There’s a pervading idea out there that if you work super hard, if you hustle, you’ll achieve great things. But it’s not exactly true. In fact, work can wait. Freelancers and entrepreneurs need to protect their personal time.
It’s called the hustle. You work super hard. You put in long hours. And eventually it pays off. That’s the idea. Everyone acts like that’s the only way it works. It gets to the heart of the Protestant work ethic, the American drive to roll up our sleeves and get the job done.
It also plays into the lottery idea, that despite insane odds you’re going to win. That somehow, by the sheer force of will, you can make your number come up, you can push your idea through and you’ll strike it rich. Time to cash out.
But that’s not really how life works.
Yes, you should work hard. But no amount of effort is going to make a bad plan work. In fact, too much effort can actually obscure when a plan is failing. The wheels are spinning and you’re making a lot of noise—you feel like you’re making progress. But you’re stuck in the same hole.
The hustle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You should work hard, but it’s going to be consistent work over the long haul that finds success. Marathon weekends and all-nighters are rarely going to give you the break you need.
The Hustle Hurts
In fact, the hustle might even be hurting you.
The research shows that the hustle doesn’t pay off:
- Managers couldn’t tell the difference between employees who worked 80 hours per week and those who just pretended to.
- Overworking can lead to all kinds of health problems, which hits the bottom-line with higher healthcare costs and additional sick days.
- Overwork makes work harder. You make poor decisions, you make mistakes and a lack of sleep will ruin your performance.
- As we burn out, we’re more likely to get lost in the weeds and not focus on what’s important.
Instead of endlessly working, you need to pace yourself. You need to take care of yourself. It’s when we slow down and take a break that we become reenergized and refocused. Our subconscious works on new solutions. Our creativity thrives when it’s not overworked.
Other Perspectives on the Hustle
A lot of blog posts have been written about finding this work-life balance. There are a lot of different perspectives. Chris Lema, for one, says it’s more about finding alignment in your life. Seeing your life as a unified whole and not so cleanly split between the professional and personal might be a helpful perspective.
This idea that we need to take breaks from work and shut off the constant notifications has prompted Basecamp to actually make it a feature of their project management software. They’re even challenging other companies to take a “Work Can Wait” pledge.
Daniel Espinoza sums it up nicely:
“I really enjoy the work I do and the freedom I have because of the work situation I’ve chosen. Everyone is saying you need to ‘hustle’ or ‘crush it,’ and I think doing that sucks all the fun out of life. I’m not buying it anymore. I’ll get there eventually, I’ll have fun doing it and I’ll have a great family life along the way.”
We want to see freelancers work hard and succeed. But you shouldn’t burnout doing it. Take care of yourself. Make the time to rest and recharge. Your work will be better for it.