you.
Because working more hours is not more productive
Have you ever “worked” for ten hours straight then realized you achieved very little?
It is easy to trick yourself in to thinking the more hours you worked, the more you achieved.
This is rarely the case.
Working countless hours is similar to being a hamster on a wheel. You feel like you are getting somewhere. But you’re not actually moving.
Thinking in terms of “hours worked” is a concept from the industrial revolution. Eight hour days were invented to regulate the number of hours factory workers labored for.
We then moved in to the information age. The majority of our work is mental. However the concept of the eight hour working day is still standard. This is an outdated concept. It encourages you to think of success in terms of hours worked.
How do we let go of thinking in hours?
Think in results.
At the end of the day ask yourself: What priority did I achieve today?
Stop using phrases like “I got 10 hours of work done”. That means nothing. Think only in results.
When you focus on results only, your approach changes. Your success is measured in tangible outcomes.
Next, ask yourself: How long did I spend working on this? How could I have achieved this in half the time?
When you question yourself, you will realise this: most of your results could have taken much less time if you had properly focused.
You realise you don’t need to work 10 hours a day, when you can achieve the same result in a quarter of the time.
Instead of spending five hours a day browsing the net, you focus on results.
Instead of checking your phone every five minutes, you focus on results.
Instead of being a hamster on a wheel, you focus on results.
If you want to thrive in the information age, your thinking needs to reflect today’s work. Using this method, you will achieve massive results in very little time.
Because there is no peak performance without rest
The greatest athletes, entrepreneurs and artists in the world understand this concept. Bill Gates famously takes “think weeks” to ponder each year. Richard Branson starts his day swimming around Necker island. Stefan Sagmeister closes his art studio for one year every 7 years to rejuvenate.
Optimal performance consists of high intensity work, followed by deep recovery.
Nature is our greatest teacher here: each season is important. You cannot skip autumn and winter and hope to just “keep powering through”.
Not honoring this fact means you are less likely to create your best work.
You will always be working sub-optimally.
You will always be forcing yourself to do more.
You will always be wondering why achieving results is so difficult.
Break this habit today.
Create a rest routine that you enjoy. Do you enjoy painting, reading books or spending time with friends? How often do you do activities that energize you?
The more you do these activities, the more optimal your work will become.
Because you never take a step back to look at the big picture
Who has a better view — a ground insect or a bird flying ahead?
When you are constantly working, you adopt an insect view. You can’t see the wood for the trees. You lack perspective.
You are doing one hundred things to achieve a single outcome.
Instead, take time to get a bird’s eye view.
What happens when you do this?
You realise that 80% of your work is not contributing to your outcomes.
You realise that many tasks could be automated.
You realise that you could reach your outcome faster by doing one or two things.
As an example, whilst I was in medical school, I could never keep up. I was doing everything, but getting nowhere. I was swimming in work.
Until I took a look at the big picture.
I realized most of the work was not contributing to my outcomes. Lectures didn’t suit my learning style. Yet I attended because that’s what was expected.
I was trying to do all the additional reading yet could barely remember the required reading.
I realized the root of my stress and overwhelm.
As a result, I cut down my study hours by at least eighty percent. In the time I saved, I set up a fashion business. I learnt about philosophy. I took a drama course. I traveled the world. I had the time of my life.
To people who don’t engage in big picture thinking, they will often ask:
“How do you do so much with your time?”.
The key is to remove the non-essential. Cut out things that don’t matter. Focus on the few big things.
You will find that you have so much time, whilst achieving big meaningful goals.
Hustling sounds sexy but is not effective.
You can do more by doing less.
What will you change today to create a less work — more results life?