Gary Bacon

Working Way Too Much

The Cult of Work You Never Meant to Join by Jason Lengstorf is a fantastic piece about working too much.

These are a few bits that jumped out at me.

The work is still fun, but you don’t feel the same passion anymore. Whole days slip by sometimes and you have no idea what happened; you certainly don’t have much to show for it.

Your goals outside of work are on hold. You’d love to find out if the Belgians have anything to be cocky about waffle-wise, but you don’t have time for a big trip right now.

This is something I try to keep in memory. It is why I started a goals whiteboard with: finances, life, health on the corners. One area that I’m working on adding to one of the corners are relationships.

Despite over 100 years of research supporting shorter work weeks, many companies still push for long hours, under the claims of a “sprint” or “crunch time” period.

The irony comes in when we look at productivity over time. After just two months of 60-hour weeks, productivity goes negative compared to what a 40 hour week would have produced.


I’ve casually noticed this in my own working environments. If myself or the team is slammed for a period of time, the following week will be slower for myself and/or the group.

You’re the cognitive equivalent of a drunk driver after being awake for 18 hours. But the problem compounds: if you don’t get enough sleep, that level of impairment comes faster the next day. After a few days of too little sleep, you’re a drunken zombie.

Wow. There have been times where I’ve only managed to get 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Putting in the “extra hours”. However, it appears that we incur compounding energy debt with that lack of sleep. One thing that helps me is that I set a daily alarm on my phone for bedtime. As simple as it may sound, it really helps in an additional reminder to put the breaks on and call it a day.

Besides, if we accept that the ideal is to sleep 8 hours a night and work 8 hours a day, that leaves us with 8 hours for non-work activities.

But now I know that taking breaks makes me more productive: time away from work lets my passion and excitement for the work renew itself; taking my mind off of a project allows my subconscious to roll around abstract ideas that result in better solutions; breaks from the job lower my stress levels and boost my creativity.

It’s amazing how the more consecutive time with no breaks that you push on solving a problem the less likely you are to solve it. Then when relaxing, taking a walk, or even randomly in the shower — the solution hits and boom! “problem solved.”