It has become de rigueur to use terms such as ‘hustle’ and ‘grind’ in our industry. Sure, they are powerful nouns that make us feel good, but what do these words actually mean at a practical level? The proponents of such parlance tend to be those who advocate getting up before the crack of dawn and working all hours, so is this how they should be interpreted, and if so, is this really the path to success?
One thing for sure, is that nothing worth having comes easy, so hard work is definitely a prerequisite if you want to succeed in this industry. But does getting up earlier and working even longer hours really lead to you becoming more successful? Personally, I remain unconvinced, as it is not the hours you put in but what you put into the hours that truly counts.
Conversely, decades of extensive research by numerous multinational organisations, academic institutions and governments demonstrate that working longer hours can actually lead to a drop in productivity, relationship problems, deteriorating health and early burnout. This research is very insightful, but the scientific proof is even more compelling.
Science shows that what works for one individual doesn’t necessarily work for another. A good example of this is getting up at five each morning. It is undeniable that many successful people in business are early risers, but there are also many others that aren’t. It is our DNA that dictates whether we are a lark or an owl, as almost 50 per cent of our sleeping patterns are determined by our genes. Each of us has a unique chronotype which refers to the behavioural manifestation of underlying circadian rhythms of myriad physical processes. Our chronotype is our hardwiring. It dictates our biological clock, and although not impossible, is very difficult to adjust. Rather than focusing on getting up early, maybe we should instead focus on getting a better night’s sleep as studies show that the three spheres of attention, memory and executive function all deteriorate significantly when we haven’t slept enough.
And what about working longer hours? Unfortunately, this is not necessarily something we have much control over, as is the nature of our business. I believe that we work long enough and hard enough as it is, without having to work ourselves to the bone. If we are indeed committed to playing the ‘long game’, then we must work hard and commit ourselves to our craft, but should also be cautious of becoming fatigued and burning out.
There is very little evidence of a direct correlation between working longer hours and improved productivity. Interestingly, it is now illegal to demand more than a 48-hour work week in most of the countries in Northern Europe; in fact, Sweden is currently trialling a 30-hour work week. Even companies such as Google and Amazon are spending inordinate sums of money researching whether more is, in fact, less when it comes to work hours.
We can learn a lot from others, but we must be selective when adopting behaviours and habits into our own daily rituals. One size does not fit all, so maybe it is time that we take a more morphological approach and look at ways whereby we can maximise our time and create a better work/life balance. Self-care is not selfish – you cannot serve from an empty vessel.