Updated: Sep 10, 2020
We talk of multiple perspectives, and then work 16-hour days? If you drank, or watched TV, or slept, or exercised 10-16 hours a day, you’d be deemed ‘pathological’. It’s no different for work.
There are clearly periods when one needs to put in long hours during a crisis or preparing for the go-live of a new project. However, if ‘there’s always too much to do’, that is rather different. Why?
We can learn a lot from professional athletes: they train (work) hard and rest a lot. If they don’t rest, they over train and are useless in competition. The symptoms of overtraining are the same as depression and inertia - lethargy, fragility, exhaustion. If a professional athlete trained the equivalent of traditional working hours, they’d not be competitive.
Equally, efficiency and efficacy are not the same. Efficacy is what I actually produce, regardless of the time spent. Arguments like "I spent 40 days working on this executive summary, it must be good”, or, “The assessor is biased; I only got 30%, and worked on this assignment for months” are vacuous.
Like noisy cars, ‘Always On’ is generally only attractive and impressive to other ‘Always Onners’. It is a pathology. Regardless of time spent, it’s never enough. ‘Always on’ and tunnel vision are precariously related.
According to research, when the elderly and infirm are asked "if you lived your life over again, what would you do differently?”, the unanimous response is, “work less.” It’s ironic that it takes discipline to work less to achieve more. Or actually ………. live more.
Hobbies are fantastic antidotes to the office. Through our hobbies we ‘decompress’, spend time with others outside of our work environments, garner additional perspectives, and have fun!
I am not suggesting that work can’t be fun. Quite the contrary. However, as we traditionally earn an income from it, work comes with responsibilities and expectations against which we are measured – unlike a hobby.
I write this during the COVID-19 lock down where research reveals that many people are working 3 hours longer each day. Assuming an 8-hour day and a 5-day week, this equates to an additional 60 hours a month, or the equivalent of an additional 7,5 days’ work per month. This equation assumes no work on weekends. Think about it.
No matter how committed we are to ‘showing up’, adding value and continuous learning, we also need rest, physical and literal changes of scenery, and undistracted time with our families and significant others. The latter being the constant, regardless of what role or organisation you’re currently in. If I’m ‘always on’, I can’t also be present, invested and attentive to those who care about me. If I’m 'always on', I may wake up one day and discover that my home and heart are empty.