Lessons from the overworked.

You know its been too long when spammers are comfortable filling up comment space…

At the end of last year, I figured Id learned a few things. My bad workload planning had left me burning the midnight oil too many times and I was quite tired and unhappy with my failure to organise myself better. I get that some people thrive off overwork, but Im not one of them. I lost too much of my early twenties to stress, I didn’t plan on doing it again.

Normally those sorts of lessons die with the memory of just how hard it is to work too much, but this time, I feel like it sparked quite the long term life revolution. So here goes:

1. Money isn’t that important after all

One of the main responses to my (endless) complaining of being overworked when I was turning down invites, spare beds for friends and generally everything that people are used to me having in bucketloads… was ‘ah well, at least you’re earning heaps’.

I always suspected that money wasn’t that important to me. Security is. Money is only able to buy security and the ability to no worry about money. Im not extravagant, but I do believe firmly in a balance between earning, spending and saving/investing, I was unsure of where that balance sat.

Last year, I earned a lot (‘a lot’ is relative, but for me, it was a decent chunk of cash). At some point in the year, it became very apparent that the downsides of overwork far, far outweighed the extra money.

This is important, because I felt like I was in the unusual position to actually test my theory. That lesson stuck.

2. Living is important

Last year, I didnt do an awful lot of living. There is something to say about being time poor changing your decision making process for socialising. You make better decisions, you learn to appreciate your down time and as a result, you really start to live by the mantra ‘on your death bed, you will never look back and wish you worked more’.

I definitely have a tendency to take work life seriously. I think you need to give work and clients the respect they deserve, and I still believe delivering is far more important, on a day to day basis, than a drink with a friend. But alternatively, learning to say ‘no’ to a project so that long term you dont have to make that sacrifice is also very important.

Life is shockingly short and I genuinely believe now that you have got to get your priorities right and not let years slip by without seriously questioning how much of it you spend working. This is not to say that I, in any way dont like my job. I still think I love my job more than virtually any one else Ive met, but I do think it needs to be balanced with non-work. 40 hours is a magical number plucked randomly to be a work week. I cant believe the number of conversations Ive had with people who feel trapped their desk for those 40 hours a week, despite the fact that some weeks they have 50 hours of work to do, and others 30.

There is great joy to be had walking out the office at 2pm or 11am some days when you are uninspired, the sun in shining and you have a niece to spend time with.

3. Ego is not important

Ive had this nagging feeling for a couple of years now that some of my work decisions have been based on ego. Having employees so I can claim to have a ‘proper company’, having the ‘next big idea’ ready to go, planning to make a fortune off business ventures etc etc…

I still feel a little weird about admitting that as of this year, I dont feel as driven any more. It was a major relief to allow myself to accept that its actually ok to not stroke my own ego and present a driven front to the world. Some things have become far, far more more important. And I genuinely feel that this has been the best revelation of the year. I actually think its life changing. Its definitely funny, and I do feel when explaining this in various ways, in some circles, there is a definite vibe of ‘you must have been a failure’ as a result. Ive heard others mention the same thing after something has made them feel similar to me.

Once again, this is not to say Ive closed my mind to starting the next big thing, growing another company or any number of other things. I just dont feel like its the only option any more, and I think I would be happy with the success of my life if it never happened either. May seem a small revelation, but believe me, its an important one.

Lastly… Sorry for the complaining

The rise of #FirstWorldProblems makes it a little awkward to ever complain about anything that’s not the end of the earth… I really only wrote this as a positive thing and with full gratitude that I have the time and energy to even think about these things. While I agree, first world problems, especially these kind of ones are very trivial, I also think if you are in a position like me, you have no excuse to not work hard to live the best life you can. :)