Working hard and setting limits…
a. Can a person work a maximum of 40 hours a week at something and still be successful?
b. Real-life story problem #1: I’ve recently graduated from university and launched into full time work with the company I have been working part time with for the last 3 years. I love working there and I get paid on an hourly rate so that the more hours I work, the more money I get. I like the idea of working 40 hour weeks or less, so that I have more time to do my own things, but my boss is encouraging me to treat those 40 hours as a minimum! Consequently, I find myself surrounded by workers that work 60+ hours a week and myself working 50 hours a week or more. So I guess I’m torn between working a 40 hour week and having more time to focus on other things in my life or working 50+ hours a week and getting the extra money and industry experience. So should I work more hours or less? Why? What other factors should I consider?
c. Real-life story problem #2: Extreme programming is a set of rules/mindsets/methods for programming. On the one hand, several of those methods aim at keeping you as hard working and productive as possible. On the other hand, the official “rules” almost forbid you to work more than 40 hours per week. So working as hard as you can for 8 hours, 5 days a week, but not more. This ‘d be a nice statement to react upon for both of them.
d. Is a day’s work it’s own reward, or is there a way to change your perspective regarding mind-numbing work so that it becomes fun?
In this case while we both agree on the importance of being well-rested and that fatigue kills creativity, we each have a different way of describing how to actually work. Fred gives the example of putting in short days, working from 10am to 4:30pm with a long family lunch in between. I recommend a more cyclical approach of working hard with tremendous focus and then resting completely.
If I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to work very much, it’s a sign I’m tired or I’m feeling burnt out — it means I’ve been “overtraining.” And in that case, I’ll take a day or two off with no work at all to rest and recover completely. I’ll spend time sharpening the saw — reading, journaling, reflecting, revising my goals, visualizing where I want to go. I’ll take a nap. I’ll read over some old feedback emails to remind myself of what effect I’m having. I’ll ask those big “why” questions again until I absolutely want to go back to work.
If you really love what you do, then what’s so painful about putting in a 8-hour day on it? When I’d go to Disneyland, I’d want to go there from when the park opened until the park closed and pack in as much fun in a day as I could muster. If work is play, then why not play hard and squeeze more juice out of it?
Fred says, “I see a day’s work as a day’s punishment.”
To me that’s suggests you want the end result of what you’re trying to achieve, but you don’t enjoy the path to get there. This comes from setting goals that focus too much on the end but not paying enough attention to the means.
If I think “I have to work,” that’s a problem. For me it has to be, “I want to work.” After all, being an entrepreneur I don’t actually have to work much at all to support myself, so if I don’t want to do it, I won’t. But the desire to work, not the compulsion to work, is what got me out of bed at 5am this morning, full of enthusiasm to get going on a fun new day. If you’re at Disneyland, are you going to procrastinate on going on the rides? C’mon, this isn’t painful. Do you think I’m feeling stressed out doing what I do — writing, working on speeches, improving my web site, communicating with people, etc.? Where’s the pain? Where’s the stress? A day’s punishment? Why would I want to avoid this? And yet, all of this is productive work for me — it contributes directly to my purpose. Punishment would be forcibly keeping me away from it.
Getting work done through other people, as Fred suggests, is great. No argument there. That’s the whole idea of leverage, and you’ll have a hard time getting anywhere financially if you don’t use leverage. My favorite form of leverage is technology — it does the dirty work like processing and filling orders through my game site and automatically depositing money into my bank account each day. But no matter how much you leverage outside factors like people and technology and capital, the ultimate form of leverage is still your own time. Time is the juice of life; if you aren’t living passionately and loving what you do each day, to me that’s punishing yourself, and your accomplishments won’t provide much fulfillment if you aren’t enjoying the journey. If you find the path to your goal so painful that you feel you must minimize the time you spend on it, regardless of how much you lust for the final destination, then you’re on the wrong path.
Before you embark on any path ask the question, does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it and then you must choose another path. The trouble is that nobody asks the question. And when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart the path is ready to kill him.
- Carlos Castaneda
So ask the question. Does your path have a heart? This is one of those questions where you will know with certainty if the answer is yes. If you aren’t certain it’s a yes, then it’s a no.
Don’t take the path without a heart, regardless of where you think it will lead you and how great it will be when you finally arrive. Find another way to get there. I know it’s not easy to find a way to make a great living doing what you love each and every day, but it’s a lot easier than the alternative.