There’s something I need to get off my chest today.
And I must warn you. It’s not going to be pretty.
In fact, you may even hate me a little for bringing it up.
It’s this total dedication – nay, glorification – of working long hours which is so sadly the norm these days.
What makes it particularly monstrous to me is that it’s so inexplicably mundane. So blasé.
And it takes so many forms.
It’s the email you receive at odd hours.
The “Yeah I’m good. Always working,” to your “How are you doing?”
The files with tracked changes dated Saturday afternoon.
And those wistful office window snaps you post on Instagram, preferably after 9pm.
Well, I don’t fucking get it.
Why do people brag about how much time they spend at work? It’s like some badge of honour or something.
Flash news: it isn’t. It’s moronic and downright unsustainable.
You’re also setting yourself up to fail in the long run. Here’s why.
If you need to work so much, you’re doing something wrong
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not saying you can’t ever be legitimately swamped. Sometimes you just have way too much work. It happens.
But this should be the exception, not the rule.
Put simply, if you’re consistently putting in 80 hour weeks, something must be terribly wrong. It isn’t normal, nor should it be.
The way I see it, people work too much for one of two reasons: either they don’t know how to say no, or they’re simply bad at time management. Either way, if you constantly struggle to work reasonable hours, you really need to take a long hard look at your working habits and figure out what your problem is.
If the problem is that your workload is too big, it’s time to learn how to be more assertive.
Say no, or at least ask for help. Remember that no one’s going to pat you on the back for driving your personal life into the ground. And if you’re a freelancer or business owner, consider outsourcing at least some of your work.
If the problem is bad time management, you need to figure out where and how you go wrong.
Perhaps you get too easily distracted? Or maybe you’re simply not tackling your tasks efficiently?
Which brings me to my next point.
Working hard doesn’t mean you’re working smart
You wouldn’t congratulate a mover who spent three hours lugging Grandma’s solid oak armoire up four floors all by himself, would you?
In fact, you’d probably call him a blethering idiot for not asking for help or, even better, bringing a mechanical lifter to do the hard work.
So why the hell is it that people brag they spent 30 hours on a task when it could have easily taken them much less to get it done?
The problem, I think, is that the modern workplace has turned being busy and working long hours into a status symbol.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but working long hours is not an indicator of superior performance.
In fact, if anything, it may be an indication that you’re approaching your tasks in the completely wrong way. Just like the mover who could have done his job in half the time and saved himself a back-ache.
Your brain can only stay focused and alert for so long before it gives out. If you keep at it, you’ll start losing perspective, second-guessing yourself and making avoidable mistakes.
That’s not an efficient way to work. In fact, it’s a vicious cycle, because you’ll just end up putting in more hours obsessing over unimportant details and fixing stuff you could have done right in the first place simply by giving it a rest.
More importantly though:
You’ll miss out on life
Ever heard of Bronnie Ware?
She’s an Australian nurse who spent several years working with the terminally ill during the last weeks of their lives.
Ware started recording her patients’ dying epiphanies, and eventually wrote a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
I haven’t read the book, but I did once read an article about it, and it left a lasting impression on me.
Care to venture a guess as to which regret made the top of the list?
Spoiler alert: it’s working too hard.
I’ll end with a quote from the book, because any further comment would be redundant:
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
Starting next week, stop bragging about how busy you are, and try leaving the office at a decent hour.
Do you feel the same way about this? Or do you love working long hours? Sound off in the comments below.