The Myth of Hard Work

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The original transcript of the dialogue between Me (M) and the Experienced One (E)

M:

Wait. That doesn’t sound right.

Hard work is for real.

E:

I know.

However the myth is the idea that working hard – specially if you work hard enough you will succeed for sure. And there is this certainty of mathematical principles built around it.

People often look at hard work as if it’s a contract they enter in with the Cosmos. If I work hard enough, I am bound to reap the rewards.

The presumption that hard work and perseverance eventually pays off is somehow accepted as some gospel truth.

As a result you start with working really really hard to get good grades.

Since good grades are universally accepted prerequisite to get a toehold in the fiercely competitive job market, you literally work your ass off to acquire that universally accepted market benchmark.

And finally as a consequence of all hard work you manage to land yourself your dream job.

M:

Ya, that’s kind of true.

E:

You weren’t just going to make a living — you were going to leave your mark on the world.

At first, you loved the work; it was challenging and fast-paced. Everyone around you was crazy smart.

You brainstormed in your off time. Took projects home with you. Put in extra hours on weekends.

It never felt like overworking because it never felt like work.

You put in way more than 40 hours a week, but you were least bothered about the count.

But weeks passed into months and somehow you ended slogging minimum of 60 hours a week if not more.

You often greet your coworkers, bleary-eyed, half-joking about needing coffee to survive.

M:

But somehow that’s the widely accepted industrial benchmark of being at top of your game.

E:

No doubt about that.

But the truth is the work is no longer the same fun that it used to be.

In fact you don’t feel the same passion anymore.

An Entire day slip by sometimes and you have no idea what happened; you certainly don’t have much to show for it.

Most of your goals outside of work are perpetually on hold.

Your most cherished dream of exploring Scandinavian countries has remained a pipe dream for long as you don’t have time for that big trip right now.

You know it’s high time for you to get into an exercise routine, but something always comes up and you end up skipping your gym routine.

You’re not exactly unhappy, but something’s off. But you can’t say for sure. You’ve just always felt that there is more to life than what you are living right now.

M:

And what could be the reason for that?

E:

You’re being force-fed an “ideal” work ethic that’s actually toxic for everyone involved.

You’re no longer a free member of society. You’ve been lured into the Workaholic Cult.

The Workaholic Cult is a cultural delusion that working 60+ hours each week — at the expense of everything else in our lives — is not only a necessary part of success, but also a badge of honour worth flaunting.

The insidious thing about this Cult is that it masquerades as all the things we like most about ourselves: ambitious, dedicated, master, committed, and responsible.

It tells us to push harder, stay later, sleep when we’re dead. It tells us we’re never going to get ahead if we don’t show up first and go home last.

In fact the Workaholic Cult persuades us to hang ourselves with our own strengths.

M:

How to find out if If you’re in a Workaholic Cult.

E:

The numerous signs that we’ve fallen prey to the Workaholic Cult’s influence are subtle:

Working more than 40 hours a week
Sleeping less than 6 hours a night
Often feeling guilty about any time away from work — even if that time is with family and friends.

Numerous research has proven over and over again that it’s not possible to be productive for more than 40 hours a week. At least not for sustained periods of time.

Henry Ford introduced the 40-hour work week in 1914 because he saw — through research — that workers on five eight-hour shifts kept up the highest sustained levels of productivity.

Despite over 100 years of research supporting shorter work weeks, many companies still push for long hours.

Somehow, sleeplessness has become a strange badge of honour. We swap “war stories” of sleeping two hours a night with an odd, martyred pride shining dimly in our bloodshot eyes.

Do you know that you are the cognitive equivalent of a drunk driver after being awake for 18 hours. But the problem compounds: if you don’t get enough sleep, that level of impairment comes faster the next day. After a few days of too little sleep, you’re a drunken zombie.

We wouldn’t go to work drunk, so why the hell do we go to work on four hours’ sleep, when we’re more impaired than if we were hammered?

Overworking leads to higher stress levels and burnout, which have been linked to increased health risks.

Conversely, time away from work is proven to relieve stress and boost creativity, among numerous other benefits.

Besides, if we accept that the ideal is to sleep 8 hours a night and work 8 hours a day, that leaves us with 8 hours for non-work activities.

Taking time away from work gives us time to recharge, beside giving us time to revisit why we like doing what we do.

M:

So what could be the best method to avoid being victim of this widespread Workaholic Cult?
But at the same time I should be able to optimise my work process to do more in less time.

E:

There is this incredibly simple time management system that has revolutionised the way in which one is engaged in deep and deliberate work. It has all the potential to bring some visibly drastic changes in your work life.

M:

I am all ears.

E:

Its called pomodoro technique.

Its quite incredibly simple but as they say, the simplest things often work best.

This revolutionary time management system is deceptively simple to learn, but life-changing when applied correctly.

The Pomodoro Technique can be broken down into the following four basic principles:

1. Work with time, not against it: Many of us live as if time is our enemy.We race the clock to finish assignments and meet deadlines. The Pomodoro Technique teaches us to work with time, instead of struggling against it.

2. Eliminate burnout: Taking short, scheduled breaks while working eliminates the “running on fumes” feeling you get when you push yourself too hard. It’s impossible to overwork when you stick to the system.

3. Manage distractions: Phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, or suddenly realising you need to change the oil in your car — distractions constantly bombard us. Usually, these distractions can wait. The Pomodoro Technique helps you log your distractions…and prioritise them for later.

4. Create a better overall balance in our life: Most of us are far too intimately acquainted with the guilt that comes from procrastination. If we haven’t had a productive day, we can’t seem to enjoy our free time. As a Pomodoro master, you create an effective timetable and achieve your high-priority tasks, so you truly enjoy your time off.

The Pomodoro process is all about 25 minutes of undiluted focus.

Right now, you’re probably thinking “Twenty five minutes of work? That’s nothing! This is gonna be easy!”

Not so fast…

That’s 25 minutes of steady, focused work on ONE task. No multitasking. No emails. No phone calls. No checking Facebook. Nothing! No distractions allowed.

M:

This sounds like one hell of a fun filled challenge, especially when today’s world is full of distractions.

E:

There is no denying that if you are living in a modern society with its 24/7 connectedness, it’s next to impossible to have a perfect working environment. However, you can work smarter without having to work harder.

In a perfect world, you could have twelve high-value tasks identified at the start of each workday. You could prioritise these, and knock them off one by one, from most important to least. You would be equally enthusiastic and motivated about each one, wouldn’t be interrupted, and would finish your day’s work in less than six hours.

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, “we live nowhere near perfect”.

The reality is that you are a human being, living in a world full of other humans. You too have emotions and often get tired. You may not like doing some tasks even though they might be important — possibly even urgent.

So prioritising task based on your energy level and attitude would go a long way in fulfilling your daily commitments.

When your physical energy is low, you may choose to work on your health and wellness.

When your emotional energy is low, you may find something that makes you happy, like spending time with your wife and daughter.


Let me know your thoughts, I’d love to hear them ! ?

Have an amazing weekend.

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