The Cost (and Cult) of Working Too Much

Meeting Designed by Slava Strizh

Meeting Designed by Slava Strizh

In the United States, overworking can be a badge of honor, proof of your dedication and passion. Even for those that do stick to a 40-hour work week, chances are they’re also freelancing or working on side projects. As in a recent article in the New YorkerJames Surowiecki explains:

Thirty years ago, the best-paid workers in the U.S. were much less likely to work long days than low-paid workers were. By 2006, the best paid were twice as likely to work long hours as the poorly paid, and the trend seems to be accelerating. A 2008 Harvard Business School survey of a thousand professionals found that ninety-four per cent worked fifty hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of sixty-five hours a week. Overwork has become a credential of prosperity.

And, as Surowiecki goes on to point out, this seems hypocritical considering the common knowledge today that working too many hours has a detrimental affect on business.

The bankers Michel studied started to break down in their fourth year on the job. They suffered from depression, anxiety, and immune-system problems, and performance reviews showed that their creativity and judgment declined.

So why are businesses still pressuring for long hours? Three words: economics and habits. And with technology making us all available 24/7,  it becomes a snowball effect where no one — not the worker, not the boss, nor the company, wins. 

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Some of the Best Designed Offices in the World

Airbnb's San Francisco Headquarters via officelovin.com

Airbnb’s San Francisco Headquarters via officelovin.com

We’ve discussed before how much our working environments can have an outsized effect on our output. Luckily, Officelovin is collecting photos of their favorite offices in a variety of industries and locations. The beautiful photos provide plenty of inspiration for both home offices and company workplaces alike.

Some of our favorites include Bitium’s industrial wall shelves:

Bitium's Santa Monica Offices via officelovin.com

Bitium’s Santa Monica Offices via officelovin.com

And Bulldog Drummond’s lounge area, that looks like a real living room:

Bulldog Drummond's San Diego Office via officelovin.com

Bulldog Drummond’s San Diego Office via officelovin.com

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Tackle Your Passion Project With The 90-90-1 Rule

Wake up by A.M. Briganti from The Noun Project

Wake up by A.M. Briganti from The Noun Project

The daily grind can quickly overshadow our passion projects; emails and meetings tend to displace things like writing a book or training for a marathon. How can we strike a balance and dedicate time, attention and energy to that one special project that needs our focus? Robin Sharma encourages us to use the 90-90-1 Rule.

For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your work day to the one best opportunity in your life. Nothing else. Zero distractions. Just get that project done. Period.

Sharma urges us to not give our peak hours to meaningless work:

Just stop doing any fake work first thing in the morning. Check your email after lunch. Make your phone calls in the afternoon. Surf the Net in the evening.

A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology concluded that on average, it takes more than two months (66 days, to be exact) before a new behaviour becomes a habit. Sharma’s rule tacks an extra month onto the 66 days, guaranteeing that the habit sticks. Give the best hours of your day to moving forward on something meaningful.

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The Best School Supplies

From thewirecutter.com

From thewirecutter.com

Even if you’re not heading back to college or putting your own kids on a school bus this fall, there’s something about September that brings out an itch for new office supplies. But with thousands of options out there, and a high-price not always equaling a higher value, how do you know what’s the best bang for your buck? You ask The Wirecutter, whose writers tested everything (with “over 50 hours spent on fresh research”) to compile a detailed list of the best pens and notebooks, to dorm life products like eye masks and shower caddies, to tablets and USB battery packs. A few of our favorites include the best pen:

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The 0.7 mm uni-ball Jetstream is the top everyday pick of several widely-read pen aficionados—including our own Tim Barribeau, who wrote our guide—and costs only $9 for a three-pack. It’s “widely lauded for being super smooth to use, extremely fine, and requiring very little pressure to use,” Tim says. Every expert he’s spoken to so far has recommended it, and Amazon reviewers, who have given it 4.5 stars over 49 reviews, like its good color and constant flow, saying it’s a good pick for left-handed writers, too.

And the best travel mug is a great pick as well:

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If you want to carry your coffee around, the $32 Zojirushi Stainless Mug will keep it hot all day. In our testing, it beat out six other models, keeping coffee at least 20 degrees hotter after eight hours than its closest competitor. You can drink out of it one-handed—no fumbling for the lid latch here—and it still locks easily and efficiently, meaning it won’t spill in your bag on the way to class.
We also love that you can use it for cold liquids, too; no, that’s not the intended use, but when we tested it with cold liquids, the temperature rose only 4 degrees, the best performance of any of the models we looked at.

Others we love include their choice for best USB battery pack, headphones, and portable coffee maker.

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Tim Brown: How to Be a Creative Listener

listen

Listen designed by Rémy Médard from the Noun Project

International design firm IDEO created a four-part podcast series on Creative Listening for the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival. In a total of 30 minutes, you can learn key habits for better listening:

How to utilize your intuition: Sometimes too much information is just that. It can be overwhelming and logic can only get you so far. That’s when you need to trust your gut and ask, “What’s really important here?” “What’s going on behind the surface, the unsaid versus the said?”

How to hone your interpretation skills: Industry jargon and wordy explanations often mask the true value of something. Learning how to distill a message down to its essence, into simple, understandable language isn’t “dumbing it down,” it’s giving it wings. . .

And finally, learn how to amp up your curiosity: Curiosity pushes us beyond what we know and challenges us to look at long-held beliefs in a new light. Staying curious—always asking “Why?” like an earnest preschooler—is a critical muscle that needs to be continuously flexed if you want to have new, game-changing ideas.

By actively listening, you can find valuable information to inspire new ideas. The podcasts are rich in examples where innovative ideas have come to light because they listened to more than what was being said. As writer G. K. Chesteron noted, “There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”

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Why the Best Partnerships Are like Flying a Kite

kite

Kite designed by Luis CM from the Noun Project

In an in depth article for The Atlantic, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Nancy Andreasen shares her findings on how creatives can have an over abundance of ideas from seeing connections no one else does.  One of the participants in Andreasen’s study suggests finding a partnership similar to a kite to sift through which concepts are worth pursuing:

In the R&D business, we kind of lump people into two categories: inventors and engineers. The inventor is the kite kind of person. They have a zillion ideas and they come up with great first prototypes. But generally an inventor … is not a tidy person. He sees the big picture and … [is] constantly lashing something together that doesn’t really work. And then the engineers are the strings, the craftsmen [who pick out a good idea] and make it really practical. So, one is about a good idea, the other is about … making it practical.

With an overflowing quantity of ideas, it is important to evaluate quality. It’s not always easy to take a step back from your creative work and evaluate which ideas should take flight. Partnering with someone with practical experience can help put strings on your idea to get it up in the air and under control.

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Don’t Know The Answer? Admit It, Then Follow Up.

Question designed by Tommy Lau from the Noun Project

Have you ever lied during an interview? If you’ve ever pretended to know something that you don’t, you’re hardly alone – up to 70 percent of people have suffered from impostor syndrome at some point in their lives. 

Jason Freedman of 42 Floors told a story about a hiring process where his openness about not knowing an answer sold a candidate. Here’s why:

When people say I don’t know, it lends credibility to everything else that they’ve said.

He further explains:

Saying I don’t know… turns a question into a homework assignment.  As long as I follow up with the answer later, they never mind. And it’s 1000x better than bullshitting a half answer.

Rather than nodding your head when you don’t know what someone is talking about, or blindly guessing an answer (only to be proven wrong), give yourself permission to not know it all. Simply admit that you don’t know the answer, while adding that you’re happy to find out and tell them the answer later. Not only will you save yourself from potential embarrassment, you’ll be perceived as more reliable and trustworthy.

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