Are you working too hard?

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world for material to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post asking the question: are you working too hard?

I’ve been a fan of the writer Oliver Burkeman ever since I first encountered his argument that many of us drive ourselves too hard, focus too relentlessly on our own productivity and don’t take enough time to relax.

His marvellous book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals presents his arguments in a particularly cogent fashion, and he also publishes an irregular (of course) newsletter he calls The Imperfectionist.

A recent issue of his newsletter suggested that many of us would benefit from working a four-hour day.

First, he argued, we’d look forward to working a lot more if the time commitment were shorter. ” It shifts from being something you have to do, for hour after hour, to something you get to do,” he said.

Second, it would give us more energy for work, ultimately making us more productive. ” Now – instead of resentfully grinding away, or procrastinating in a stubborn attempt to defy your oppressor – you’re choosing to dedicate time to the task,” he wrote. “And four hours spent in this manner, I can attest, is vastly more effective than eight hours spent the other way.

Third, we’d develop the ability to neglect the less important. “When you put a hard limit your work hours, it’s inevitable that on any given day, you’ll fail to do everything you think “needs” to get done,” he said. “In fact, that’s true whether you limit your hours or not; the limit just makes it impossible to ignore. And what happens? The world doesn’t end.”

While he describes a four-hour day as a “shock tactic,” he concludes, “the miraculous result is that you end up neglecting less of what truly matters.

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