For over a decade, I've lived a double life - an open-source advocate, innovator, and full-time professional. As an active member of the tech community, these dual roles are quite common. Inevitably, questions like "How do you find the time?" or "Do you even sleep?" arise. For 13 years, I found myself deeply entrenched in "Hustle Culture," clocking 60-80h work weeks. But it took a year of peak earnings and a shortage of joyful memories to make me question this lifestyle: I was working hard, but was I truly living?
The Lure of Overwork in the Tech Industry
In the tech world, overwork is often presented as a rite of passage. The promise of success is dangled like a carrot, implying a direct correlation between hours worked and rewards gained. This approach not only leads to burnout but also robs us of valuable life experiences. Our lives start to resemble an unending to-do list, as we continuously chase the next project or the next innovation.
This concept is thoroughly dissected in Alex Soojung-Kim Pang's "Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less", where he illustrates how the most successful people, many from the tech industry, leverage rest as a strategy for accomplishment.
A Paradigm Shift for Tech Professionals
There is an alternative to this relentless grind. I made the conscious decision to shift gears. I began working less and focusing more on the essential tasks. This approach, often referred to as lifestyle design, prioritizes personal well-being over mindless hustle. After all, what use is success if we're too exhausted to enjoy it?
"Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeown is a worthwhile read for anyone in tech. It hammers home the importance of doing less but doing it better, providing invaluable insights for anyone feeling overwhelmed by their workload.
The Value of Rest and Leisure for Creatives
In our pursuit of the next big thing, it's easy to overlook the value of rest and leisure. These elements are not only essential for recharging our batteries but also foster creativity and productivity. Striking a balance between work, rest, and play isn't laziness—it's a proactive approach to creating a fulfilling life.
In "Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul," Dr. Stuart Brown explores the connection between play and creativity, shedding light on why many successful tech companies promote a playful work environment.
The result of this shift? Improved life satisfaction, a thriving spirit, and a more efficient work rhythm that doesn't rely on relentless grind.
The Law of Diminishing Returns and Productivity
A key principle underlying this shift is the "Law of Diminishing Returns." In the tech industry, we often push ourselves to the limit, working extra hours to meet deadlines or perfect projects. But beyond a certain point, working more doesn't equate to better results. It leads to stress, fatigue, and reduced productivity, as explored in "Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much" by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir.
However, it's important to remember that this isn't solely an individual problem - it extends to how we manage teams in the tech industry. When managers push their teams towards overwork, it's often a shortsighted endeavor. While it might lead to short-term gains, in the long run, it costs more. Team members burn out and the recovery process can be lengthy. Ultimately, this leads to decreased productivity, morale, and even turnover, which all negatively affect a company's bottom line.
Challenging the Hustle Culture in Tech
So, it's time we challenged the status quo. Overwork isn't a badge of honor; it's a health hazard. Let's question the hustle culture endemic in our industry. The next time you're asked, "When do you find the time?" or "Do you ever sleep?" consider responding with, "I make time, and yes, I prioritize sleep." Because you are not a machine, and your worth isn't defined by your productivity.
A Call to Balance for Tech Professionals
Let's champion balance, rest, and intentional living in the tech industry. We are human beings, not productivity machines. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, especially if you've had similar experiences. Let's change the narrative together.
Remember, effective work in tech isn't about working harder, but smarter.
PS. To all my fellow engineers working on Apple platforms! I've spent over a decade crafting tools and techniques to boost developer efficiency. Used by more than 80,000 teams worldwide—including at Apple, Disney, and Airbnb—these resources can revolutionize your workflow. Why work harder when you can work smarter? Bring more balance to your life and make your off-time more enjoyable. Check out my tools or hire me and let's redefine the future of work together.