If you’re an adult, and you have friends who are adults, you’ve probably endured at least one pissing contest where everyone sits around competing with each other about who’s working the hardest – who’s working the longest hours, who’s putting in the most overtime, who’s getting the least amount of sleep.
The conclusion you’re expected to draw from these circlejerks is that whoever has worked the longest hours and slept the least is the most successful person in your friend group.
This idea that working overtime and sacrificing the other areas of your life are indicative of success isn’t helped by the fact that CEOs regularly brag about their incredibly bizarre routines.
Tim Cook wakes up at 3.45am every night, Indra Nooyi gets 4-5 hours of sleep a night, an Apple exec claims to get headaches if she gets more than 6 hours of sleep a night, and even Donald Trump has been bragging about his 4-hours-a-night routine for decades.
But they’re CEOs – they have to do something to try and justify their ridiculous salaries. You and your friends are most likely not getting paid enough to be running on four hours’ sleep a night in order to feel accomplished.
I’ve found this to be especially true for freelancers. Sure, you get to set your own hours, but you also have to work twice as hard to get work, between pitching ideas and acquiring clients and chasing invoices and chasing invoices and chasing invoices and…
Where was I? Right.
Nobody is impressed by how little you’ve slept. Not getting enough sleep is simply not good for you, in the short or long-term. But we know this, and yet, bragging about being overworked continues. The insidious undertones behind this – that your value lies not in who you are as a person, but how you contribute to the economy, that contributing to the economy is more important than your health – are troubling, and have broader implications that go beyond simply annoying your friends.
If you build your identity around your job, and you suddenly lose your job, what happens to your sense of self? It sounds trite, but striking a good balance between work and life genuinely is important.
Get better at unplugging once the work day is over. Remove your work email from your phone, as well as the Slack app and anything else that keeps you tethered to the workplace, when Friday arvo rolls around. Stop trying to ‘catch up on’ sleep and get enough sleep each night so you don’t feel short-changed when you wake up.
(I’m talking to myself here as much as anyone else, btw.)
It makes sense that our jobs are a huge part of who we are, but they shouldn’t be everything, and they shouldn’t come at the expense of other equally important areas of our lives. And hey, if you try and improve your work-life balance, you might find that you have actual accomplishments to brag about instead of how few hours you slept last night. Score!