There’s Plenty of Sleep in Hustle
Everyone who knows us has probably seen our “There’s No Sleep in Hustle” t-shirts by now. This began with something the great Rob Spector (https://twitter.com/dn0t) said at a hackathon, and has since entered the lexicon as the CloudMine Thing We Say. We love Rob, and we love the shirts, but they are intended to be a bit tongue-in-cheek—and we’d like to clear the air about how our working lives actually are.
Overwork is bad.
This is a fact. Anybody who tries to tell you otherwise can be refuted by a myraid of studies (http://www.igda.org/why-crunch-modes-doesnt-work-six-lessons) (http://www.good.is/posts/don-t-fall-asleep-at-the-wheel-successful-entrepreneurs-have-lives/) (probably more) that show that going into “crunch mode” is the single most expensive way to get things done, going all the way back to Henry Ford and his factories. Here’s a great quote from the above essay:
When Henry Ford famously adopted a 40-hour workweek in 1926, he was bitterly criticized by members of the National Association of Manufacturers. But his experiments, which he’d been conducting for at least 12 years, showed him clearly that cutting the workday from ten hours to eight hours — and the workweek from six days to five days — increased total worker output and reduced production cost. Ford spoke glowingly of the social benefits of a shorter workweek, couched firmly in terms of how increased time for consumption was good for everyone. But the core of his argument was that reduced shift length meant more output.
This bears repeating: reducing shift length meant more output. Often, the reasons cited for keeping the number of hours worked at a reasonable level are things like employee morale, health, etc. These are all important, and valid. But, I’m sure there are plenty of startup founders / managers who, while they don’t explicitly encourage their employees to work extra hours, are nonetheless pleased when their employees go the “extra mile” and crank away in crunch mode of their own volition.
This is a mistake. The correct response to this is to force your employees to go home. Yes, force. This is good for the employees and good for the business, and there’s no denying that.
Fight the Temptation!
Now, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there right now who are saying: “Well Derek, I enjoy working the long hours! Work is my passion, and I want to do it all the time and there’s nothing wrong with that.” I say there is: when you overwork yourself, you’re doing a disservice to everyone you work with. Your mind can’t work at full capacity and your output gets sloppy.
I can say this from personal experience: when I was implementing the hosted sites feature for CloudMine, I was working twelve hours a day to get it done by a deadline. This was almost entirely self-imposed, by the way: I was never told I had to work these hours! And, of course, I thought I enjoyed it! I was a hero! People will sing my praises from above when I get this thing done!
Okay, so that’s not really what happened. What happened was:
- I was miserable, balancing out my unhappiness with self-medicative drinking.
- My relationships with the founders (whom I consider very close friends) started to deteriorate because I resented them and blamed them for what I was putting myself through.
- Last but not least: the code I wrote was terrible. (It has since been re-architected.)
I went on vacation shortly after the feature was completed. I turned off my phone and disconnected completely for a full week. It took me about two days to reach a relaxed state of mind after the stress I had been under.
When I returned, one of my managers told me, flat-out: “Listen, I totally understand why, but that code from those twelve-hour days was the worst you’ve ever written.”
This was a revelation. I replied, “Great! I won’t do that again.” And I try not to. Because there’s no point. Now, I go to bed early, wake up at 7 am, and produce my best work. I’m proud of it, and I don’t have to kill myself to do it. Not only that, but my extracurricular hobbies have blossomed: I’ve been writing lots of songs that I’m proud of, and improving my writing in leaps and bounds. I directly attribute this to improving my work-life balance.
Don’t chase the dragon. Take a break - you’ll solve the problem in the shower later, instead of after ten cups of coffee at 2 am, and you’ll feel better for it.