Do you work to live — or live to work? Karoshi is crazy!

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.

BUSINESS OF FREELANCING

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.

Tired, probably.

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.

They include:

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.

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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.

Uh, no.

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.

Never again.

FINGERS ON KEYBOARD

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?

Naptime! The Joy Of Zzzzzzs

My pillow

Are you one of those people who just can’t nap?

Who guzzle coffee and soda all day long in an ongoing and desperate attempt to stay lucid, functional and awake?

Take a nap!

Join me, figuratively speaking, in a lovely little snooze. Recline (gently and slowly) that train/car/airplane seat. Plump up those sofa pillows. Grab a cosy throw and crawl onto bed.

No, you’re not lazy, slothful, a slacker.  You’re whipped and your body needs to re-charge. You know, like those cords you carry everywhere for your laptop and cellphone…

You can do it!

I’ve been told, (which I do take as a compliment) I’m a terrific napper, having fully slept on the floors of airplanes and train stations, in chairs, even mid-meal once. My sweetie is also skilled at this, as is my Dad.

We’re all journos, photographers and film-makers, i.e. people whose works can be ferociously, full-on, 24/7 demanding (hello, 9/11) with sleep a distant memory. We’ve slept under desks. You learn to grab rest whenever and wherever you get the chance.

I’m also one of those people with two speeds: gogogogogogogogogogogo and fast asleep. I am not good at resting, relaxing, chilling out, staring idly into space. So naps are a very healthy choice for me.

And,  very likely, for you as well — Americans, now surgically attached to all forms of technology 24/7, are losing a lot of sleep as a result, a new study finds.

Here’s a site with a lot of helpful links for the truly worn out.

How about you?

Do you take naps?

Do they help?

Go Catch Some Z's — Sleeping Is Really Good For You

Sleeping, male baby cat. Red hair.
Yeah, like this....Image via Wikipedia

Sleep deprivation seems to be the hot new topic, with features in Self and February Glamour, in which editor in chief Cyndi Lieve  — who sleeps 5.5 hours a night (ouch!) — actually challenges Arianna Huffington to a sleep duel. Let the snoring begin!

Writes Leive:

We’re saying no to the zombie side of things and, as of January 4, resolving to get a full night’s sleep every night for a month. Cindi’s going for seven and a half hours (that’s Dr. Breus’ recommended minimum, since it allows for a healthy round of five 90-minute sleep cycles); Arianna’s choosing eight (arrived through trial and error as the number of hours it takes for her to be at her most creative and effective and have the most fun while being creative and effective)….

The problem is that women often feel that they still don’t “belong” in the boys-club atmosphere that still dominates many workplaces. So they often attempt to compensate by working harder and longer than the next guy. Hard work helps women fit in and gain a measure of security. And because it works, they begin to do more and more and more of it until they can’t stop.

But it’s a Pyrrhic victory: The workaholism leads to lack of sleep, which in turn leads to never being able to do your best. In fact, many women do this on purpose, fueled by the mistaken idea that getting enough sleep means you must be lazy or less than passionate about your work and your life.

I figured it would all about the kids-commute-second shift exhaustion, not keeping up with the guys.

Writes Patti Wolter in Self:

“Sleep is no different from diet or exercise,” says Carol Ash, D.O., a sleep specialist in Jamesburg, New Jersey. We know that eating 10 percent more calories a day can add 15-plus pounds to our frame in a year. But we fail to understand that sleeping 10 percent less carries a similar risk for weight gain. In fact, women who sleep five or fewer hours a night are one third more likely to gain 33 pounds over the next 16 years than those who get seven hours of slumber, the American Journal of Epidemiology reports.

And that’s just for starters. It’s best for our body to cycle through the five sleep stages four or five times a night: The first four stages are key to maintaining healthy metabolism, learning and memory; the fifth (rapid eye movement sleep, or REM) is important for regulating mood and forming emotional memories. Miss a cycle or two and our immune system, heart health, brain function and more can suffer Give it a rest! It’s time to get the curative shut-eye you crave.

I guess I’m a slotharama — I normally sleep eight hours every single night. I can barely function on six, am nauseated and semi-functional on five or less and not that great on seven. I’m also able to nap — as in pass out cold and really wake refreshed again a while later — almost anywhere: in the car, in a chair. I once fell dead asleep, mid-sentence and mid-chew, with my head against the wall of the Tall Ship I was crewing on, so insanely wearying was our physical labor.

I learned early, in my 20s, that I am an extremely short-tempered person, OK, it rhymes with witch, when sleep-deprived. Given my normal personality, getting plenty of rest seems a good idea.

How many hours are you sleeping a night? If it’s not enough, what’s stopping you from getting what you need?