And How Not to Live the 80 Hour Workweek
My cousin always worked hard for his family. They always had enough because of that. Now, he works 16 hour days all the time, and sometimes 7 days a week. He wants to retire early and pay off debt, and this is the way he plans to do it.
My friend is new to the job force and wants to honor his boss by working hard. He also wants to go above and beyond to prove he’s a good worker and doesn’t feel like he can say no, but he falls asleep at the dinner table because he has so much on his plate (not food plate, proverbial life plate).
My neighbor is at a job she doesn’t love so her husband can work at his. But she knows it’s not where she wants to be forever, so she’s spending her extra time, when she’s not at her first job or loving on her kids, trying to build a side hustle.
All of them have a very obvious thing in common: they work a lot.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like they have much of a choice, unless they give up their goals. My cousin wants to pay off debt, my friend wants to provide for his family, my neighbor just wants to do something she doesn’t hate. But somewhere along the way, they kind of made work their idol.
Not intentionally, not obviously.
The time and energy all goes to one thing and one concentration, and it kills.
The Lie We Tell Ourselves
The 21st Century American Culture tells us we have to work, we are slaves to our bosses, and we’re only worth what we do for a living and how much time we give to it.
While other countries have siestas, we have nervous breakdowns.
The hardest working country in the world (Japan) also produces the most suicides. The pressures of work are real.
The worst part about this reality, about working so much, is that a lot of people don’t intentionally make work the center of their lives. But they believe that in order to have great lives, they have to give a lot of time at work. It comes from a good place, as we should work hard. We should respect our bosses and we should work to earn a living instead of squelch off of others. But we overdo it, leaving no energy for what matters more than our job: the people in our lives we love.
So how do we avoid this necessary evil?
How Not to Live the 80 Hour Work Week
Let’s get practical as much as we can:
- Adopt a budget. If you’re working overtime every chance you get, or you’ve taken a job to pay off debt or simply make ends meet, do you track every penny you spend? You may be surprised how much you’re overspending. Sometimes adopting a budget is all you need without having to cut back. And you may not have to work as much overtime. But if not…
- Cut back on your expenses. This is hard, because modern culture requires we have so much. Netflix, smart phones, cars for every driver. What would it look like for you if you slashed some things out of your budget completely? What if you got rid of Netflix, didn’t update your phone every year (or two years), sold your extra car, and stopped eating out? How much would you save a month? How much would you save if you stopped buying name brand, kept a smaller wardrobe, and lived a little less extravagantly on your vacations? People don’t usually like to cut down on luxuries or “necessities,” but is it worth working so much that you can’t sleep or enjoy the those luxuries?
- So let’s say you’re not in a position where you need to pay off debt, but you still have to work a lot. Can you outsource a few of your tasks in your life so you’re not hustling at home? Can you hire someone to clean your house once a month or mow your lawn once a week?
- Spread the love. Some people may not like this one. This means that if your spouse is working two jobs so you can stay home as a fulltime mom or dad, you say it happens no longer and you find a part-time job. If this is not your conviction, you can ignore. But in my heart, I can’t let my husband work two jobs so I can stay home fulltime. Oh I want to stay home quite often (sometimes just because I don’t want to work), but I’m not willing to be a single parent. Can you find a job as a server or take on babysitting or data entry? Maybe your income wouldn’t completely replace your spouse’s extra hours but he or she could cut back.
- Say no. If this category applies to you, let me first say that I’m proud of you for working hard. Now, please, stop working so hard that you fall asleep at the dinner table! I know that you feel as though you have to take every opportunity your employer sends your way, but you first have to weigh every decision you make with the fallout. Will it be worth it in the end? I bet, also, that if you were to say no from time to time, you wouldn’t get fired. If this would affect your job status, than maybe you’re not in a healthy environment and it’s time to make a change. Don’t say no to everything, but create some boundaries somewhere. The “no” you give may not even have to be to a person, but the way you do your work; create workflows so you don’t have to take work home all the time. You know your work environment better than I do.
- Scale your growth. This mostly applies to the side hustle, but I think it could also work with paying off debt or going back to school. Sometimes it works to jump in with both feet, put your head down, and work your tail off to get everything done as soon as possible. But you don’t always have to rush the process. What would it look like to cut back an hour or two every week?
All is not lost. You don’t have to work yourself to the ground. I get the struggle you face, I really do. Remember, you aren’t stuck in this rut of working crazy forever. Be patient, get creative, ask for help.