James Surowiecki, writing in the January 27 issue of The New Yorker entitled his article “The Cult of Overwork.” He makes the point by noting that thirty years ago, the best paid workers in the U.S. were much less likely to work long days than low-paid workers were. That, of course, has all changed and now the best paid are more than twice as likely to work long hours than the poorly paid. Surowiecki says, “Overwork has become a credential of prosperity.”
I have thought for a long time that it’s crazy to think that there was some kind of correlation between the amount of time spent doing something and the quality of the outcome. Time does not have any necessary connection to what people achieve. Yes, doing something carefully and mindfully might take more time than sloppy and quick. The point is that our culture has tended to put some kind of value that because you work so much, such long hours and seven days a week proves that your job is really worthwhile. And to that, I say Baloney!
Do you honestly think that you are more dedicated, more industrious, and more productive because you spend more time doing your work than others do? David Solomon, global co-head of investment banking at Goldman Sachs (Gold Sacks for short), told Surowiecki, “Today, technology means that we are all available 24/7. And, because everyone demands instant gratification and instant connectivity, there are no boundaries, no breaks.”
Some time ago I wrote a short piece called “No Virtue in Being Busy.” Now I think I should re-think that and re-design the opportunity to be un-busy, to encourage more people to unplug and take some precious time out and time off. Why? To reflect, renew, regenerate, recharge or maybe even get rid of the re part and generate, charge and think about what you’re doing and why. Focus on purpose as much as productivity. Consider how you and others value what it is that you are doing with all that time that you devote to your work. And finally, at the end of the day, ask yourself what you might do differently tomorrow or next week. Enjoy!