I don't think any of us when we were first creating our virtual businesses and dreaming about the lifestyle we wanted ever decided that it would be a healthy, life-enriching thing to work 14 hour days 6 or 7 days a week. And yet somehow many web workers find themselves in just that sort of situation.
Small business owners are extremely diligent and dedicated--that just goes along with being an entrepreneur :-). It's a very admirable trait to have a vision and be willing to work hard to attain it, but we need to pull back sometimes and remember that there are definite benefits to NOT being a workaholic.
Signals vs Noise has a great post outlining 5 reasons why it's not a great idea to work with workaholics (or be one yourself).
From the post Fire the workaholics:
- Workaholics may well say that they enjoy those 14 hour days week after week, but despite their claims, working like that all month, all the time is not going to be sustainable. When the burnout crash comes, and it will, it’ll hit all the harder and according to Murphy at the least convenient time.
- People who are workaholics are likely to attempt to fix problems by throwing sheer hours at the problem. If you’re dealing with people working with anything creatively that’s a deadbeat way to get great work done.
- People who always work late makes the people who don’t feel inadequate for merely working reasonable hours. That’ll lead to guilt, misery, and poor morale. Worse, it’ll lead to ass-in-seat mentality where people will “stay late” out of obligation, but not really be productive.
- If all you do is work, your value judgments are unlikely to be sound. Making good calls on “is it worth it?” is absolutely critical to great work. Missing out on life in general to put more hours in at the office screams “misguided values”.
- Working with interesting people is more interesting than just working. If all you got going for your life is work, work, work, the good team-gelling lunches are going to be some pretty boring straight shop talk. Yawn. I’d much rather hear more about your whittling project, your last trek, how your garden is doing, or when you’ll get your flight certificate.
All of those are extremely good points, and while that list is referring to workaholics in a traditional office environment, these cautions still hold true for us virtual business owners.
I've thought of a few more reasons we shouldn't over-work ourselves:
- Over-working saps passion. I also do not see a correlation between a high number of work hours and passion for one's work. I actually think that there is a maximum work threshold, that if we go over that number of hours a day we sap our passion and falling into a sweatshop state of mind.
- Over-working decreases productivity. The human mind and body need rest, and the longer we work past that threshold, the less efficient we get. If you organize your day, you can actually get more done in less time.
- Over-working impacts quality of life. If we're working all the time, we don't have time for outside interests, family, and friends. Just like Jack Nicholson said: "All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy".
- Over-working increases your chances of going postal. That reference to The Shining reminded me of that :-) . When we push ourselves to the limit with work, our mental fabric can start to fray. Little things start to get on our nerves and the reactions we have may be out of proportion to the situation. Insanity is sure to follow ;-).
For each person that threshold is different, but for myself I've found that 6 optimally productive work hours a day (that's ruling out breaks and down time), is my limit. To go over that on a regular basis is mentally draining for me, so I try to keep to a pretty regular range of 4-6 hours a day.
What about you--as far as work hours go, what is your sweet spot (the ideal number of hours in your day)? Have you noticed any other perks to working a moderate workday?