Both while getting my Ph.D. and working in the Start-Up world I have learned one thing: Everyone lies about how much they work. Of course you worked 90 hours a week, it?s because you are so hardcore and care about your Start-Up more than anyone else cares about their Start-Up. Einstein only slept 3 hours a year I heard.
I bought into the practice of overwork during graduate school and pushed it. Who knows how hard I worked(It?s probably over-exaggerated in my mind)but in graduate school at UChicago people regularly worked everyday of the week and I remember not taking a day off except for Christmas holidays for the first 3 years. I will be honest here, it made me sloppy, prone to mistakes and I often couldn?t think clearly and was suffering from emotional and physical distress. The body and mind can?t handle it. There was a running joke in the lab that if Josiah hasn?t said something mean to you yet today you just needed to check your email. I was grumpy(I don?t blame you if you didn?t like me during graduate school). It was terrible and a terrible way to live. I thought I was proving something to myself and others. That I cared the _most_. I was naive. I had more to give than just sloppy messy work and being grumpy and mean to everyone. You have more to give.
I fell into the same fallacy trap many other people also fall into, that hard work can make up for less experience or lack of skills or any other number of issues. The problem is that it can?t. Hard work is not a cure-all. It wasn?t just me, I knew many other hard working graduate students who toiled and bled and it was sad to see that most of us only did _ok_ but none of us did amazing. The expected return on investment was terrible. We published papers in medium tier respectable journals that others who spent half as much time in the lab also did. We commiserate on this now. In fact, most of the people who published high tier Scientific papers weren?t considered by many or any as the most hard working or hard core. This really pissed me off. Everyone told me that hard work brings success. Where was my Nature or Science paper? or even Baby Nature paper, come on.
Honestly, even after graduate school it took me awhile to figure it out. When I started at NASA I continued to work on weekends and it definitely upset alot of people. No one wanted to be shown-up but also people understood how life and ?The Game of Thrones?(will come back to this at a later date) works. I didn?t. I still believed naively that hard work was all I needed. I didn?t know that the government, and the business world, is more about networking and making well thought-out choices and decisions. That spending time aligning and collaborating with the correct people was just as or more important than what your project even was. This was hard for me to grasp, that in life and work, working hard was sometimes the least important skill and *gasp* I might need to do networking.
My naivety pissed off alot of people at NASA as I didn?t play by the same rules they did and it made me an outsider. (Though I will say many people did go a little too far on the ?not working thing? as much as I went too far on the working thing) But after I left NASA I learned my lesson. I figured that there could be a balance between these two things. Work and non-work.
I get it. At a Start-Up there are times when you need to bust your ass. You have deadlines to meet or alot of orders to fulfill. And of course the ever present tons of emails that need to be answered. I am not writing this saying that you shouldn?t do these things. What I am saying is that there is a tomorrow and next day and next day. In my opinion, short-term thinkers overwork themselves(that?s what I was) because they can?t see how important it is to plan and do well in the long-term and business is all about the long-term.
The company I run, The ODIN, is a retail company when it comes down to it. And that means cycles. Some days revenue is low and then some days it is high. If I tried to maximize for daily revenue I would be silly. Two $5000 sales a week would require me to make 67 individual sales of our CRISPR Kit! Hustling each day to make individual sales for people might help short-term but can be destructive long-term because I can?t invest that time in making the revenue more passive. Learn to optimize for growth and scale so that running the business becomes easier everyday. That gives you more time to invest in other things in the long run. And everything in business and life is about time investment and managing that investment.
So I stopped working hard one day. I started taking days off. And surprisingly my business didn?t fail. It got better. I can?t tell you how traumatic this was to my view on the world.
I started taking more time to do whatever I want, I learned that being a complete sloth and sitting around doing nothing for one day a week(not hungover either) helped me start my week excited and energized. One day is just for me and no one can tell me what to do. If I don?t want to answer emails I don?t. My productivity has increased more than I could ever imagine. My thoughts are clearer, I have better ideas and am more creative.
So let?s do a thought experiment. How do you imagine an organism that has a life-span of millions of years evolves? Probably not with DNA. I mean we get cancer in tens of years. What would it be like? Look like?
Maybe you stopped for a second and thought about the question?
Constantly doing things prevents you from having the ability to stop and think. For me personally, all my best ideas happen when I have stopped, maybe on a walk or in the shower or laying in bed. I have a reminder every day that tells me to take some time to stop and think and do nothing.
In business, making the best decision on a problem can be the difference between success or failure. If you don?t take time each day or week to stop and think, many times you will only be able to derive a sub-optimal answer to the problems you face. I keep a list of ideas or problems to think about. It?s crazy how little time we dedicate to problem solving through thinking. Don?t let that happen. Be well rested, be relaxed, be comfortable, think and develop great ways to solve problems.
If you look at the opposite end, have you ever been really nervous or stressed? It made it difficult to concentrate and think, didn?t it? Don?t let that be you. Your company depends on you functioning at your best, not on you working your hardest. Athletes definitely understand the importance of rest and it is not just for physical recovery. Constantly being in stressful situations deteriorates your ability to perform because mentally you have difficulty making the correct decisions.
So you get to this point of reading and think ?I have so much work that I can?t possibly work less!? What do you do? I thought the same thing early on. Then I understood I needed to outsource work, hire people, learn to automate things or find programs or apps or websites that help you. Things only get worse. If you can?t scale your email now how do you plan to deal with it when you are receiving 10x more emails? Most of the problems you will run into running a Start-Up others have dealt with also, how did other people respond?
Stop and think and sometimes forget to start back up again. At least for a bit.