If you are working more than 55 hours a week, you are working too much and likely out of balance. You may be able to keep this up for a season, but it is not sustainable.
In fact, if you keep working so much, something will eventually break. And the sooner you come to terms with this, the better.
When Norms are Bad
Rebecca Zucker was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs in the 1990s. Her bosses considered Zucker the “ideal worker,” because she was “a fully committed employee with no personal ‘entanglements.’”
Zucker was “single with no children, and had an almost unlimited capacity for all things related to work.” However, she reflects in Harvard Business Review, “so did my peers, whether or not they had children, partners, or aging parents. It was just the industry and firm norm.”
She eventually learned how unhealthy that was. Now, as an executive coach, she tries to help leaders find balance. It’s not easy.
One client at a tech firm in San Francisco told Zucker that she gets up at 4 a.m. to work, but it’s not enough. She still “has anxiety about the possibility of missing an email at midnight.”
“Is this normal?” the client asked Zucker, who rightly responded that even if it is normal for this company, it shouldn’t be.
What’s at Risk
I teach high achievers how to reject workaholism and find balance, but sometimes people push back and ask why they should even want balance. Won’t it just keep them from getting ahead?
I get it. I’ve been there. But let me show you the 5 very important assets you are potentially putting at risk if you don’t keep your normal workload under 55 hours a week:
- Your health. Overwork and the lifestyle that goes with it, including junk food and lots of sitting, is incredibly bad for you over the long haul. How many people do you know who have died young simply because they refused to take care of themselves? You don’t want to be one of them.
Your family. If you are married, the cost of divorce is incalculable. Just ask those who have gone through one. Overwork will drive you toward that. It will also leave you little time to pay attention to your children, which can lead to crises that you’ll have to deal with later.
Your friends. When I was a workaholic, I thought I could get by with colleagues at work and people I knew at church. It wasn’t enough. Since then, I have learned that friendships are wonderful, but they take time to maintain. Overwork eats away at the margin needed for deep friendships.
Your effectiveness. You are most productive for only a limited amount of time each day and the stress of overwork narrows that time. Past a certain point, the number of hours you work has almost zero correlation with your productivity. So, you’re giving your time, and getting very little in return.
Your example. As a leader, you set the pace. If you work 70 hours a week, your people will think they have to work 70 hours a week. Most of them won’t be able to keep up. And you won’t like the consequences.
Work Is Not Enough
Don’t get me wrong. Hard work is a good thing. So are boundaries and balance. We ought to encourage all three, in our own lives and in others.
If you want to get your life back into balance, I suggest you grab a copy of my free e-book, Shave 10 Hours Off Your Workweek. It will help you get more done in less time, so you can reinvest those hours in what matters most.