Four years ago, if you had asked me to work late or in my weekend I would have done anything not to. I would always be overcome with this intense knee-jerk reaction because that was my time.
Four years ago, I respected my free time, guarded it like gold. However, last year I worked sixty hour weeks until I burned out.
I lied to myself, over and over again about what the job really was. I lost respect for my free time and it became this currency I could cash in to reduce the stress in front of me.
The first lie: It’s for my career.
Despite plenty of research that says peak efficiency comes from working 40 hours a week, backed up by sleep research saying the same thing and new research suggesting 30 hour work weeks could be better, we culturally hold this notion that working forty hours is what lazy people do. It’s for those who don’t have career goals.
It’s such a stupid notion, perpetuated by career ‘heroes.’
Elon Musk’s expectations that successful people work sixty hours a week are toxic lies poisoning the workforce on mass.
You want to be successful in your career? View your time like money. Get better at using it, as opposed to recklessly spending it all the time.
You won’t be able to bring your 100% at work if you are sleep deprived and haven't relaxed in two weeks.
And I understand the logic, “if I work now, I can rest when I’ve accomplished my goals” first of all, you will burn out before you accomplish whatever your goals are, and secondly, you can’t predict the future, which means you can’t predict when you will stop overworking — not to mention Elon still works 60 hours, even though he’s ‘successful’.
It never stops, so never start.
The second lie: The work had to be done / XX relied on me.
I saw this excuse literally this morning. A person on Reddit moaning that they worked a few hours in the weekend (both days) and doesn’t feel rested. When I asked why their response, was that their manager had committed them to a project, despite not having the resource to do it, and failure would have a material impact on people.
I get that, in my previous role, If I got behind, our call center got complaints.
Two things I learned about this lie, during my burn out.
- Working extra because someone else made a bad decision, means they / will do it again, and again.
- The company is no where near about to fail as we think it is, and if it is about to fail, it is not worth your career to play superman (unless you are founder)
In regards to the the first point. Work on being transparent with management, if they want X by Y then talk to them about what you can do in your allotted work hours. If you can do it but it involves dropping everything, then they need to sign off on you dropping everything. If you can’t do it even if you do drop everything that’s a ‘Them’ problem. Do not supplement your free time for the failings of your management / team.
In regards to the second point. It’s true, a company can withstand a lot of failure. Just because you can directly see the fallout doesn’t mean its significant fallout. A lot of us work at the front line, which means we can see the direct impact of a mistake. What we can’t see is the holistic picture. So what a thousand people complained, were that thousand still using your product in six months time?
The third lie: It wasn’t costing me anything more than ‘time’.
I see this commonly with people who don’t have hobbies, it becomes easy for them to trade in their time to make work easier.
Even if you have time to burn, for whatever reason, there is a still a hidden cost to working extra. At forty hours, you are working for 41% of your five day week. If you slept 8 hours (like your supposed to) that’s another 41% leaving 18% (16 hours) for everything else. Doesn’t sound like a lot does it? Which means you are heavily relying on the 48 hours you have the weekend to recover so that you can do it all over again.
People who work extra hours tend to cut into their sleep In order to still have their free time.
Let’s cut that scenario another way.
Dear reader. You have to sacrifice two hours of your day today that wil literally vanish from existence. Would you rather two hours less at work but paid for the full eight or two hours less sleeping, or two hours less free time. The only advantageous scenario is working two hours less for the same pay and yet we all work two hours more for the same pay and have two hours less sleep and or free time.
Wake up sheeple.
If your bored and find yourself a hobby. Trust me I have more than 16 hours (over five days) of hobbies, projects, socializing and relaxing that I’m actively trying to life hack ways to get more of it done like writing articles like this on the bike at the gym or while a large SQL query runs at work.
And if you can’t find hobbies / people to socialize with then congrats that is your now hobby because the answer to that problem is not work more.
I burnt out last year. I worked sixty hours and was on call every night. I never saw anyone. I never exercised, I stopped being able to manage stress so when things went wrong in my personal life I had no strength to deal with it. I got very angry, fat and tired.
I didn’t fix my burnout straight away, it took months of tweaking behaviors and reading self help articles on medium. But the thing I did immediately was stopping working more than forty hours. In fact I stopped working forty hours,I needed to recover and everyone knew I worked long hours. No one questioned why I went home at four everyday.
The final bit of my recovery came from my boyfriend. I mentioned I was going to do some work at home that evening and he said “will you look back in a year and be thankful that you worked those two hours?”
He was so right. That was about five months ago and I can’t remember what work I was going to do. But I remember I played some games and did some writing. Things I can look back and be thankful I did.
Burnout is fucking real. I see way to many people my age and younger frothing at the mouth to work an extra hour or so for their boss. It’s sick. It comes from not respecting your own time, not believing you can be successful in your career within forty hours and believing your company’s troubles are yours.
Don’t be one of the thousands of under thirty’s who burn out.