By Caitlin Kelly
Did you hear about the young woman, Mita Diran, who died of overwork recently after tweeting about her long hours — 30 hours without a break?
And here’s the 24-year-old who died the same way.
I have four words for this, and they’re not: Rock on, you over-achievers!
Rather: Are you fucking kidding me?
And here’s a whiny, tedious rant at Slate by a woman who’s shocked — shocked! — to find that French workers get subsidized meals from their employers and are treated with a great deal more respect than they are in the U.S.
Duh. Americans are simply nuts about work. They go onandonandonandonandonandon about how busy they are and how needed they are and how many things they just added to their to-do list.
As if this makes them more….something.
Here’s a list of 10 reasons — written by a local colleague and former board member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors — why you might consider taking a break.
1. Quantity kills quality.
You want to be excellent at what you do. But the more tasks you take on, the smaller your chance of doing an excellent job at any of them.
2. Sleep matters.
“The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep,” Arianna Huffington said in a 2011 TED talk. She would know. She fainted from exhaustion and broke her cheekbone and is now something of a sleep evangelist. “I was recently having dinner with a guy who bragged that he’d gotten only four hours’ sleep the night before,” she continued. She considered retorting: “If you had gotten five, this dinner would have been a lot more interesting.”
3. You suck when it counts.
You’ll be bad at generating new ideas, finding creative solutions to problems, and worst of all you’ll suck at listening attentively to the people around you. That disrespects them and wastes their time as well as yours.
4. Your mood is a buzzkill.
The kind of irritability and impatience that goes with being overworked and behind schedule will cast a black cloud over the people around you both at work and at home. If you’re an employee, it will damage your career. If you’re a small business owner, it will harm your business.
5. Your judgment is impaired.
The research is conclusive: sleep deprivation impairs decision-making. As a leader, poor judgment is something you can’t afford. Crossing some tasks off your to-do list, handing them to someone else, or finishing some things late is well worth it if it means you bring your full concentration and intelligence to the tough decisions your job requires.
Readers of this blog know I work my ass off. But they also know how much I deeply cherish balance in my life.
I bitch about being broke a lot. Money isn’t great right now at our house, but we’ll be fine.
The truth is this: I could work twice as many hours and, probably, double my income.
At what cost?
On Monday this week, I revised a story for five hours’ straight. The rest of the week was spent emailing pitches and checking in with long-time clients to see where we are and lining up details for a crazy foreign trip I’ll be making at the end of March for work. In other words, I’ve been plenty busy.
Yesterday — yes, the hell with it — I devoted to all the things that actually make me happy, no matter how retro or silly or low-value they may sound to some people:
ironing, tidying the linen closet, a manicure, making cranberry bread, making dal for an Indian food feast, listening to CDs, (instead of the radio, and talk shows because I’ll learn something), emailing a distant friend who’s not feeling very well, chatting with pals on Facebook and deciding not to make soup. Even my non-work days have limits!
That filled up most of the day.
I spoke to my husband, as is typical for us, twice. We never let a day go by — and he has six meetings every day at his busy newspaper job — without one to three brief phone calls to say hello and trade some news. He’s my husband. I want to talk to him. When he comes home in the evening, the computer is off (except for blogging!) and we talk to one another, a lot.
Minda, who wrote the piece above, has no children, like me. She confesses in her story that her husband had to get assertive about wanting more of her attention, and she says she works most weekends.
Nope. Not for me.
I could make a lot more money. I have. Seven years ago, I made twice as much. In 1996, I made twice as much.
It didn’t make me twice as happy.
I know that some of you are desperate to get a job, and a well-paid job, so someone who isn’t dying to work all the time probably seems lazy to you.
What I am is someone who knows her priorities: sleep, (8-10 hours every night, without fail), friendships, uninterrupted time with my husband, travel, preparing decent food for us and our friends, a clean and tidy home. I take dance class 2-3 times a week and try to work out in other ways as well.
I’ve learned my limits the hard way.
On March 17, 2007, I begged Jose to rush me to our local hospital, in pain that even laying the seatbelt across my chest was agony. I had no idea what was wrong with me, but something sure was — a 104 degree temperature and pneumonia. That meant three days in the hospital on an IV and a full month to regain my strength.
Like many people, especially freelancers and the self-employed who have no paid sick days, I kept on working while ill.
Yes, I need to make money. And I need to bump it up by probably 50 percent this year (sigh) to make a significant difference to our quality of life.
How about you?
Do you work to live, or live to work?