Over the course of the summer and into autumn, I had the very challenging task of engaging with 2 ‘full time’ commitments. This included doing a Masters dissertation which on paper is 40 hours a week. Along with that 20,000 words of joy, I also averaged another 30-40 hours working on a digital marketing internship. Typically I worked 70-80 hours a week. Juggling both these commitments lasted for about three months. The final weeks of the dissertation took up all of my attention with every passing moment seemingly focused on that task. I honestly don’t know how many hours a day or week I worked but when I wasnt getting my 5 hours sleep, I was working. (I don’t say that to brag because sleep is massively important to everyone’s health, and I was walking a thin line and could have easily gotten sick).
It was not easy but I have definitely come out stronger as a result. With nights of insomnia, mental stress, zero social life and absolute immunity to relaxation, the turbulence of hard work has taught me a few things. In no particular order here they are.
- A lot of people when it comes to work rate, are a little bit soft. 9-5 seems such a breeze to me. Now I say that, because while I was working like a maniac, I was also enjoying myself. The running to meetings and scheduling late night phone calls and squeezing work in on bus journeys was a bit of a thrill. This is the big difference I think. If I don’t enjoy my work and I can’t see the bigger picture and meaning behind the work, then I doubt I could work 20 hours a week, let alone 40. There has to be that drive and understanding as to why you are working in the first place. Working just for the sake of working without any deeper reason or enjoyment does not intrinsically motivate me. Of course there were days that I genuinely did not feel like working, but I ploughed through anyway. Generally though, I did enjoy it.
- Hard work is necessary to get stuff done, but too much over time can put you out of whack in a lot of ways. For example, for the last few weeks, I was struggling to get 6 hours sleep. My eye lids kept twitching. I definitely lost a few pounds from stress. While mentally I was coping, by body was crying out for rest. From a social standpoint, I hadn’t been out in a couple of months. Most social interactions orientated around academic meetings or talking digital.
- I went months without seeing family or friends. I had not gone out and the constant work knocked any natural charisma out of me. I was approaching burn out but fortunately, things wound down before I hit an inevitable crash.
- In the beginning, I struggled to start work but then after a period of time, you can’t stop working. By the end, I could not relax at all. I felt guilty for any small gratifications. My mind-set was that were only 24 hours in a given day. Any time not focusing on the main tasks was taking away from what I was doing.
- Some outlet no matter how small is important. I just about squeezed sport into my life. This physical exercise provided a good outlet. While I only played football a couple of days a week, it broke things up and got me out of my head and into my body.
- On top of the few hours of sport, I also took some supplements to keep the immune system going. Vitamin c, green food tablets, omega 3 and echinaforce were some of the things I took to keep going. In periods of manic immersion, your health has to be watched!
- While I don’t expect my work rate to conform to the standard 40 hours a week, I definitely will be focusing more on carving out time for friends and family. I know that in order to achieve anything substantial, hard work has to be put down. However, if there is not some room to take a break and breathe, the enjoyment evaporates and an inevitable burn out takes place.
And so to conclude, life is short. You might as well enjoy what you’re doing. However if you go to one extreme for long enough, you can get lost and forget why you are doing what you are doing in the first place. It’s important to take a break and take stock, but at the same time, when its time to work, you got to go all in. For me personally, I don’t see myself as the next Gary Vaynerchuck with his work ethic, but the idea of just doing 40 hours seems too easy. We will see!