Balanced life matters: Why we need to stop with toxic glorification of super hard work

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Balanced life

What does it mean to have a balanced life? And what about the toxicity mentioned in this headline? This guest post from Caitlin is a well worth the read.

Would you like to change the world and make an impact?

Okay then, be ready to work more than 80 (and sometimes even 120) hours a week. At least that’s Elon Musk’s recipe for success. You can’t expect anything less from the guy who wants to send us to Mars.

He’s not the only one who tries to make putting in long hours the new normal. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, starts emailing his employees at 4:30 in the morning, while Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, spends his weekends hustling and working on a list of questions for his employees.

These wildly successful people are being presented by the media as our role models and the ones we should look up to.

But it’s hard not to ask yourself when working hard evolved into “struggle porn” and spending every waking hour grinding.

Here’s why we should stop glorifying this toxic practice and start living balanced lives.

It’s a trap!

The “work hard, play hard” mantra repeated by big corporations and their billionaire CEOs is nothing more than plain propaganda to convince and encourage a generation of workers to sacrifice themselves in order to make money for the already rich.

Come to think about it, all those big shots and managers that are the loudest promoters of this workaholic frenzy aren’t the ones who do the lion’s share of the work. They sit in comfy chairs in their offices and delegate.

At the same time, their employees, some of whom are sorely underpaid, spend their eight hours of work toiling away.

It’s unproductive

If I had a dollar every time I heard “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” I’d be rich.

But the irony is that no matter how hard you work, it’s really difficult to earn as much money as those self-made finance gurus who keep on repeating this platitude.

In reality, working more than 40 hours a week is unproductive and completely useless. The only thing that you’ll earn (besides your Employee of the Week badge) is fatigue, and in case you persist with this practice, even burnout.

And it’s only logical that when you’re tired, your productivity decreases. Even stats corroborate this – productivity during a 60-hour workweek is less than two-thirds of what it is during a 40-hour workweek.

In other words, this is bad for employers too, as their workforce won’t be at its peak if pushed to work too hard – meaning that those extra hours are totally wasted.

Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with finding what you’re passionate about and investing your time and energy into it. Just make sure to listen to your heart and do what makes you happy.

It’s bad for your health

It can be challenging to relax when you have a hectic schedule packed with deadlines, appointments, and different responsibilities.

As if that’s not already enough, our smartphones have made us reachable 24/7, so that our co-workers and bosses sometimes tend to cross the line and text or email us after regular working hours, or in the early morning.

But we can mute our notifications, right? Yes, but being glued to our mobile devices, we’re prone to checking our emails at odd hours too, and seeing that message from your boss at 11 p.m. will definitely make you nervous.

This will, in turn, affect your sleep, and you’ll wake up unrested and cranky, with yet another long and busy day ahead of you.

Working overtime can lead to an increased risk of a stroke, heart disease, poor mental health, and other health issues. All that stress and sitting really does take a toll on our overall well-being.

It’s essential to carve out some me time

One of the ways out of this hamster wheel routine is taking some time to pursue your own hobbies and interests. Yes, it sounds corny, but unless you want to forget how to actually unwind and reconnect with yourself, it’s something that you have to do.

And since this isn’t something that can be spontaneous, you’ll have to schedule at first. Just like you do with your work appointments and meetings, block a time slot in your calendar and reserve it for yourself. Use these breaks from work to read a book, listen to some music, meditate, see a movie, or go for a cup of coffee with a friend.

When you have a day or two, visit a spa, go camping, and spend some time with your friends and family. It’s very important to spend as much time as possible in nature because it’s calming, full of fresh air, and the green scenery will soothe your eyes, which are surely tired of staring at a screen all day.

That’s how I discovered my latest hobby – landscape photography, which can be a great creative outlet after a day at the office.

It’s OK to be lazy sometimes

If sometimes you don’t feel like doing absolutely anything, that’s OK too.

As a matter of fact, you should make a conscious effort to do activities that are considered as nonsensical and wasteful, such as gazing out of the window or lounging in your living room and not reading a book, watching TV, or playing with your phone.

This kind of daydreaming can help your brain declutter and makes you more creative and better at problem-solving.

In a culture of busyness, it’s almost a mortal sin to say that you’re bored. But the truth is that boredom will encourage your brain to try and find something stimulating to occupy it. And that’s how creativity is born.

And guess what? Idleness will fuel your productivity because you’ll accumulate enough mental energy to burn when you get down to work.

Work smart, not hard, is the motto we should live by. It’s fine to burn some midnight oil from time to time when work needs to be done, but don’t make a habit out of it. Put yourself first and make your own wellbeing a priority.

About today’s writer

Caitlin is a bookworm and recreational dancer. She is also a medical student in love with science in all its forms. When she is not trying to find the meaning of life and Universe, Caitlin is researching and writing about various health-related and well-being related topics.

She is happily addicted to art in all its forms, grilled tofu, and hiking. To see what Caitlin is up to next, find her on Twitter.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I am in total agreement with everything about this piece. It took retirement to fully appreciate what a workaholic I’d become. I loved my career (elementary school teacher) but 80 hours a week was the norm. Most people have no clue what it takes to be a dedicated teacher. On top of that, I was trying to be a good husband, dad, father, friend, and colleague. The body can only do so much, and the one person I didn’t look out for was myself. After pneumonia and putting on so many extra pounds, I was becoming a candidate for a heart attack. I retired four years ago, and my life is in balance once again. My health is my biggest priority, and I’m in a much better place physically and mentally.

  2. Amen to this! I just wrote a post this week to celebrate my 30th anniversary in Financial Services. I included some advice for people just starting out, including “Work is important but it’s not the most important thing in life.” This message needs to get through to people!

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