8 Hour Workdays Are Slowly Killing You

By Jeff Fermin | Small Business

We all need to remember to just relax.

I believe in working smarter, not harder. I think it’s an important thing to understand, because working harder won’t mean that you’ll be more productive. In fact, you might actually be less productive.

If you’re a workaholic, trust me, you’re doing more damage to yourself than you probably realize, and you’re not being more productive.

We often blog about productivity, and like a lot of people out there, are constantly on the hunt for productivity “hacks”. I think we all might be fooling ourselves.

“Not only is workaholism unnecessary, it’s stupid. Working more doesn’t mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more.” – Jason Fried

Numbers Don’t Lie

First, let’s look at some data, so that you know I’m not just making this stuff up.

The first piece of data I’d like to point to is a study that found that spending too long in the office resulted in a 40 to 80 percent greater chance of heart disease compared to an eight hour work day.

The second thing I’d like to point you to is a 2011 British survey that revealed that doing more than 11 hours of work a day raised heart disease risks by 67 percent.

The third, is about concentration and focus. Do you know how long the brain can concentrate for? The answer might really surprise you.

12 seconds. That’s not a typo. That’s based on scientific research.

“Your neurons can fire for a while with the energy they have in them, but not for long: After a dozen seconds, each needs more energy”.

This quote is from research psychologist Peter Killeen. I recently read an article in Fast Company where he talks about this and how it relates to ADHD. What he says is actually very interesting – that everyone has at least a little ADHD. According to his research, people with and without ADHD have attentional behavior that’s different in degree, not in kind.

I’m a really big believer in the fact that there is an over-diagnosis of diseases, and pills seem to be the answer for everything.

I won’t go into a rant in this blog post, but I think there are a lot of missed opportunities and lots of cases of talent that is not being nurtured properly.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite TED talks, called “Let’s Raise Kids To Be Entrepreneurs”.
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Manage Your Time

Knowing all of this, we need to be prepared to be distracted. Instead of trying every trick in the book to be more productive, we need to understand that the way the mind works is not meant for long tasks of work.

Don’t be upset if you’re mind is wandering from task to task, it’s perfectly normal.

I remember reading an article from Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan, and the last sentence really stood out at me.

“I find that people work work work and don’t think think think, and that the percentage of time people work versus think is off. I’ve tried to shift that, and I try to think a lot and try to increase the amount of time I spend thinking about things versus on the phone or in a meeting or emailing people. So I see people working a lot and I say what’s your time spent thinking versus working?”

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff from Jon Maxwell. One of my favorite posts of his is about how managing time is literally impossible.

What he says makes a ton of sense. Instead, we should be managing ourselves, which is why I believe so much in personal development. Always work on improving yourself, and making sure that you’re working the best that you can be.

The real secret, is prioritizing.

It’s important to remember to take frequent breaks, and to try and not overwork your brain.

There are a lot of fun team building activities that you can do with coworkers to take your mind off of whatever you’re doing.

Health Effects Of Sitting All Day

As if the studies I was linking to earlier weren’t enough, the effects that sitting for extended periods have on your body is scary to think about.

I’ve actually written about this before, but let’s go through some of the big ones again.

  1. Risk of heart disease goes up by 64 percent
  2. Sitting 6+ hours per day makes you 40 percent likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than 3, even if you exercise.
  3. People with sitting jobs have twice the risk of cardiovascular disease than those with standing jobs
  4. After 2 hours of sitting, “good” cholesterol drops by 20 percent

Check out this amazing infographic for the rest of these scary statistics.

The point I’m trying to get across is don’t sit all day. Get up, walk around, go talk to some co-workers. In fact, get up and walk around at least once every 30 minutes.

How To Make It Work

The most simple piece of advice I can give is you is don’t stay late to finish work. It’s unproductive, and you’re wasting your time.

Go home, get some rest, and get started again tomorrow. If it can’t wait until tomorrow then something’s wrong. You might need to learn how to plan and prioritize better.

The real truth is, it all leads back to having a good company culture. If you have a good company culture, then chances are you might not have to worry about most of these things, because the environment will be set up (maybe even incentivized) for you to work this way.

Every successful company I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking to seems to get this concept.

They all have a relatively flat organization, and some even have a completely flat organization. Even in flat organization styles like holacracy, which I’ve spoken about many times, there are still leaders (usually founder/CEO) who will set the overall vision and direction.

It’s their responsibility that the culture never turns into one of workaholism. Remember the Hubspot quote I mentioned earlier, and spend more time thinking.

As I’ve been sitting here for the past few hours writing this post, I’m realizing it’s time to get up and go for a walk, my back is starting to hurt.

Do you believe that workdays are slowly killing you?

What do you think? Do we all work too much? Let me know in the comments!

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