I remember when Small Camera Big Picture (my camera blog that I closed down last year) started to take off. The pace was crazy and I thought that's what the blog needed to be successful. I recall telling my wife that if I could just keep this crazy pace for three years it would be a success but as I know now that's simply not true. Not only can hustling hurt your business, it can literally kill you.
There's been this hustle mentality forced upon us in the US that separates us from other western countries that goes along with things like less paid vacation (and fewer people that actually use the days they do have), non-existent or all too brief parental leave, an “always on” mentality where people are expected to respond right away to work emails and bragging rights about “sleeping when I’m dead”. What's worse, is some very popular social media stars that make it a point to tell their audience that they're always working and that's bad advice.
We're working harder than ever for less and that has to stop. It hurts our ability to care for ourselves as human beings, which impacts everything in our lives, including the quality of work we can produce. It’s actually counterproductive to push our bodies and minds to the limit all the time.
Stop the Hustle Mentality
I devote around 7 or 8 hours a day to the activities needed to run my business, but the reality is that the majority of the deep work that requires a lot of thought and concentration is done in about 4 hours a day. After four hours of serious focus, my brain is toast and if I were to continue working, I'd be doing myself and my clients a disservice since my output would not be my best. The rest of the time is spent on the mundane, administrative tasks that come along with running a business. It’s work, but it’s not the “real” work of growing my business and my skills.
The other key for me is controlling my schedule and not letting my schedule control me. I respect and honor my time scheduled for deep work just like I would respect and honor time set aside for a meeting with a client. That means, not digging into email first thing in the morning and derailing my important work for the day. That also means determining my cut off time at night when I transition from work activities to personal and family activities. It’s important to give my brain a break from thinking about work. It allows my brain to focus on something else entirely and when I come back to the work, I’m refreshed and often able to see new possibilities as a result of the break. I’m BETTER at what I do, because I honor my whole self and life in lieu of being “on” during all of my waking hours.
With all the technology we have at our disposal, smart business managers know that we can work smarter, not harder. Smart business owners know to let the tech do the heavy lifting and allow themselves time to focus on the big picture tasks like personal health and relationship building activities. That’s what technology is created to do! Just think about all of the old fashioned offices with a pool of typists, secretaries and other office workers that were required to send out simple communications, file away documents and organize schedules. We can do all of that in minutes on our phones on our own. So what do we do with the free time technology creates? Work MORE! We may have more quantity of work, but I can’t say the same for the quality, can you?
Occupational Death - There’s a better way
The hustle mentality is even more deeply ingrained in Japan. People there are literally working themselves to death and for what? There's even a term used in Japan for working oneself to death - Karōshi, translates to "overwork death" where workers suddenly die of heart attack, stroke or starvation due to overworking. Is your job worth your life? Japan’s economy isn’t the force it used to be, but workers are working longer and harder than ever. Quantity does not directly correlate with quality. In fact, there is a point of diminishing returns. We are human beings, not machines and as such, we require a different kind of maintenance to perform at our best.
In Italy, the average worker gets 80 vacation days off a year and it’s not just employees that reap the benefits, it’s the employers too. Want some of the finest motor vehicles available in the world? Go to Italy. Some of the finest, handcrafted cloth, clothing, food and wine? Italian. The quality is of the utmost importance for the product and smart business owners know high quality comes as a result of workers who are healthy, happy and engaged. Respecting employees’ time away from work is an important way to ensure you get that quality. It's no wonder that when I visit, people there seem happy and overall look healthy. That's a bella vita we should all embrace. Is Italy the economic super power of the United States? No, but is our quality of life as good as theirs? In many ways, it is not.
What to Do
Work life should be a marathon, sometimes a sprint and at times relaxation. It's about balance. There will be times when you need to crush out a deadline but that should not be the norm. A consistent, steady pace is what will help you reach your goals while not losing your mind. I've since closed Small Camera Big Picture, slowed my pace and refocused so that when I need to sprint I can do it with quality because I'm not rushing 24/7.
Be smart about your work, slow down and focus on quality. Tame your schedule and honor your “you” time fiercely. Work consistently in a way that works for you so that when you do need to sprint to the finish line you do it well. Then make sure to take some time off and enjoy the fruits of your labor.