It can seem like there's no escaping hustle culture these days.
For some, working more than 60 hours a week is a badge of honor. People brag about how early they sign on, or how late they sign off. Other responsibilities or hobbies outside of your job are things to be squeezed into the cracks of a punishing work schedule instead of equally weighted priorities.
In certain jobs or industries, hours worked and results generated are directly related. But this isn't true for knowledge workers. There's no guarantee that slogging through a 12-hour workday will produce the most creative idea or innovative strategy -- and in fact, often the opposite is true.
Want to do your best work? A 40-hour workweek might be just what the doctor ordered. Here are a few reasons why.
It'll force you to prioritize.
The truth is, not everything on your to-do list is mission-critical. When time is limited, you'll have to ruthlessly prioritize the most important tasks -- and ditch the rest.
You'll get more attuned to (and comfortable with) working based on impact.
As you get better at prioritizing, you'll also become more aware of the impact of the things you do. And with increased awareness comes increased comfort with saying no to low-impact work.
It'll force you to find the efficiencies and delegate.
If you have 10 hours' worth of high-impact tasks to get done, but only eight hours to get them done, that means you'll either have to become more efficient, or delegate some of your work.
I find that work tends to expand to fit the time allotment it's given. By intentionally giving yourself less time, you'll have to become more efficient -- and if you make time constraints a habit, the quicker pace will become your new norm sooner than later.
As for delegation, it can be anxiety-provoking in the moment ("It'll be so much faster if I just do it!") but bear in mind that the only way people grow is through taking on new challenges -- and the more your team grows, the greater your collective capacity to achieve great things.
It will prompt reflection.
After a while of maintaining a brutal schedule, it can be easy for long hours to become the norm, and the norm the way it "needs" to be.
Breaking out of the cycle will force reflection. Why are you working so many hours, really? Is it because your boss requires that you work 60 or more hours a week? Is it because you have 60 hours' worth of high-impact work on your plate? Or is it because you're just used to working 60 hours? The answer might surprise you.
You'll be more creative.
A 2014 study by Jonathan Schooler, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that physicists and writers came up with a significant number of their most creative ideas when they weren't actively working.
What were they doing? Spacing out.
In my personal experience, I've found that great ideas often pop into my head at the gym or while taking a walk. And besides increased creativity, having more time to allocate to other arenas of life offers a whole host of benefits for health and happiness.
What would a 40-hour workweek mean for you?
If you're used to working 60-hour weeks, it can seem scary to scale back to 40 -- and that's understandable.
If this is you, my recommendation would be to approach it like an experiment. Try it out for a week or two and see what happens. Even if you decide it doesn't work for your life, you might learn something valuable along the way. And hey, what's the worst that could happen?
So this month, challenge yourself to work less, not more. Your performance might just be better for it.