As both a human being and a colleague, you’re more valuable in your workplace and in real life by treating yourself well. Learn how to be fully present in the moments you choose to work instead of constantly grinding.
For lots of good things in life, quality is more important than quantity. And we’re learning that in our careers our overall happiness is based on the meaning and purpose we get from it more than the effort it took to attain it.
We know deep down that working smarter is a more sound strategy for real, lasting success. But despite that, a growing number of us are driven to talk about how hard we’re working rather than strategically working hard.
As we’ve gotten used to getting more validation from others, and fallen prey to FOMO when we think we’re not keeping up, this has given rise to the culture of the hustle. Like a lot of things that feed on the power of social media and worrying about what other people think of us — Fyre Festival, various Kardashians — it’s more flash than substance.
There are positive aspects to working hard that, in the right frame of mind, are crucial to healthy, long-term achievement. By looking at some of the research into things that drive healthier feelings of success we can demystify the hustle and see how we can begin to let our need for it go.
Working Doesn’t Mean You’re Succeeding
An amazing work ethic is at the root of many success stories, but that doesn’t mean that the harder you work the more successful you’ll automatically become. Hustle culture tends to focus on time spent rather than quality of results. Waking up early, staying up late, 16-... no 18-... NO, 22-HOUR DAYS!
Hustle posts thrive on a never-ending cycle of one-upping that has the doubly negative impact of detracting focus from actuals tasks leading to success while simultaneously making you feel that everyone else is working hard, and so succeeding more, than you are.
This hustler mindset predicates itself on the false premise that more hours worked intrinsically means getting more done. Taking pride or getting off on the length of time you’re working says more about how you want to been seen by others than what you’re actually accomplishing.
Plus, research shows that managers don’t notice the difference in performance between people who actually worked 80 hours per week and those who just said they did. So, truly, you’re not impressing anyone but yourself.
Output Before Input
The most important measure of how we’re moving the dial on our goals is the output we create, not how much work we put into it. On Medium, writer Kyle Young sums it up perfectly:
“Hustle measures input. Pros measures output.”
Is it good to be proud of how hard we worked when we accomplish something tangible? Yes. Is it foolish to measure the amount we work as equal to, or even more important, than what we’ve actually done? Also yes.
As Young points out, inefficiency is not something to be proud of. When you work unnecessarily or don’t have enough to show for the hours you’ve put in, that’s wasting time and focus that you could, with more balance, be using to get more tasks done.
Early in your school or career you may have fewer wins to show for your effort, but make sure that from the beginning you’re tracking the time you’ve worked against your real outputs to measure success, not just racking up countless hours with nothing to show for them.
It’s Easier To Fail When You Overwork
At some point you might have looked at hustle posts or even thought for yourself that there’s no harm in it. If that’s how hard someone wants to work then what’s the difference?
Growing research shows that hustling overtime doesn’t have a neutral effect on our performance — it demonstrably hurts us. Both physically and psychologically.
When we’re physically tired it’s simply more difficult for our body to function optimally, leading easily to health problems like impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory and heart disease.
As our physical health declines and impacts our mental health, the answer for some hustlers, caught in a futile belief, is to hustle even harder. Even worse, as our stress rises and physical health deteriorates, we get less sophisticated at our key professional skills like interpersonal communication, leadership, strategic decision making and managing emotional reactions.
We need time away from work and we need sleep. A very small percentage of us, only between 1-3%, can sleep five to six hours a night without lowering our ability to perform. On top of that, we’re terrible judges of our own ability to gauge whether our lack of sleep is impacting us. This is partially because the very lack of sleep itself makes it harder for us to accurately judge our physical and mental health in all areas of our lives.
The Great Power Of Saying “No”
Setting boundaries and knowing how to focus your time on what really matters is one of the most important life skills we can learn. There’s simply not enough time in a day for us to get to everything we would like to. That means it’s crucial to know when to prioritize and use the time when we’re fresh, alert and at our best toward our most important goals.
This is how we can maintain the right balance between work and achievement. It helps ensure we’re making the most of our time by putting that work into the things that matter most to us.
When we blindly say yes to everything, or spread ourselves out so that we work part of the time on each task, we’re sacrificing our ability to get incremental, important milestones done.
It can even feel exhilarating to fall into the trap of multi-tasking and that by moving around to various projects we’re succeeding at them all, but that’s not necessarily the case. What we choose not to do is just as important as what we decide we will do. Hustling is a form of saying “yes” to everything that takes us further away from getting real work finished.
We’ve talked before about the five tendencies that make up most types of Impostor Syndrome and it’s no big surprise that hustlers are also chronic impostors. Workaholics get more validation from people’s reaction to their workload than the actual work itself. They can become emotionally addicted to the feedback loop they can find themselves in by constantly posting about how hard they’re working and being reinforced by others with the same mindset.
Working hard is one thing, but the need to constantly tell others how hard you’re working is a sign that you’re looking more for short-term external recognition than building long-term success and purpose from what you’re doing.
Hustlers Feel The Burn...Out
At the core of hustle culture is a deep fear of failure. The pace of work that drives some hustlers isn’t sustainable in the long run, and the physical and mental results make it harder to succeed the longer it’s kept up. Focusing solely on your work, at the expense of everything else, will ultimately lead to a full-on burn out. And, unfortunately, the very failure that so many hustlers are driven by fear of.
Humans are naturally holistic beings. You will only do damage to your health, your personal life, and, ultimately, to your career by thinking you can only be successful by being always on.
The best way to contribute to any area of your life — work, family, creativity, mental wellness, physical health — is to make sure you’re contributing to them all. When you bring your whole self to work, and get over the need to be validated by how hard other people think you’re working, you’ll be truly successful.
Ditch the hustle and Prosper.