November 15, 2011

Is it better to work 8 or 10 hours per day?

A friend reminded me of a saying today: "Work as if it depends on you. Pray as if it depends on God." For me, that used to mean: "Work really, really hard. And pray really, really hard." Now, it means "Work hard, but don't overdo it because it really doesn't depend on me. And pray -- ask God what He wants me to do and do it."

In my opinion, it doesn't matter how hard I work because I can't make great things happen. Instead, I should seek to become an expert at listening to God and then acting on what I am told. This is not an advocation of a "La-Z-Boy" lifestyle, rather it is a realization that one more hour at the office is not going to be the key to huge success for my company and/or career.

Quite frankly, whether you believe in God or not, I think this theory applies. Balance is an essential component of a "successful" life. And no career or company can be considered a success, in my opinion, if we have to sacrifice everything else in order to achieve it.

It's about tradeoffs. If you are going to put in 9 hours on the job, then you have 1 less hour per day (and 5 less per week) to give to your family, yourself, your faith, your community, your other passions (assuming you are passionate about your job), etc. Are those 5 extra hours really worth it? If it can't be achieved in 8 hours is there any life-changing, earth-shattering reason why it can't wait until tomorrow or after the weekend? And if the answer to that question is that you might lose your job if you don't put in 9, 10, 11 or 12 hours per day, then I'd proffer that the job isn't right for you.

In fact, I wonder if the person who works 8 might actually get more done (more output, more efficient) than the person who works 10. What if we only had enough energy every week for the job we do? That would mean we'd miss out on many other people and opportunities in our life that could help us grow. A one-dimensional employee is not a rock-star. When we spend the majority of our week pouring ourselves into just one area of our life, then eventually we won't be any good for ourselves or anyone else.

So how does this relate to dreaming and pursuing our dreams? A few ways:

1. I hope all of our dreams are balanced. I think it is healthy to include all the people and things that are important to us in our biggest dreams -- our family, friends, faith, community, etc. I'm not a big fan of a dream that only focuses on one aspect of life. For example, a dream of building a big company -- that's not a complete dream to me. Why do you want to build a big company? How does your family fit into your life as you build the company and once the company is built? How about your friends, faith, community, etc.?

2. We won't achieve our biggest dreams in a day, a week, a month or a year. Big mountains take time to climb. We'll get there healthy, sane and with our family and friends cheering us on if we have spent time along the way taking care of ourselves, loving our family and others.

3. To some degree, we can only achieve the dream if we in some part start living it now. Do you ever catch yourself saying "one day, I'll be able to..." In balance, that's a great thing to be saying. You want to dream of the day you can take your entire family on a trip across Europe or work full-time from home or buy a bigger home, but you don't want to miss out on spending time with your family and friends, or give up pursuing your passions just to get there. Will you have to make some sacrifices? Yes. But don't give up everything for the hope of one day gaining it all back. You can set priorities and be disciplined enough to get a taste of your dream now, so that when you reach your dream you can enjoy it with everyone you love.

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