I have been described as a workaholic over the years. Regularly completing 80 hour workweeks, I’d post pictures of myself in the office at 11pm. I remember doing my first all-nighter….I wore it like a badge of honour.
3am Miracle Morning
You’ve heard of the 5am Miracle Morning. Well I give you the creator of the 3am version. For the longest time I woke up at 3.30am and started my day. I’d have gone to bed around 8.30pm and so I was still getting a good 7 hours sleep. But I woke up early 5 days a week and started working promptly on my business. By lunchtime I was a zombie, but nothing a coffee or 4 wouldn’t fix.
Only later did I find out that the stress caused from overworking was causing a cortisol spike through the night that was waking me up.
I do credit working long hours as being part of the reason for my success in business. It’s true that it may help you achieve your goals, it may also be required at certain stages of your career.
Overworking should not be considered an option for long term success. Nor should it be applauded or revelled in. I’m writing this post as much a reminder to myself, as to remind you that in the work-life balance, life is the more important of the two.
Working yourself to death
In Japan, the employed population are known for their intense work culture. Not only is it normal for employees to work 6 days a week, many also put in incredibly long hours arriving early and leaving on the last train home. A 60, 70 or 80 hour workweek is not the exception in Japan, the way it is here in the UK.
Working such long hours is not good for your health. In fact the Japanese government recognise that more than 80 hours a month overtime can lead to certain risks. What are these risks? Well, you know. Just working yourself to death or Karoshi as the Japanese call it.
What is Karoshi?
In 2017, Miwa Sado (31) died according to a labour standards office, as a result from overworking. This is Karoshi. Death by overworking.
In the lead up to her untimely death from heart failure, Miwa logged over 159 hours overtime in the prior month of work.
This isn’t a new phenomena for Japan either. In 1973 an oil crisis caused widespread workplace restructuring. Following this, there were reports of worker fatalities, most often from heart failure, but also from stroke and sadly suicide.
Most reported victims worked long hours – sometimes 60 or 70 hours per week or more – in the lead-up to their deaths.
What about holidays?
Japanese employees are granted a minimum 10 days’ paid holiday per year, plus another 15 public holidays. However due to the traditional work culture, taking time off work beyond the absolute minimum is simply not an option. In 2015 it was reported that over 50% of allowed annual leave went unused.
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Overworking is bad for you
While the Japanese working culture is often at an extreme end of the spectrum, it can be common here in the UK, that we work incredibly long hours to aid in our career progression or to build our business.
I’m thinking of the doctors I know ,who during their tenure, put in an exhausting amount of work. Or the entrepreneurs who are building their business from the ground up. For them a 60, 70 or 80 hour workweek does happen. Too often.
For the majority, overworking alone does not cause death. It also doesn’t happen instantly. When we put work first, everything else is neglected to a certain degree.
Neglecting what matters most
Movement is medicine and being sedentary 12 hours a day is the opposite of this. When we work longer hours, it’s often to the detriment of other activities that benefit us.
- Skipping the gym or sporting activities
- Not preparing our food in advance
- Delaying preventive health appointments such as the dentist or check ups
- Stress – Less time to decompress and relax after work.
While you may not feel the results of your actions immediately, these compound over time and your health will suffer. Have you noticed you’ve put on weight, or are drinking more? Are you more tired or grumpy?
Convenience is a tax on the busy/unprepared. While you may consider working longer hours the opportunity for you to earn more. In doing so your costs will increase considerably.
- Convenience meals or eating out
- Splurging on luxuries because you deserve it
- Booking flights last minute.
When you need convenience, you can be guaranteed that the cost is higher than when you prepare and plan for the spend.
The most important factor, is of course the relationships we neglect due to work. Health and wealth factors are individual to ourselves, but our relationships include others and as only a part of the puzzle, the decision to continue a relationship is not solely ours to make.
Fixing the problem
The good news is you can change course at anytime and start building a better work-life balance. You first have to recognise that there is a problem. You also have to want to fix it!
In my final career before early retirement, my wife would say that she came third to my business and daughter. I’ll argue she wasn’t right, but theres some truth to it. I also put on 15lbs due to poor choices of food and lack of structured training. I told you this post was for me, as much as you!
Look at the areas noted above and understand what factors in your life are being negatively affected by overworking. Work through these over time. Just like compound interest, you’ll find your own happiness compound and grow as you find a better balance in your life.
I saw this tweet earlier this week and the attitude it portrays is common in the side hustle culture. Learn from my experience when I tell you, that over the long term, it’s detrimental to always work full tilt.
Any happy stories Connor?
I speak with confidence in this post because this post is about me. We are conditioned to want everything to be perfect and to want it right now. Slow down, take your time and enjoy the journey.
As I move into early retirement I’m focused on rectifying the decades of neglect in all areas of my life. I can tell you, its pretty damn awesome doing so.
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