Work less, produce more

Paul Boag

As web professionals we have a culture of long hours. This has to change.

This morning I tweeted the following…

Amazed at how many people on twitter this morning are boasting about the long hours they are working. Don't they know that is a bad thing.

I was amazed by the response I received.

To many it would appear that long hours are a badge of honour. They either represent how ‘overworked and hard done by’ they are or that they enjoy work so much that they don’t mind working 24/7.

But do those arguments really stack up? I don’t believe so. Let me explain why…

I have to work long hours. I have so much work.

Most people claim that the reason they work long hours is because they have too much work to do. However in my experience work expands to fill the amount of time you give it. The more hours you allow yourself to work the more work there will be to fill them.

In my opinion it’s not about how many hours you work, its how smart you work.

Despite what some of my colleagues at Headscape like to think, I output a lot of content. I…

  • Write blog posts like this
  • Do online seminars
  • Record podcasts
  • Speak at conferences
  • Consult on client work
  • Act as Headscape’s R&D department
  • Am heavily involved in the sales process

…and so on.

People often ask me how I get so much done. Well, I can tell you one thing – it’s not because I work long hours. In fact I try and keep very strictly to an 8 hour working day.

I believe that you can achieve more by being organised, rested and motivated, than you ever can by working late into the night.

There maybe some satisfaction in pulling multiple all nighters but I don’t think it means you get more done.

Of course some claim it is not because they have to work long hours, its because they want to.

But its not work

One guy on twitter justified his long hours by quoting confucius…

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life

I can sympathise with this view. However, I believe that ultimately it is short sighted.

When I was young I took this attitude. I worked ridiculous hours because I loved what I did. I couldn’t get enough of the web and was never happier than when I was creating stuff online.

Today things are different. I am still as passionate about the web as ever but I have learnt that having time away from the web is incredibly important.

Participating in life beyond the web provides a valuable perspective that can be missed when you are constantly on the job.

Spending time with my family, friends and doing non web activities actually makes me a better web designer. It enables me to realise that not everybody cares about the web like I do and the web is not the whole world to most people. It also shows me how real people interact with it. Finally, it opens me up to sources of inspiration that otherwise I would miss.

However, although these arguments are valid they pale into insignificance when compared to the plain truth that it is not healthy to obsess over a single thing.

To be a broad, rounded human being we need to engage in non web related activities. Do you have any hobbies outside of the web? Do you socialise with non web people? These are all important not just for our mental health but also to provide perspective in our work.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that pulling the occasional all nighter is wrong. I also recognise that occasionally you need to hustle (as Gary Vaynerchuk would say) in order to make a life transition such as going freelance.

I am just saying that we should not be proud of our long hours. We should recognise them for what they are… an evil necessity.

At the end of the day nobody reaches their death bed wishing they had worked longer hours.