Last night my developer and I were hacking our way through an issue we discovered while testing our product.
Some elements weren’t rendering in a production environment.
We’d been at it for hours. I’d edit code and try again. He’d edit code and try again. We’d edit code and try again.
When I could barely keep my eyes open, I decided to call it quits. Anything we made beyond that point would be scrap anyways.
We agreed to catch a few hours of sleep and start again in the morning.
I woke up at 7AM, brushed my teeth, and got back to work.
My teammate pinged me on Slack an hour later. He said one word:
It seems we’d made some serious errors in our code the night before. Thankfully, we do version control so nothing too serious.
I told my friend and teammate to call it quits for a while. He agreed it was the best thing at that point.
Things slipped through the cracks because we wanted to work harder and longer. You know, the startup mantra.
I’m a fan of working hard. I’ve brute forced my way through many situations. I was willing to work harder than the next man. 16 hour days were the norm for me. I can’t keep it up. I don’t want to die young. My kids need a dad — not a legacy.
It’s easy to say we overwork because our boss says so. It’s also easy to justify overwork by saying the competition will catch up if you don’t constantly develop new stuff.
These reasons are true to an extent. The reality is that it’s a combination of many factors that push us over the edge.
People can’t tell if you work more or less. What seems to matter is the perception of whether or not you work your ass off. Our society raises workaholics onto a pedestal.
It’s also not helping that people like Marissa Mayer say they judge a startups chances at success by whether not the team is working on the weekends.
This culture of embracing people who work too damn much is killing me. It’s killing you. It’s killing us.
It’s not direct like a stab wound to the chest. It’s more insidious.
Overwork causes stress. Stress releases chemicals in our bodies. It’s a cocktail. The most important ones are called cortisol and adrenaline.
Everyone knows that adrenaline boosts your energy and allows you to react to environmental stressors.
Cortisol increases sugar in the blood, allows your body to better utilize it for energy, and makes it easier to repair tissue. It also shuts down or represses what would be non essential functions during an emergency.
- Food digestion
- Sex drives
- Immune response
- Growth hormones
For short term activity, stress chemicals are powerful motivators and a way to get things done. Once the emergency has passed, everything goes back to normal.
With our overwork culture, the stress chemicals never really recede. They just chill In the background and exert their influence. Over time, it damages the systems it’s built to protect.
Workaholics are at higher risk of:
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Memory issues
- Concentration issues
I don’t know about you but I’m not a fan of dying young. I’m not a fan of losing my appetite either.