Transcript

Episode: The High Cost of Overwork

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Michael Hyatt: Retired Air Force captain Ray Brennan was a tall, active 61-year-old who enjoyed collecting seashells. Despite a recent history of heart problems, he set off from his home in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, to attend a convention in Philadelphia. When Ray returned home, he felt a bit more tired than usual. Three days later, he complained of chest pain. That night, his lungs began to fill with fluid. Then he suddenly died from an apparent heart attack.

Megan Hyatt Miller: Later that week and 150 miles away, Frank Aveni, age 60, died in much the same way. Within days, nine more men, ages 39 to 82 and scattered all over the state, died under the same mysterious circumstances: headaches, chest pain, high fever, lung congestion, and finally death from an apparent heart attack. All of the victims were men, all were veterans, and all were from Pennsylvania.

Michael: Health officials suspected the worst: an invisible mass killer had been unleashed upon the state, possibly the entire country. Soon, experts identified a connection between the victims. All were associated with the same convention Ray Brennan had attended. It was the 1976 American Legion Convention at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. The first outbreak of what we now call Legionnaires’ disease.

Megan: Experts finally traced the illness to a previously unknown pathogen that spread through the hotel’s air conditioning system. All 221 people became ill, and 34 died. We can all hope we steer clear of Legionnaires’ disease, but there’s another equally mysterious illness that affects countless men and women each year, and probably you too.

Michael: It begins with another set of predictable symptoms: fatigue, headaches, irritability, sleeplessness, worry, and exhaustion. What is this invisible threat? It’s the stress caused by constantly trying to do more but accomplishing less. Every year, thousands of people try to alleviate this condition by producing more and more output, but it just doesn’t work. Despite working longer hours, we get less done. As our level of investment rises, productivity plummets until finally we experience burnout.

Megan: After the discovery of Legionnaires’ disease in 1976, countries all over the world adopted new regulations for climate-control systems to prevent the spread of this deadly illness. That’s not the case with the second illness. Rather than restructure our lives to prevent burnout, we continue the same old pattern that produces the same old symptoms, even though we know the cause of the problem.

Michael: So here’s the question…Are we finally ready to admit the high cost of overwork? Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael:  And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work, succeed at life, and lead with confidence. In this episode, we’re going to talk about productivity, and we’ll expose the fallacy that you can accomplish more by simply working harder. I’ll show you exactly what this approach is costing you and what to do about it.

Megan: I’m really excited about this episode. In fact, this is the first of three episodes on productivity, a little miniseries, if you will. This week we’re talking about the problem, because it just seems like we’re working harder and harder but actually accomplishing less. You’ve identified three unseen costs of this approach, because the truth is there’s something at stake here. It’s not just that it’s inefficient. There’s something bigger and more important we need to come to grips with when we think about this issue.

Michael: So true. I think when we think about productivity we just think about tweaks, hacks, and strategies to be more productive. It never occurs to us to question the underlying assumptions, but once we get our head around these costs, I think it forces us to ask the right questions.

Megan: Instead of just, “How do we pedal faster?”

Michael: Exactly. The first cost is missing out on life by overworking. It’s so easy to think the situation is temporary. “If I just work a little bit harder right now, then I can enjoy some time off, I can take that vacation, I can take a long weekend,” or whatever. The truth is there’s always more to do, so there’s no end to it. Working harder doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, studies routinely show that productivity goes down dramatically after 50 hours per week.

Now I know what you’re thinking out there, those of you who are listening to this. You’re the exception. Right? You can work 60, 70, 80 hours a week and somehow still be productive. But no, you can’t. Your productivity is going to go down after 50 hours of work. There’s this thing called the productivity paradox that was identified in the 70s and 80s. Basically, companies that made a major increase in technology (this is astonishing) saw a decrease in productivity growth.

Megan: What?

Michael: We have this thing called the Full Focus Planner. This isn’t an ad for it, but it’s an analogue planner, an old paper planner, and we are selling them like hotcakes. We can’t keep them in stock. I think it’s because people have realized digital solutions to task management are not increasing their productivity. It puts them in an environment where they’re very distracted, so the technology has actually caused a decrease in their productivity. The same holds true for investing more time.

Now get this stat. Studies in national productivity show the Greeks work over 2,000 hours a year on average. Who knew? But somebody studied this. Germans work about 1,400 hours but are 70 percent more productive. That’s not dissimilar from what we’ve seen in our coaching practice. Oftentimes, people who put a constraint on the number of hours they work are actually more productive. It’s a little bit like that day before you go on vacation. You’re hyper-productive.

Megan: Yes. It’s like a week’s worth of work in one day.

Michael: That’s right. Because you have a constraint on it. You can’t just keep working and keep working. So we’re actually getting less done by working longer hours, and those hours could be invested in other things that make us more focused, more productive when we’re at work, things like leisure, rest, learning, family time, all of that.

Megan: It reminds me of a presentation I was working on last week. I realized I had kind of procrastinated. I had a little more to do than I thought. I thought I just had some tweaks to make but then realized there were some more substantial edits I needed to make. We had a late dinner for the business that night, and I got back to my hotel, and I was going to work on it.

Well, I thought I could get it done in about half an hour, but it was probably 10:30 when I started. You know, this was a long, leisurely dinner we had. Before I knew it, it was midnight. It was like everything I did… I kept making mistakes. It just took longer. It was slow. I think that’s a good metaphor for what we’re talking about here. There’s kind of a law of diminishing returns, where at a certain point, no matter how fast you pedal, you’re just not getting anywhere.

Michael: Right. The longer you work, the stupider you get.

Megan: Well, that’s how I felt, for sure.

Michael: Why do you think our culture seems to value overworking? It’s a badge of honor. Right? You meet somebody and say, “How are you doing?” They say, “Oh my gosh. I’m so busy. I’m so tired. I’m exhausted.” It sounds like they’re complaining, but they’re bragging.

Megan: It’s like the humble brag.

Michael: But why is there that phenomenon?

Megan: Well, I think one of the things that’s really insidious and something we’re not aware of very often is we have no idea what to do when we’re not working.

Michael: That’s a good point.

Megan: Work is easier than whatever is happening at home. It’s defined results. It’s measurable outcomes. There’s a schedule. There are little boxes you can check. For a lot of people, when they go home or when they have time off it’s easy to drift back into work, because, as it turns out, your children and your marriage don’t operate on measurable outcomes and checkboxes. There’s not an app you can get for that. You actually have to engage, and it’s messy and challenging and you’re kind of at loose ends.

I think our tolerance for being at loose ends, for even boredom… Studies have shown this as well. Our tolerance for boredom has evaporated. When was the last time you waited for anything or had any moment of in-between, liminal space in your life where you weren’t entertained or trying to cram something in? So I think we just don’t know what to do with ourselves.

Michael: I think that’s true. Social media services like Facebook… This is one of the dark sides of that particular service. We can get such a quick dopamine hit we don’t develop tolerance for boredom and we don’t stay in these spaces where there aren’t the measurable results. I also think behind all that is fear. It’s like fear of missing out. “If I say no to that opportunity, if I say no to that project, maybe I won’t be promoted. Maybe I won’t advance as quickly as I would like.” Maybe it’s just fear of the unknown. That’s really what you were talking about. At least at work things are known.

Megan: You have clarity and certainty.

Michael: That’s right. I know what it takes to get ahead. I know what it takes to complete a project. But at home there aren’t as many checkboxes. It seems very unfamiliar. So I think those are some of the reasons we’re willing to overwork. And it gives us a sense that we’re being productive. It’s a false sense of productivity, but there’s a sense that I’m making a contribution, I’m a hard worker.

You probably don’t remember this, because you were raised in a completely different generation than I was. (Maybe you do a little bit.) My dad and mom, coming out of the Depression, would say to me, “Make yourself busy” or “Make yourself useful,” which meant you shouldn’t just be standing around. You should always be working. My parents would say, and bosses I would work for would say, early on, “There’s always something to do. Find something to do. Make yourself useful.” That kind of mindset is something that seeps into our belief system, and we just approach the world that way.

Megan: It kind of goes back to the impulse to make a meaningful contribution is good, but when we get to this place of diminishing returns where we’re overworking, we’re not actually able to make a meaningful contribution to much of anything. Our desire for significance is actually thwarted by overworking. Maybe back then there was a desire to be good stewards of your time, make a meaningful contribution, whatever it could be, but over time it has sort of been like fill up your time with busywork and movement all the time and this kind of frenetic energy that’s really counterproductive.

Michael: It’s a little bit like overtraining at the gym. People get all excited and think, “I’m going to lose weight. I’m going to get in shape. I’m going to finally turn this one-pack into a six-pack.” (My perpetual challenge.) People think if they just work harder at the gym, then they will produce greater, faster results, and the truth is rest is equally important. In fact, elite athletes will tell you one of the most important components of their training and their ability to compete is their ability to rest. I’m talking about sleeping 9 or 10 hours a night. It’s really important. Overworking does not help us in any sphere of life.

Megan: Absolutely. I also found in a fascinating study by Erin Reid, who’s a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business… She found that managers cannot tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to.

Michael: Hello.

Megan: Reid found no evidence that the pretenders actually accomplished less or that the overworking employees accomplished more. I mean, that’s either good news or bad news for you, depending on which side of the spectrum you fall on.

Michael: That is crazy.

Megan: That’s really crazy. The point is, of course, working 80 hours is not helping you out, no matter what.

Michael: You may feel better about it, you may notice it, but it’s not making a measurable or tangible impact on the world.

Megan: People are often unaware that they’re accomplishing less by working more. You’ve developed a free Personal Productivity Assessment to help people measure just how productive they really are, and this is really revealing. If you want to know how you’re doing, not just how you think you’re doing, this is going to give you that insight.

Michael: This is one of those things I, by the way, personally take once a quarter.

Megan: I know.

Michael: Because if I’m not careful, I’ll slip back into the old patterns.

Megan: Right. It’s just helpful to have a pulse on it. Let’s hear how this assessment has helped one of our clients, Roy Barberi, diagnose and improve his level of productivity.

Roy Barberi: How has the Personal Productivity Assessment helped me to identify my areas of focus? Well, I’m a husband and a father of 12 children, and I’m also involved in three different businesses, so focus for me can sometimes be in short supply. One of the tools I like to use to stay on track is a productivity assessment. It gives me measurable ways to chart my productivity progress in the areas that are personally most important to me, which currently is time with my expanding family. We now have three grandchildren, as our older children are having babies.

I want to spend time continuing to date my wife. On March 14 we’ll have been married 30 years, and I think constantly spending time together is a big part of that success. In other areas, I want to focus on businesses that involve my children and creating those businesses that involve my children and working with our business teams on projects that make a difference for us and for those people we serve.

The assessment has helped me to evaluate how my time is being invested and with whom I’m investing it. It has helped me to realize I could and should delegate many more responsibilities to those I work with and to, quite honestly, people who will do a better job at it than I do, which creates opportunities for them, but then that gives me the freedom to get clear on my own systems.

It gives me space in my calendar, and it gives me the opportunity to decide how I’m going to manage that new free time. I don’t think we should use the assessment like a bathroom scale, when you first go on a diet and you’re very zealous and you’re trying to weigh yourself every single day. You want to give yourself enough time to be able to see progress. That’s why I take the assessment each quarter.

The other question would be…How has the assessment helped me improve personally? It has given me the emotional bandwidth to where I have something to give back to my wife and my children and the business relationships that are really important to me and hopefully to them as well. It also doesn’t hurt that we’ve been able to greatly expand our teams in those businesses, creating opportunities, and that our personal income has gone up about 30 percent over the past 24 months.

Michael: Again, the first cost is missing out on life by overworking, but there’s a second cost: poor health due to stress. Workplace stress is detrimental to well being. It’s not something to fool around with. I’ve experienced this firsthand, you have, and they’re really consequences that can affect every area of our lives.

Too many or conflicting demands produce stress. For example, when you’re trying to work under multiple deadlines or you have an overcommitted calendar or you’re trying to juggle home and office. I know you’re right in the middle of this with small kids. You’re in the process of trying to move. Are you stressed, Megan?

Megan: A little, although I’ve been sleeping well, which helps.

Michael: Well, that’s good. Probably because you’ve been so stinkin’ tired.

Megan: Yeah, probably so.

Michael: Some of the physical symptoms are things like tension headaches, rapid breathing (in fact, one of my son-in-laws had some of these symptoms this weekend, as you know), increased blood pressure, release of stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol…

Megan: Which, by the way, are not your friends over the long haul. Great when you’re running from a bear, not when you’re showing up for work every day.

Michael: They really have a negative impact on your system over time. Digestive problems, higher cholesterol, decreased (this is the most deadly) libido…

Megan: This is when it’s really awkward to have a podcast with your dad. Let’s keep on going.

Michael: Seventy percent of American workers experience stress-related illnesses. That, if you’re counting, is the majority of us. Seventy percent. You think of all of the antacids that are bought over the counter, all of the prescription antacids, all of the prescription medications, all of the things that are designed to reduce this stress, when instead of doing that, probably what we should be considering is what’s causing this stress.

Megan: Okay, I have to tell a story on myself. This is kind of a good one. This is probably 12 or 13 years ago. I had moved to a new city. A lot of things in my life were changing. I had a new job in a high-pressure sales sort of situation, and I started to experience some physical symptoms, like digestive symptoms. A lot of discomfort, kind of nauseated all the time.

Before I realized what was going on, which turned out to actually be a really serious health problem that was absolutely caused by stress (I was later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease), I remember driving to work on a pretty regular basis for several weeks, where I would be in my car, and in my cup holder would be a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. I had to go to work. I felt like I had to go, I had to perform. I would drink Pepto-Bismol while I was driving down the road from my cup holder, from the bottle.

Michael: You’ve never told me that story. I am shocked. Seriously.

Megan: It was so bad. Some of you are doing this right now, and I’ll just tell you, it doesn’t end well.

Michael: Wow. How did it end for you?

Megan: Well, I got deathly sick. I ended up having emergency surgeries.

Michael: On one of our vacations.

Megan: On one of our family vacations. It kind of took me out of life for about a year of pretty intensive recovery because I was so, so sick. It was because I was ignoring those early warning signs, which actually predated the Pepto-Bismol, as you might imagine. I ignored those early symptoms and just thought I could push through and I had to push through, which was the really dangerous thought, and wasn’t taking care of myself. It was a hard lesson to learn.

Michael: I have a question about Crohn’s disease, because you and one of your other sisters have this. Did the stress cause the Crohn’s or did the stress aggravate the Crohn’s?

Megan: I mean, I’m certainly not a doctor, so don’t take this to the bank, but what I understand about a lot of inflammatory or autoimmune diseases is that, genetically, many of us have a predisposition to certain things. There are a host of these kinds of illnesses out there. It seems like they’re discovering more all the time.

Very often, stressful life events, like what I was experiencing, are sort of like the trip wire, the thing that takes that vulnerability you might have genetically and lets it run wild, and it’s pretty hard to catch when that happens. That can be true of all kinds of things, but the important thing is you have to pay attention to those early warning signs and not lie to yourself that you can get by without the self-care you need, not only to perform well at work but just to live your life.

Michael: I want to tell you another part of my stress-related one. I’ve told a lot of times about having these stress-related symptoms and ending up at the cardiologist finally. He said to me, “Your heart is fine. That’s not it.” I thought I was having a heart attack several times. He said, “This is acid reflux.” Now what he didn’t answer the question of was why there was the acid reflux. I think it was a combination of things, like lack of exercise. It was partly diet, but it was also stress.

A lot of times, I was ending up in the ER as a result of a panic attack. Here’s the part I haven’t told. You’ve made me brave by going first. The part I didn’t tell is that about that same time I started getting therapy. I started meeting with a psychologist, and I told him the presenting symptom was that I was having panic attacks. I was a pretty high-level executive at the time I was having these, and I suspected it was related to work, but I wasn’t for sure.

I said, “Look, I’ve had these panic attacks. I’ve ended up in the ER several times thinking I was having a heart attack.” He stopped me right there and said, “About 30 percent of the men I see who are your age” (this was in my early 50s) “have exactly these same symptoms. They’re suffering from panic attacks. They end up in the ER thinking they’re having a heart attack. They can’t find what the problem is, but it’s all stress-related.” Overworking.

Megan: I believe it, and I’m sure that’s true for professional women as well. Man, that’s something to really take seriously. Anxiety…

Michael: It’s a clue.

Megan: That’s right. I’ll tell you what. As a leader, if you’re in a constant state of stress and anxiety, your ability to make great decisions, which is a huge part of leadership, is diminished at best.

Michael: I just want to say, just for a little bit of hope here, that you don’t have to live this way. You don’t have to be under this constant sense of overwork and stress. I think most of us put ourselves in a position of being the victim, like this is being done to us rather than we’re doing it to ourselves. Certainly, there are those circumstances where we don’t have full control, but I think we have to own what it is that’s driving this. Is there underlying fear, like we were talking about earlier…the fear of missing out, the fear of the unknown? Is there something that’s creating this stress that we could own and actually change if we put our mind to it?

Megan: The point of our show today is not to be a huge downer, although this is kind of heavy stuff in some ways, but it’s meant to be, in this series we’re doing, the first part of a wake-up call that will ultimately lead to great solutions for how to improve the situation. But before you can get to solutions or tips or whatever it is, you definitely have to be honest about how bad it is. This is an area you can really lie to yourself in.

Michael: You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. That’s where it starts.

Megan: Before we continue our conversation on the high cost of overworking, I want to pause for just a minute to talk about something we’re really excited about here at Michael Hyatt & Company.

Michael: I already mentioned the Full Focus Planner, and I said it wasn’t an ad. Well, this time it is. The Full Focus Planner is a paper planner. Yes, a paper planner, analog, throwback, but it’s designed to link your big yearly goals with your day-to-day tasks. In our consulting and coaching practice, what we’ve found with our clients is they often set goals, but they don’t have a way to make those operational.

They don’t have a way where the rubber meets the road that they can actually put it on their task list and make daily, meaningful progress toward their goals. The Full Focus Planner is designed to help you do that and to keep you productive every day, because we have some other tools that are baked into that that we’re going to be talking about in this miniseries about productivity. It’s just a way to make it happen on a daily basis.

Megan: My kids would say this paper planner thing is “old school.” My 7-year-old loves to call things “old school,” which might mean they happened three years ago. In this case, this is definitely kind of an old idea that is new again. How did you come to design a physical paper planner, because you obviously love digital solutions as well?

Michael: Yeah, I do. I started using a paper planner solution when I was in college. I went through a whole bunch of them over the course of my career, but then the digital revolution happened, so I started using a digital calendar. I started using a digital task manager, but I discovered I actually wasn’t getting more done. I was spending an inordinate amount of time managing my tasks rather than actually getting the tasks done. I found that I was doing it in an environment of distraction, where I wasn’t focused, and it kind of blended into everything else that was in my digital landscape or my digital ecosystem.

Megan: I kind of think about it like when you go to use something on your phone you have to machete your way through the jungle to get to the thing you’re trying to find. You have to make it through the temptation of Facebook and email and text messages and all of the other dings and notifications until you finally get to that one thing. At least speaking for myself, very often, I get distracted and can’t even remember what I got on my phone for in the first place.

Michael: So true. It’s like a gauntlet you have to run through just to get to the objective.

Megan: Exactly.

Michael: What the Full Focus Planner does is keeps you focused on your big objectives, your big important goals, so you actually make meaningful progress every day. I will say this. I’ve never developed a product for which we’ve had more incredible testimonials of people getting more done, achieving more by actually doing less. That’s really the promise of the planner.

Megan: I have to tell you I am in love with this planner, and I’m not the only one. We hear from people all the time, whether we’re out and about having lunch or at a coffee shop or on Facebook or somewhere else, just how much people love this. I think partly that’s because it keeps you sane. There’s an element of certainty that you can just hold in your hands that you are going to be focused in this day on the things that really matter most.

There’s a concept you teach called the Big Three, which you can find out more about on the fullfocusplanner.com site. It’s just a way to be focused in your day rather than overwhelmed by tasks. This is not a way to record hundreds of tasks. This is a way to simplify your life, and it really works.

Michael: Totally. Just as a practical matter, each of these planners is outfitted for a 90-day cycle, so basically, one planner per quarter. If you get an annual subscription, you can get four planners a year, one for each quarter, and they’re shipped to you automatically, so it’s a big deal when you get your planner. We call it an activation trigger. Just a prompting to plan that quarter, to identify what you want to accomplish, and then to actually begin to implement that.

That’s honestly the best way to do it. It’s also cheaper if you get the annual subscription. You can buy an individual planner if you want, but both options come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. All you need to do is go to fullfocusplanner.com and pick the option that’s right for you.

Megan: So just go to fullfocusplanner.com and order an annual subscription or an individual planner to get started.

All right, Dad. Are you ready to jump into the third cost of overworking?

Michael: I am. Again, just for context, the second cost is poor health due to stress. The third cost is decreased job satisfaction. Now it shouldn’t really be a surprise that when we work too much it undercuts our job satisfaction, but there’s this false belief that floats around in our head sometimes that those who are the most driven are happier at work. We think we’re going to get to this place where… I don’t know if it’s a promotion or a raise or whatever, but that suddenly, magically, the job is going to be more satisfying if we can just work harder for a while.

A recent study by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence examined the levels of engagement and burnout in over 1,000 US employees, and the data showed that 20 percent of employees reported both high engagement and high burnout. In other words, they were passionate about their work but also had intensely mixed feelings about it.

They reported high levels of interest, stress, and frustration. In other words, they were more likely to think about leaving their jobs. Overworking does not make you happier or more satisfied, even if you’re passionate about it. It’s not like these two things have to go together. You can still be passionate, you can still be engaged, but without the frustration that comes from overworking. It just takes some intentionality.

Megan: It’s kind of like saying you’re going to still love running once you start pulling muscles, which is the parallel to overworking. It’s like it might be fun for a few miles, but if you run 13 miles or 20 miles without training for it and you start injuring yourself, it becomes painful, and your body starts to break down. The same is true professionally for us.

The truth is what makes running fun is all the time you’re not running that you’re resting and getting ready to run, and the same is true for work. What you do outside of work, what meaningful activities and meaningful relationships you pursue, are really the things that fuel your productivity, and if those are nonexistent (which they are if you’re overworking) then your satisfaction with your job or your business is going to decrease.

Michael: I think we need to make a distinction between being passionate about your work and being a workaholic. Passionate about our work is when we really love what we’re doing. I love what I’m doing. I’m having the time of my life. I’ve never had more fun in a job than I have in this one. By the way, I have zero expectation or desire to retire. It’s not like I hate my job and I’m hoping I get to a place where I can stop and just do what I love. No, I’m doing what I love, but I can turn it off. Workaholism is a compulsion where you can’t turn it off.

Megan: It’s like any addiction. It’s not about the thing itself. People don’t drink too much because they just love alcohol or they’re wine connoisseurs. They’re trying to get something out of that addiction to address another issue that’s going on. I think that’s very true for workaholism. Probably you’re avoiding some other kind of pain or anxiety in your life that overworking helps you to mask or to medicate.

Michael: I think that’s really true. There’s also this false hero idea in our culture. I’ve heard so many people say, “I want to die with my boots on” or “I want to die in the saddle.” It’s kind of a bravado or a machismo, but it doesn’t correspond with reality. I don’t want to die with my boots on. I want to be able to put my boots on, take them off, have this cycle or this rhythm between hard work and committed rest.

We just came off a week vacation, our whole team together, and it was amazing. I think you would say, as I’ve noticed, our team seems refreshed, reinvigorated, rejuvenated, excited about being back to work. That doesn’t happen after you’ve been going at it for weeks on end with no relief, no weekends, no vacations, no rest time.

Megan: Absolutely. Apparently, about 9 percent of moms work more than 50 hours a week compared with 29 percent of dads. I’m going to be honest. I kind of bristled at that at the beginning because it seems kind of sexist, but I have a hypothesis about that.

Michael: I have one too, but you tell me yours.

Megan: I don’t really think it’s because moms are naturally more balanced in working less. I think it’s because most moms who are working outside the home have two jobs. Somebody, at the end of the day, has to pick the kids up from school and make dinner and do the laundry and sign the homework and all of those different things.

I think there’s probably some residual old gender roles, where it’s socially acceptable for dads to stay late at work or to work on the weekends on their professional work while moms just go to job number two: pick up the kids, do the dinner, do all the evening and afternoon and weekend kind of stuff. The truth is everybody is overworking, and if you measured all the work that has to be done, both domestically and professionally, the statistics would be much more similar.

Michael: Yeah, you’re probably right about that. I think oftentimes women don’t get the credit for all the work they do. I think of Gail, my wife, your mom. She didn’t work outside the home, never has worked outside of the home except for about two years when we were first married, but there’s no question in my mind that raising you five girls, she worked a lot harder and more hours than I did.

Megan: Oh yeah. It never ends. It’s basically from 6:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night or whatever. Your kids’ ages kind of dictate that. It’s the hardest job there is. I feel that way even now. Sometimes I’ll come home to my second job of being a mom, and I will think, “Man, my workday was a lot easier than my parenting day.” There’s nothing harder than raising humans as it turns out.

Michael: Well, it’s because of some of the reasons we shared earlier. When you’re at work you can check things off. When you’re at home, things don’t just get checked off. It’s like, “Didn’t we just go through this yesterday?” We keep doing the same things over and over again. So that’s an interesting statistic.

Megan: Okay, let’s shift focus for a minute. We’ve been talking about the high cost of overworking, and it can be pretty depressing. If I’m stuck in this burnout cycle of doing more and more but feeling less and less productive, what is the next step? It’s time to give people some hope at this point of the podcast.

Michael: Well, I think it’s like so many other things. You have to make the decision to change. If you stay stuck, oftentimes it’s a choice, and we can choose our way out of it. That’s where it begins. All change begins with a choice, so make the choice to stop the cycle of burnout.

If you’ve recognized, as you’ve listened to us talk, these symptoms, if these are recurring in your life, if they’re impeding your progress, if they’re decreasing the quality of your life, make the choice to stop the cycle of burnout. You have to face the ugly reality of your situation. I don’t know how else to say it, but that’s where it begins. It has to come to the place where it’s no longer acceptable. Is what you’re doing working? That’s the question I would start with.

Megan: And, in case you just go to a really easy yes on this one, you might ask the people in your life who are closest to you.

Michael: Hello. So true. If it is true that it’s working… I mean, it is for some people. Right? Great. If not, find out where your weak spots are and decide you’re going to change. A great place to begin is to assess your current level of productivity and life satisfaction. My free assessment will show you where your areas of strength are and where you can grow.

Megan: I love this, because it kind of gives you a road map to improving so you don’t stay stuck with just being discouraged that you’re not where you want to be. You know exactly where to focus to make the most meaningful improvements in your life.

Michael: People can find the Personal Productivity Assessment at freetofocus.com/assessment. Again, this is a tool I use and our top clients use every single quarter, because we want to know if we’re making progress, and we don’t want to drift back into that level where we’re working hard, working frantically, but actually achieving less.

Megan: So today we’ve talked about productivity and the fallacy that working more automatically brings greater rewards. Our tendency to overwork simply results in missed opportunities, greater stress, and decreased job satisfaction. Not exactly a winning sales pitch. As we come in for a landing, I just want to remind you that you can take the free Personal Productivity Assessment of your current productivity level at freetofocus.com/assessment. Dad, do you have any final thoughts for us today?

Michael: Yeah, I do. I just want to encourage people to imagine a different reality. They don’t have to live a life where they’re overwhelmed, where they’re frustrated, where they’re burnt out. It begins with imagining that different reality. For many people, they may have to suspend disbelief, because I know a lot of people who think they’re kind of consigned to this, that nothing can ever be different, but it’s really a matter of the tools. We’re going to start talking about these tools in the next episode of this podcast where we talk about the time/energy paradox, and that’s going to make a huge difference for people.

Megan: Can’t wait to get into that. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, you can get the show notes and a full transcript online at leadto.win.

Michael: Thanks again for joining us on Lead to Win. If you like the show, please don’t keep it to yourself. Tell your friends and colleagues about it, and also please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

Megan: This program is copyrighted by Michael Hyatt & Company. All rights reserved. Our producer is Nick Jaworski.

Michael: Our writers are Joel Miller, Lawrence Wilson, Mandi Rivieccio, and Jeremy Lott.

Megan: Our recording engineers are Mike Boyer and Mike Burns.

Michael: A couple of Mikes. Our production assistant is Aleshia Curry.

Megan: Our intern is Winston.

Michael: We invite you to join us for our next episode, where we’ll be discussing the time/energy paradox. Until then, lead to win.

Transcript

Episode: The High Cost of Overwork

Lead to Win is brought to you by LeaderBox, a monthly reading experience curated by leaders for leaders. Learn more at leaderbox.com.

Michael Hyatt: Retired Air Force captain Ray Brennan was a tall, active 61-year-old who enjoyed collecting seashells. Despite a recent history of heart problems, he set off from his home in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, to attend a convention in Philadelphia. When Ray returned home, he felt a bit more tired than usual. Three days later, he complained of chest pain. That night, his lungs began to fill with fluid. Then he suddenly died from an apparent heart attack.

Megan Hyatt Miller: Later that week and 150 miles away, Frank Aveni, age 60, died in much the same way. Within days, nine more men, ages 39 to 82 and scattered all over the state, died under the same mysterious circumstances: headaches, chest pain, high fever, lung congestion, and finally death from an apparent heart attack. All of the victims were men, all were veterans, and all were from Pennsylvania.

Michael: Health officials suspected the worst: an invisible mass killer had been unleashed upon the state, possibly the entire country. Soon, experts identified a connection between the victims. All were associated with the same convention Ray Brennan had attended. It was the 1976 American Legion Convention at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. The first outbreak of what we now call Legionnaires’ disease.

Megan: Experts finally traced the illness to a previously unknown pathogen that spread through the hotel’s air conditioning system. All 221 people became ill, and 34 died. We can all hope we steer clear of Legionnaires’ disease, but there’s another equally mysterious illness that affects countless men and women each year, and probably you too.

Michael: It begins with another set of predictable symptoms: fatigue, headaches, irritability, sleeplessness, worry, and exhaustion. What is this invisible threat? It’s the stress caused by constantly trying to do more but accomplishing less. Every year, thousands of people try to alleviate this condition by producing more and more output, but it just doesn’t work. Despite working longer hours, we get less done. As our level of investment rises, productivity plummets until finally we experience burnout.

Megan: After the discovery of Legionnaires’ disease in 1976, countries all over the world adopted new regulations for climate-control systems to prevent the spread of this deadly illness. That’s not the case with the second illness. Rather than restructure our lives to prevent burnout, we continue the same old pattern that produces the same old symptoms, even though we know the cause of the problem.

Michael: So here’s the question…Are we finally ready to admit the high cost of overwork? Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael:  And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work, succeed at life, and lead with confidence. In this episode, we’re going to talk about productivity, and we’ll expose the fallacy that you can accomplish more by simply working harder. I’ll show you exactly what this approach is costing you and what to do about it.

Megan: I’m really excited about this episode. In fact, this is the first of three episodes on productivity, a little miniseries, if you will. This week we’re talking about the problem, because it just seems like we’re working harder and harder but actually accomplishing less. You’ve identified three unseen costs of this approach, because the truth is there’s something at stake here. It’s not just that it’s inefficient. There’s something bigger and more important we need to come to grips with when we think about this issue.

Michael: So true. I think when we think about productivity we just think about tweaks, hacks, and strategies to be more productive. It never occurs to us to question the underlying assumptions, but once we get our head around these costs, I think it forces us to ask the right questions.

Megan: Instead of just, “How do we pedal faster?”

Michael: Exactly. The first cost is missing out on life by overworking. It’s so easy to think the situation is temporary. “If I just work a little bit harder right now, then I can enjoy some time off, I can take that vacation, I can take a long weekend,” or whatever. The truth is there’s always more to do, so there’s no end to it. Working harder doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, studies routinely show that productivity goes down dramatically after 50 hours per week.

Now I know what you’re thinking out there, those of you who are listening to this. You’re the exception. Right? You can work 60, 70, 80 hours a week and somehow still be productive. But no, you can’t. Your productivity is going to go down after 50 hours of work. There’s this thing called the productivity paradox that was identified in the 70s and 80s. Basically, companies that made a major increase in technology (this is astonishing) saw a decrease in productivity growth.

Megan: What?

Michael: We have this thing called the Full Focus Planner. This isn’t an ad for it, but it’s an analogue planner, an old paper planner, and we are selling them like hotcakes. We can’t keep them in stock. I think it’s because people have realized digital solutions to task management are not increasing their productivity. It puts them in an environment where they’re very distracted, so the technology has actually caused a decrease in their productivity. The same holds true for investing more time.

Now get this stat. Studies in national productivity show the Greeks work over 2,000 hours a year on average. Who knew? But somebody studied this. Germans work about 1,400 hours but are 70 percent more productive. That’s not dissimilar from what we’ve seen in our coaching practice. Oftentimes, people who put a constraint on the number of hours they work are actually more productive. It’s a little bit like that day before you go on vacation. You’re hyper-productive.

Megan: Yes. It’s like a week’s worth of work in one day.

Michael: That’s right. Because you have a constraint on it. You can’t just keep working and keep working. So we’re actually getting less done by working longer hours, and those hours could be invested in other things that make us more focused, more productive when we’re at work, things like leisure, rest, learning, family time, all of that.

Megan: It reminds me of a presentation I was working on last week. I realized I had kind of procrastinated. I had a little more to do than I thought. I thought I just had some tweaks to make but then realized there were some more substantial edits I needed to make. We had a late dinner for the business that night, and I got back to my hotel, and I was going to work on it.

Well, I thought I could get it done in about half an hour, but it was probably 10:30 when I started. You know, this was a long, leisurely dinner we had. Before I knew it, it was midnight. It was like everything I did… I kept making mistakes. It just took longer. It was slow. I think that’s a good metaphor for what we’re talking about here. There’s kind of a law of diminishing returns, where at a certain point, no matter how fast you pedal, you’re just not getting anywhere.

Michael: Right. The longer you work, the stupider you get.

Megan: Well, that’s how I felt, for sure.

Michael: Why do you think our culture seems to value overworking? It’s a badge of honor. Right? You meet somebody and say, “How are you doing?” They say, “Oh my gosh. I’m so busy. I’m so tired. I’m exhausted.” It sounds like they’re complaining, but they’re bragging.

Megan: It’s like the humble brag.

Michael: But why is there that phenomenon?

Megan: Well, I think one of the things that’s really insidious and something we’re not aware of very often is we have no idea what to do when we’re not working.

Michael: That’s a good point.

Megan: Work is easier than whatever is happening at home. It’s defined results. It’s measurable outcomes. There’s a schedule. There are little boxes you can check. For a lot of people, when they go home or when they have time off it’s easy to drift back into work, because, as it turns out, your children and your marriage don’t operate on measurable outcomes and checkboxes. There’s not an app you can get for that. You actually have to engage, and it’s messy and challenging and you’re kind of at loose ends.

I think our tolerance for being at loose ends, for even boredom… Studies have shown this as well. Our tolerance for boredom has evaporated. When was the last time you waited for anything or had any moment of in-between, liminal space in your life where you weren’t entertained or trying to cram something in? So I think we just don’t know what to do with ourselves.

Michael: I think that’s true. Social media services like Facebook… This is one of the dark sides of that particular service. We can get such a quick dopamine hit we don’t develop tolerance for boredom and we don’t stay in these spaces where there aren’t the measurable results. I also think behind all that is fear. It’s like fear of missing out. “If I say no to that opportunity, if I say no to that project, maybe I won’t be promoted. Maybe I won’t advance as quickly as I would like.” Maybe it’s just fear of the unknown. That’s really what you were talking about. At least at work things are known.

Megan: You have clarity and certainty.

Michael: That’s right. I know what it takes to get ahead. I know what it takes to complete a project. But at home there aren’t as many checkboxes. It seems very unfamiliar. So I think those are some of the reasons we’re willing to overwork. And it gives us a sense that we’re being productive. It’s a false sense of productivity, but there’s a sense that I’m making a contribution, I’m a hard worker.

You probably don’t remember this, because you were raised in a completely different generation than I was. (Maybe you do a little bit.) My dad and mom, coming out of the Depression, would say to me, “Make yourself busy” or “Make yourself useful,” which meant you shouldn’t just be standing around. You should always be working. My parents would say, and bosses I would work for would say, early on, “There’s always something to do. Find something to do. Make yourself useful.” That kind of mindset is something that seeps into our belief system, and we just approach the world that way.

Megan: It kind of goes back to the impulse to make a meaningful contribution is good, but when we get to this place of diminishing returns where we’re overworking, we’re not actually able to make a meaningful contribution to much of anything. Our desire for significance is actually thwarted by overworking. Maybe back then there was a desire to be good stewards of your time, make a meaningful contribution, whatever it could be, but over time it has sort of been like fill up your time with busywork and movement all the time and this kind of frenetic energy that’s really counterproductive.

Michael: It’s a little bit like overtraining at the gym. People get all excited and think, “I’m going to lose weight. I’m going to get in shape. I’m going to finally turn this one-pack into a six-pack.” (My perpetual challenge.) People think if they just work harder at the gym, then they will produce greater, faster results, and the truth is rest is equally important. In fact, elite athletes will tell you one of the most important components of their training and their ability to compete is their ability to rest. I’m talking about sleeping 9 or 10 hours a night. It’s really important. Overworking does not help us in any sphere of life.

Megan: Absolutely. I also found in a fascinating study by Erin Reid, who’s a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business… She found that managers cannot tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to.

Michael: Hello.

Megan: Reid found no evidence that the pretenders actually accomplished less or that the overworking employees accomplished more. I mean, that’s either good news or bad news for you, depending on which side of the spectrum you fall on.

Michael: That is crazy.

Megan: That’s really crazy. The point is, of course, working 80 hours is not helping you out, no matter what.

Michael: You may feel better about it, you may notice it, but it’s not making a measurable or tangible impact on the world.

Megan: People are often unaware that they’re accomplishing less by working more. You’ve developed a free Personal Productivity Assessment to help people measure just how productive they really are, and this is really revealing. If you want to know how you’re doing, not just how you think you’re doing, this is going to give you that insight.

Michael: This is one of those things I, by the way, personally take once a quarter.

Megan: I know.

Michael: Because if I’m not careful, I’ll slip back into the old patterns.

Megan: Right. It’s just helpful to have a pulse on it. Let’s hear how this assessment has helped one of our clients, Roy Barberi, diagnose and improve his level of productivity.

Roy Barberi: How has the Personal Productivity Assessment helped me to identify my areas of focus? Well, I’m a husband and a father of 12 children, and I’m also involved in three different businesses, so focus for me can sometimes be in short supply. One of the tools I like to use to stay on track is a productivity assessment. It gives me measurable ways to chart my productivity progress in the areas that are personally most important to me, which currently is time with my expanding family. We now have three grandchildren, as our older children are having babies.

I want to spend time continuing to date my wife. On March 14 we’ll have been married 30 years, and I think constantly spending time together is a big part of that success. In other areas, I want to focus on businesses that involve my children and creating those businesses that involve my children and working with our business teams on projects that make a difference for us and for those people we serve.

The assessment has helped me to evaluate how my time is being invested and with whom I’m investing it. It has helped me to realize I could and should delegate many more responsibilities to those I work with and to, quite honestly, people who will do a better job at it than I do, which creates opportunities for them, but then that gives me the freedom to get clear on my own systems.

It gives me space in my calendar, and it gives me the opportunity to decide how I’m going to manage that new free time. I don’t think we should use the assessment like a bathroom scale, when you first go on a diet and you’re very zealous and you’re trying to weigh yourself every single day. You want to give yourself enough time to be able to see progress. That’s why I take the assessment each quarter.

The other question would be…How has the assessment helped me improve personally? It has given me the emotional bandwidth to where I have something to give back to my wife and my children and the business relationships that are really important to me and hopefully to them as well. It also doesn’t hurt that we’ve been able to greatly expand our teams in those businesses, creating opportunities, and that our personal income has gone up about 30 percent over the past 24 months.

Michael: Again, the first cost is missing out on life by overworking, but there’s a second cost: poor health due to stress. Workplace stress is detrimental to well being. It’s not something to fool around with. I’ve experienced this firsthand, you have, and they’re really consequences that can affect every area of our lives.

Too many or conflicting demands produce stress. For example, when you’re trying to work under multiple deadlines or you have an overcommitted calendar or you’re trying to juggle home and office. I know you’re right in the middle of this with small kids. You’re in the process of trying to move. Are you stressed, Megan?

Megan: A little, although I’ve been sleeping well, which helps.

Michael: Well, that’s good. Probably because you’ve been so stinkin’ tired.

Megan: Yeah, probably so.

Michael: Some of the physical symptoms are things like tension headaches, rapid breathing (in fact, one of my son-in-laws had some of these symptoms this weekend, as you know), increased blood pressure, release of stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol…

Megan: Which, by the way, are not your friends over the long haul. Great when you’re running from a bear, not when you’re showing up for work every day.

Michael: They really have a negative impact on your system over time. Digestive problems, higher cholesterol, decreased (this is the most deadly) libido…

Megan: This is when it’s really awkward to have a podcast with your dad. Let’s keep on going.

Michael: Seventy percent of American workers experience stress-related illnesses. That, if you’re counting, is the majority of us. Seventy percent. You think of all of the antacids that are bought over the counter, all of the prescription antacids, all of the prescription medications, all of the things that are designed to reduce this stress, when instead of doing that, probably what we should be considering is what’s causing this stress.

Megan: Okay, I have to tell a story on myself. This is kind of a good one. This is probably 12 or 13 years ago. I had moved to a new city. A lot of things in my life were changing. I had a new job in a high-pressure sales sort of situation, and I started to experience some physical symptoms, like digestive symptoms. A lot of discomfort, kind of nauseated all the time.

Before I realized what was going on, which turned out to actually be a really serious health problem that was absolutely caused by stress (I was later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease), I remember driving to work on a pretty regular basis for several weeks, where I would be in my car, and in my cup holder would be a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. I had to go to work. I felt like I had to go, I had to perform. I would drink Pepto-Bismol while I was driving down the road from my cup holder, from the bottle.

Michael: You’ve never told me that story. I am shocked. Seriously.

Megan: It was so bad. Some of you are doing this right now, and I’ll just tell you, it doesn’t end well.

Michael: Wow. How did it end for you?

Megan: Well, I got deathly sick. I ended up having emergency surgeries.

Michael: On one of our vacations.

Megan: On one of our family vacations. It kind of took me out of life for about a year of pretty intensive recovery because I was so, so sick. It was because I was ignoring those early warning signs, which actually predated the Pepto-Bismol, as you might imagine. I ignored those early symptoms and just thought I could push through and I had to push through, which was the really dangerous thought, and wasn’t taking care of myself. It was a hard lesson to learn.

Michael: I have a question about Crohn’s disease, because you and one of your other sisters have this. Did the stress cause the Crohn’s or did the stress aggravate the Crohn’s?

Megan: I mean, I’m certainly not a doctor, so don’t take this to the bank, but what I understand about a lot of inflammatory or autoimmune diseases is that, genetically, many of us have a predisposition to certain things. There are a host of these kinds of illnesses out there. It seems like they’re discovering more all the time.

Very often, stressful life events, like what I was experiencing, are sort of like the trip wire, the thing that takes that vulnerability you might have genetically and lets it run wild, and it’s pretty hard to catch when that happens. That can be true of all kinds of things, but the important thing is you have to pay attention to those early warning signs and not lie to yourself that you can get by without the self-care you need, not only to perform well at work but just to live your life.

Michael: I want to tell you another part of my stress-related one. I’ve told a lot of times about having these stress-related symptoms and ending up at the cardiologist finally. He said to me, “Your heart is fine. That’s not it.” I thought I was having a heart attack several times. He said, “This is acid reflux.” Now what he didn’t answer the question of was why there was the acid reflux. I think it was a combination of things, like lack of exercise. It was partly diet, but it was also stress.

A lot of times, I was ending up in the ER as a result of a panic attack. Here’s the part I haven’t told. You’ve made me brave by going first. The part I didn’t tell is that about that same time I started getting therapy. I started meeting with a psychologist, and I told him the presenting symptom was that I was having panic attacks. I was a pretty high-level executive at the time I was having these, and I suspected it was related to work, but I wasn’t for sure.

I said, “Look, I’ve had these panic attacks. I’ve ended up in the ER several times thinking I was having a heart attack.” He stopped me right there and said, “About 30 percent of the men I see who are your age” (this was in my early 50s) “have exactly these same symptoms. They’re suffering from panic attacks. They end up in the ER thinking they’re having a heart attack. They can’t find what the problem is, but it’s all stress-related.” Overworking.

Megan: I believe it, and I’m sure that’s true for professional women as well. Man, that’s something to really take seriously. Anxiety…

Michael: It’s a clue.

Megan: That’s right. I’ll tell you what. As a leader, if you’re in a constant state of stress and anxiety, your ability to make great decisions, which is a huge part of leadership, is diminished at best.

Michael: I just want to say, just for a little bit of hope here, that you don’t have to live this way. You don’t have to be under this constant sense of overwork and stress. I think most of us put ourselves in a position of being the victim, like this is being done to us rather than we’re doing it to ourselves. Certainly, there are those circumstances where we don’t have full control, but I think we have to own what it is that’s driving this. Is there underlying fear, like we were talking about earlier…the fear of missing out, the fear of the unknown? Is there something that’s creating this stress that we could own and actually change if we put our mind to it?

Megan: The point of our show today is not to be a huge downer, although this is kind of heavy stuff in some ways, but it’s meant to be, in this series we’re doing, the first part of a wake-up call that will ultimately lead to great solutions for how to improve the situation. But before you can get to solutions or tips or whatever it is, you definitely have to be honest about how bad it is. This is an area you can really lie to yourself in.

Michael: You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. That’s where it starts.

Megan: Before we continue our conversation on the high cost of overworking, I want to pause for just a minute to talk about something we’re really excited about here at Michael Hyatt & Company.

Michael: I already mentioned the Full Focus Planner, and I said it wasn’t an ad. Well, this time it is. The Full Focus Planner is a paper planner. Yes, a paper planner, analog, throwback, but it’s designed to link your big yearly goals with your day-to-day tasks. In our consulting and coaching practice, what we’ve found with our clients is they often set goals, but they don’t have a way to make those operational.

They don’t have a way where the rubber meets the road that they can actually put it on their task list and make daily, meaningful progress toward their goals. The Full Focus Planner is designed to help you do that and to keep you productive every day, because we have some other tools that are baked into that that we’re going to be talking about in this miniseries about productivity. It’s just a way to make it happen on a daily basis.

Megan: My kids would say this paper planner thing is “old school.” My 7-year-old loves to call things “old school,” which might mean they happened three years ago. In this case, this is definitely kind of an old idea that is new again. How did you come to design a physical paper planner, because you obviously love digital solutions as well?

Michael: Yeah, I do. I started using a paper planner solution when I was in college. I went through a whole bunch of them over the course of my career, but then the digital revolution happened, so I started using a digital calendar. I started using a digital task manager, but I discovered I actually wasn’t getting more done. I was spending an inordinate amount of time managing my tasks rather than actually getting the tasks done. I found that I was doing it in an environment of distraction, where I wasn’t focused, and it kind of blended into everything else that was in my digital landscape or my digital ecosystem.

Megan: I kind of think about it like when you go to use something on your phone you have to machete your way through the jungle to get to the thing you’re trying to find. You have to make it through the temptation of Facebook and email and text messages and all of the other dings and notifications until you finally get to that one thing. At least speaking for myself, very often, I get distracted and can’t even remember what I got on my phone for in the first place.

Michael: So true. It’s like a gauntlet you have to run through just to get to the objective.

Megan: Exactly.

Michael: What the Full Focus Planner does is keeps you focused on your big objectives, your big important goals, so you actually make meaningful progress every day. I will say this. I’ve never developed a product for which we’ve had more incredible testimonials of people getting more done, achieving more by actually doing less. That’s really the promise of the planner.

Megan: I have to tell you I am in love with this planner, and I’m not the only one. We hear from people all the time, whether we’re out and about having lunch or at a coffee shop or on Facebook or somewhere else, just how much people love this. I think partly that’s because it keeps you sane. There’s an element of certainty that you can just hold in your hands that you are going to be focused in this day on the things that really matter most.

There’s a concept you teach called the Big Three, which you can find out more about on the fullfocusplanner.com site. It’s just a way to be focused in your day rather than overwhelmed by tasks. This is not a way to record hundreds of tasks. This is a way to simplify your life, and it really works.

Michael: Totally. Just as a practical matter, each of these planners is outfitted for a 90-day cycle, so basically, one planner per quarter. If you get an annual subscription, you can get four planners a year, one for each quarter, and they’re shipped to you automatically, so it’s a big deal when you get your planner. We call it an activation trigger. Just a prompting to plan that quarter, to identify what you want to accomplish, and then to actually begin to implement that.

That’s honestly the best way to do it. It’s also cheaper if you get the annual subscription. You can buy an individual planner if you want, but both options come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. All you need to do is go to fullfocusplanner.com and pick the option that’s right for you.

Megan: So just go to fullfocusplanner.com and order an annual subscription or an individual planner to get started.

All right, Dad. Are you ready to jump into the third cost of overworking?

Michael: I am. Again, just for context, the second cost is poor health due to stress. The third cost is decreased job satisfaction. Now it shouldn’t really be a surprise that when we work too much it undercuts our job satisfaction, but there’s this false belief that floats around in our head sometimes that those who are the most driven are happier at work. We think we’re going to get to this place where… I don’t know if it’s a promotion or a raise or whatever, but that suddenly, magically, the job is going to be more satisfying if we can just work harder for a while.

A recent study by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence examined the levels of engagement and burnout in over 1,000 US employees, and the data showed that 20 percent of employees reported both high engagement and high burnout. In other words, they were passionate about their work but also had intensely mixed feelings about it.

They reported high levels of interest, stress, and frustration. In other words, they were more likely to think about leaving their jobs. Overworking does not make you happier or more satisfied, even if you’re passionate about it. It’s not like these two things have to go together. You can still be passionate, you can still be engaged, but without the frustration that comes from overworking. It just takes some intentionality.

Megan: It’s kind of like saying you’re going to still love running once you start pulling muscles, which is the parallel to overworking. It’s like it might be fun for a few miles, but if you run 13 miles or 20 miles without training for it and you start injuring yourself, it becomes painful, and your body starts to break down. The same is true professionally for us.

The truth is what makes running fun is all the time you’re not running that you’re resting and getting ready to run, and the same is true for work. What you do outside of work, what meaningful activities and meaningful relationships you pursue, are really the things that fuel your productivity, and if those are nonexistent (which they are if you’re overworking) then your satisfaction with your job or your business is going to decrease.

Michael: I think we need to make a distinction between being passionate about your work and being a workaholic. Passionate about our work is when we really love what we’re doing. I love what I’m doing. I’m having the time of my life. I’ve never had more fun in a job than I have in this one. By the way, I have zero expectation or desire to retire. It’s not like I hate my job and I’m hoping I get to a place where I can stop and just do what I love. No, I’m doing what I love, but I can turn it off. Workaholism is a compulsion where you can’t turn it off.

Megan: It’s like any addiction. It’s not about the thing itself. People don’t drink too much because they just love alcohol or they’re wine connoisseurs. They’re trying to get something out of that addiction to address another issue that’s going on. I think that’s very true for workaholism. Probably you’re avoiding some other kind of pain or anxiety in your life that overworking helps you to mask or to medicate.

Michael: I think that’s really true. There’s also this false hero idea in our culture. I’ve heard so many people say, “I want to die with my boots on” or “I want to die in the saddle.” It’s kind of a bravado or a machismo, but it doesn’t correspond with reality. I don’t want to die with my boots on. I want to be able to put my boots on, take them off, have this cycle or this rhythm between hard work and committed rest.

We just came off a week vacation, our whole team together, and it was amazing. I think you would say, as I’ve noticed, our team seems refreshed, reinvigorated, rejuvenated, excited about being back to work. That doesn’t happen after you’ve been going at it for weeks on end with no relief, no weekends, no vacations, no rest time.

Megan: Absolutely. Apparently, about 9 percent of moms work more than 50 hours a week compared with 29 percent of dads. I’m going to be honest. I kind of bristled at that at the beginning because it seems kind of sexist, but I have a hypothesis about that.

Michael: I have one too, but you tell me yours.

Megan: I don’t really think it’s because moms are naturally more balanced in working less. I think it’s because most moms who are working outside the home have two jobs. Somebody, at the end of the day, has to pick the kids up from school and make dinner and do the laundry and sign the homework and all of those different things.

I think there’s probably some residual old gender roles, where it’s socially acceptable for dads to stay late at work or to work on the weekends on their professional work while moms just go to job number two: pick up the kids, do the dinner, do all the evening and afternoon and weekend kind of stuff. The truth is everybody is overworking, and if you measured all the work that has to be done, both domestically and professionally, the statistics would be much more similar.

Michael: Yeah, you’re probably right about that. I think oftentimes women don’t get the credit for all the work they do. I think of Gail, my wife, your mom. She didn’t work outside the home, never has worked outside of the home except for about two years when we were first married, but there’s no question in my mind that raising you five girls, she worked a lot harder and more hours than I did.

Megan: Oh yeah. It never ends. It’s basically from 6:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night or whatever. Your kids’ ages kind of dictate that. It’s the hardest job there is. I feel that way even now. Sometimes I’ll come home to my second job of being a mom, and I will think, “Man, my workday was a lot easier than my parenting day.” There’s nothing harder than raising humans as it turns out.

Michael: Well, it’s because of some of the reasons we shared earlier. When you’re at work you can check things off. When you’re at home, things don’t just get checked off. It’s like, “Didn’t we just go through this yesterday?” We keep doing the same things over and over again. So that’s an interesting statistic.

Megan: Okay, let’s shift focus for a minute. We’ve been talking about the high cost of overworking, and it can be pretty depressing. If I’m stuck in this burnout cycle of doing more and more but feeling less and less productive, what is the next step? It’s time to give people some hope at this point of the podcast.

Michael: Well, I think it’s like so many other things. You have to make the decision to change. If you stay stuck, oftentimes it’s a choice, and we can choose our way out of it. That’s where it begins. All change begins with a choice, so make the choice to stop the cycle of burnout.

If you’ve recognized, as you’ve listened to us talk, these symptoms, if these are recurring in your life, if they’re impeding your progress, if they’re decreasing the quality of your life, make the choice to stop the cycle of burnout. You have to face the ugly reality of your situation. I don’t know how else to say it, but that’s where it begins. It has to come to the place where it’s no longer acceptable. Is what you’re doing working? That’s the question I would start with.

Megan: And, in case you just go to a really easy yes on this one, you might ask the people in your life who are closest to you.

Michael: Hello. So true. If it is true that it’s working… I mean, it is for some people. Right? Great. If not, find out where your weak spots are and decide you’re going to change. A great place to begin is to assess your current level of productivity and life satisfaction. My free assessment will show you where your areas of strength are and where you can grow.

Megan: I love this, because it kind of gives you a road map to improving so you don’t stay stuck with just being discouraged that you’re not where you want to be. You know exactly where to focus to make the most meaningful improvements in your life.

Michael: People can find the Personal Productivity Assessment at freetofocus.com/assessment. Again, this is a tool I use and our top clients use every single quarter, because we want to know if we’re making progress, and we don’t want to drift back into that level where we’re working hard, working frantically, but actually achieving less.

Megan: So today we’ve talked about productivity and the fallacy that working more automatically brings greater rewards. Our tendency to overwork simply results in missed opportunities, greater stress, and decreased job satisfaction. Not exactly a winning sales pitch. As we come in for a landing, I just want to remind you that you can take the free Personal Productivity Assessment of your current productivity level at freetofocus.com/assessment. Dad, do you have any final thoughts for us today?

Michael: Yeah, I do. I just want to encourage people to imagine a different reality. They don’t have to live a life where they’re overwhelmed, where they’re frustrated, where they’re burnt out. It begins with imagining that different reality. For many people, they may have to suspend disbelief, because I know a lot of people who think they’re kind of consigned to this, that nothing can ever be different, but it’s really a matter of the tools. We’re going to start talking about these tools in the next episode of this podcast where we talk about the time/energy paradox, and that’s going to make a huge difference for people.

Megan: Can’t wait to get into that. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, you can get the show notes and a full transcript online at leadto.win.

Michael: Thanks again for joining us on Lead to Win. If you like the show, please don’t keep it to yourself. Tell your friends and colleagues about it, and also please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

Megan: This program is copyrighted by Michael Hyatt & Company. All rights reserved. Our producer is Nick Jaworski.

Michael: Our writers are Joel Miller, Lawrence Wilson, Mandi Rivieccio, and Jeremy Lott.

Megan: Our recording engineers are Mike Boyer and Mike Burns.

Michael: A couple of Mikes. Our production assistant is Aleshia Curry.

Megan: Our intern is Winston.

Michael: We invite you to join us for our next episode, where we’ll be discussing the time/energy paradox. Until then, lead to win.