These two lessons are true for every person who wants a long, happy, and satisfying career.
But it’s very hard to put that advice into practice. It took me the first six years of my career to figure that out. And I still have to remind myself that life is bigger than work.
Almost everywhere that I’ve worked in the past, there was a “perception is reality” culture.
That means looks are more important than reality. In other words: The person who’s in the office the longest appears to be the hardest worker. Now, that may be true.
But that’s not what matters. We all know that the only thing that counts is results. However, we collectively insist on looking at vanity factors like participation in meetings, hours spent at the office, and how fast people respond to emails.
It’s pathetic. At our family business, we encourage everyone to leave when they are done for the day. We’ve learned that focusing on priorities is a much better metric than only looking at the hours someone works.
And still, people find it uncomfortable to say, “I’ve finished my top priorities, I’m going home.” I get it. When you work in a group, you don’t want to make others feel bad or that things are unfair.
But think about why you’re working in the first place. You’re there to contribute. To your own company, or the company you work for.
Working too long is unproductive
Now, I’m sure people love to be in your presence for 10 hours a day, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick around so long that you become unproductive. Because that’s one of the main reasons we’ve stopped working standard 9 or 10 hour days. It’s useless.
There’s a large body of research that proves working long hours is counterproductive.
Working too much and the stress that goes along with it can lead to depression, sleep problems, impaired memory, and even heart disease.
You get the idea. That’s why my first rule of work is this:
Leave on time
The other day I was talking to my mentor about how great it is to love your job. He said: “I’ve never had a job in my life that I didn’t love. It’s one of the most gratifying things in life.”
But like my mother always says, “too much of a good thing becomes bad.” I believe that’s the same with work. Now, I’m not talking about intensity.
Don’t get me wrong, I work my ass off. Always have done. But just don’t go on for too long.
The art of working hard is knowing when to quit. But like my mentor told me, that’s very hard: “My biggest problem was that I worked too much. I left the house at 7 AM and came back 11 PM. That’s too much.”
You must protect yourself against too much work.
And it’s straightforward. Just leave the office on time.
Whether you love your job or not — it doesn’t matter. When it’s time to go home, GO!
No one needs you to be at the office 24/7. Only your ego does. Honestly, the office will be here tomorrow. Your co-workers will still be alive. You company will not go bust.
Work is about achieving results. If you can’t do that in 6–8 hours a day, you’re not effective. So instead of working overtime, read a book on personal effectiveness or get productivity training.
Leave your work at work
But don’t just go home and bring your work with you. That defeats the whole purpose.
No one thinks it’s cool when you’re closing deals on the phone at dinner. You’re also not doing yourself a service by continually thinking about work when you’re at home.
Relax a bit. Play some Call of Duty. Cook dinner for your spouse. Take the kids for a walk. Whatever.
Look, living a happy life is very simple. It’s all within our control. We can decide what makes us happy. I have printed this Marcus Aurelius quote on my journal to remind me of that:
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
We all know that money, success, fame, or recognition, by themselves, don’t make us happy. And yet, we work too much to obtain those things that don’t even make us happy in the first place.
So why do we keep working too much that it hurts us?
It could be our ego. Maybe we just can’t help ourselves. It’s different for every person. Personally, I don’t care about the reason. All I know is that too much work has a negative impact on the quality of your life and work.
What matters is that we protect ourselves from our own stupidity. We’re just like kids. We need rules to live happily and safely.
That’s why the first rule of work is that we leave the office on time. The second rule is that we don’t take our work home.
And the third rule? Let’s not worry about that for now. We’ll get to that another time. It’s time for me to go home.