Re: “Crutch”

Brian Lovin asked on his blog:

I feel stuck in this place where I want to work more because I enjoy what I do, while also recognizing that there may be negative consequences if unchecked:

  • overwork
  • burnout
  • creating unsustainable expectations
  • leaving companies every 1-2 years

I wonder whether it’s good to work more even if you want to, or whether it’s better to self-impose work restrictions in the hopes of building sustainability (perhaps with an opportunity cost of faster career growth?).

Thoughts?

As Brian asked, I thought I’d write down some of my thoughts on this.

First things first, the number of hours they put in each week is a source of pride for a lot of people in our industry so it’s nice to see someone questioning it.

I think it’s a phase most of us—and I am most certainly included in that list—go through before realising that, as Brian noted, it is unsustainable and will eventually have negative impacts. If you’re lucky those impacts will only affect your work, however all too often it’s your mental and physical health that takes the biggest beating1. To be blunt, is “faster career growth”2 worth more to you than your health? If so then I’m afraid there isn’t much I can do for you.

The fact that so many of us love our work is one of my favourite things about the community. From time to time I think a step back needs to be taken though to reevaluate whether it’s the work itself we’re loving or the idea that we are working a lot or even the idea of the peer validation that may lay at the end of the work. I know that in the past, the latter points have been true for me.

I wonder whether it’s good to work more even if you want to, or whether it’s better to self-impose work restrictions in the hopes of building sustainability (perhaps with an opportunity cost of faster career growth?).

I am fortunate enough to be in a situation at the moment where I get to set my own hours. In the past, this would have meant working any and all hours of the day. Due to other commitments however, the absolute most I can do is about 8. For what it’s worth, I am enjoying my work as much as I can ever remember enjoying it and the hard limit on time available has meant that when I sit down to work, it’s focussed work because it has to be. I’m easily getting as much done as when I had all the hours of the day available. Answer: I would choose someone who is growing sustainably over someone who is slowly driving themselves into the ground any day of the week.

Lastly, something to consider though slightly off topic. Tech cities, namely San Francisco, are where many (especially younger I’d wager) people who aren’t already there aspire to end up (I was one of them). I have never even visited San Francisco, let alone lived and worked there but I did spend a few years in a relitively techy city in the UK. Those few years drained me mentally. I was fortunate enough to be able to switch to working remotely and moving out of the city had a hugely positive impact on both the enjoyment I take in my work and my happiness in general. Cities aren’t for everyone and that’s alright.


  1. I don’t have a link but, to add an example to this, I remember an article or interview from way back by someone we all know and love: Dann Petty. He suffered from a mimic heart attack due to overworking on freelance projects. [return]
  2. I am quoting this as an idea, a concept. I’m not having a go at Brian. [return]
Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, you may like others archived in: Productivity, Responses. You can keep up to date with new posts by subscribing to the RSS Feed or by following me on Micro.blog.