Last week, I criticized the widely-held belief that success is the inevitable result of hard work (aka working long hours). Some readers were outraged. How dare I suggest you can become more successful by working less?
What's important here, I think, is your definition of success. If your definition of success includes you dropping dead at a relatively young age, then by all means continue working those long hours.
Because, according to numerous scientific studies, long hours can and will literally kill you. And I mean "literally" in the literal sense. Here are top-lines from some recent studies:
- Skipping vacations increases your chances of having a heart attack by 30 to 50 percent, according to a nine-year study.
- Working long hours increases mortality rates (i.e. the likelihood you'll die today) by almost 20 percent.
- Skipping even one year of vacation increases depression, which in turn increases the likelihood you'll die from cancer.
- The longer hours you work, the higher your risk of having a stroke. Even working more than 40 hours a week increases your death risk by 10 percent.
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time (like in front of a computer or in meetings) increases risk of diabetes, cancer and early death.
In short, when your boss or your company insists that you work more than 40 hours a week (paid overtime or not), they are not just destroying your work/life balance. They are literally putting your life at risk.
Same thing if you're self-employed and working long hours without breaks or vacations. When you do this, you are in essence committing slow suicide.
What's incredibly ironic about working long hours is that it doesn't make you more productive! Even though you think you're getting more done, you aren't, which means you're risking your life for less than nothing.
So, here's my advice:
If you work for an organization that demands long hours as a condition for employment, set a limit on how many years you'll continue to put your life at risk by working there. Meanwhile find a job that lacks that destructive culture. Or start your own business.
If you're driving yourself to work long hours, then you need the self-discipline to track the time you work and cut the hours down to between 40 and 50, regardless of whether there's "so much to get done."
Remember: "success" means squat to a corpse.