A few nights ago I was working in the late evening, as I like to do, and noticed myself doing this “just one more task” kind of thing.
I worked on this website until about 3:30a.m. before finally going to bed. The next day I was completely wiped. I couldn’t get any work done. And I realized this is actually a pattern I follow all the time.
I put in a long stretch of hours, then I’m totally depleted and need a day or two to recover. Then I do it again. Rinse, repeat.
It’s the same way I watch TV shows I’m really into. I have no self-control.
I’ve always thought of this as a bad thing. As something I need to overcome, or outgrow.
But now I’m not so sure.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we’re all wired differently and we’re so much happier and more productive if we play to our strengths rather than try to conform to some external system.
I know some of you are thinking, “Geez, that sounds terrible. I could never live that way…”, and that’s ok. My point is that I don’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all” way of working anymore. And you shouldn’t either.
This is what frustrates me about so many companies and why my few experiences with employment have largely been miserable. I’m not sure I believe anymore that productivity can be forced.
I used to. I saw my lack of ability to force myself into the 9–5 as a character flaw, as laziness. I just needed to put on my big boy pants and get shit done, just like everyone other grown-up…
Not anymore. We live in an age that affords us nearly unlimited possibilities. It’s more possible than ever to create your own future and mold it however you see fit.
And that’s fucking awesome. It’s not entitlement. It’s not laziness. It’s not a problem of extended adolescence or a poor work ethic. It’s a different world. And why the hell would I not take advantage of it?
I’m so tried of always trying to conform and fit into a system that always leaves me miserable. Don’t even get me started on modern job hunting (that’s a different, much longer, and profanity-laden article).
I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the term “binge working” anywhere, but it’s exactly the way I work. And it’s a completely valid, productive way of working. And, best of all, I’m … happy. Yeah, I totally am.
Here’s the cool part. My struggle with procrastination has gotten so much better. I still procrastinate (let’s not get carried away)… But now, I don’t feel so bad about it.
Don’t feel like working? Fine. Don’t work. I know that sometime in the next 48 hours, I will feel like working, and I’ll get far more accomplished during that binge than I ever would trying to force myself to be productive right now.
I hope you’re listening, employers. If you’re so concerned about employee retention and (as you say) employee happiness, maybe start giving your employees some freedom. Treat them like, oh, I don’t know … adults? Yeah, that’s the word. Adults. If I can raise three daughters, I’m pretty sure I can figure out how to get my work done in a way that doesn’t ruin my life. And if I can’t? Fire me and hire someone who can!
Did that sound angry? Yeah, that sounded angry. Moving on…
The reason this makes so much sense to me is because I’ve noticed this pattern all over my life. Everything is a cycle of effort and recovery. I sprint and then I rest.
Think about it. Sleep, exercise, food, fun — it all follows this pattern. Well, duh, you say. But none of those things I force to happen. I eat when I’m hungry. I sleep when I’m tired. Why not work when I feel energized to work?
I know, I know. What about the guy that said “I only write when I’m inspired and I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at 9a.m.” Cool. Good for that guy. If that works for you, then do that.
But, if you’re part of the little (or maybe not so little) tribe of people who like to focus on one thing at a time and milk the shit out of it (binging, I believe it’s called), then just do that and don’t feel bad about it!
This is a long way of saying, you be you. But, I think there’s actually some merit to the idea of binge-working, beyond personal preference.
Maybe it’s all semantics and I’m just rearranging the furniture. That’s possible. But, for me at least, giving it a name and embracing it, has made a big difference.
So many of our ills are self-imposed. I hereby give you permission to work how you see fit.
Now go forth and get shit done.
Originally published at avclark.com on January 5, 2017.