Guest Post: Working Absurd Hours Is Not A Badge Of Honor

The below article by digital marketing guru Adam Singer packs a ton of wisdom into a few paragraphs, and is reprinted with kind permission. Adam’s free newsletter The Future Buzz provides terrific advice on digital marketing, time management, and other success skills, and I urge you to subscribe. – Hillary

My entire career I’ve worked very hard to ensure work-life balance. Yet I’ve always been productive because I reduce meetings, refuse to give in to bureaucracy and focus on results-oriented activities and the things that really matter /  I’m passionate about.

Dinosaur managers are the worst!

Dinosaur managers are the worst!

With that, I’ve never really understood those who work absurd hours all the time or the (dinosaur) managers who insist it. I’ve been lucky and actually never worked for a company who was measuring their team’s productivity based on “butts in chairs” or demanding 12 hour days each day.

These things are ridiculous because people not interested in their work will always find a way to waste time, and for your productive, A-list employees there are human limits to how long they can work and be effective. They’ll leave you to go elsewhere if you abuse them. Besides, focusing on time at work is the wrong metric. Instead of time, create objectives / key results and measure those. If given the right tools and you automate / script the busywork, your team may even exceed your goals.

So along that line of thinking it was cool to see a post shared by my friend Alejandra on Alex’s Tech Thoughts blog which puts this succinctly:

The late night check-outs of your office.

The tweet/check-ins on Saturday and Sunday trying to humblebrag that you work weekends.

Please stop.

No one should glorify working long and hard hours. Working hard does not mean you are working smart or even getting more done. It might even mean you can’t figure out how to focus on the important stuff.

Working hard vs. working smart is something you don’t learn until you burn out a few times. I cringe when I see the young founder or business person push out that tweet or check-out about how hard they are hustling or the fact that they are leaving their office at midnight when I’m skimming my feed for news in my bed about to go to sleep. Having no work/life balance can only work for so long and it is not fulfilling. So let’s cut it out, please.

Not only common sense, but the data says working absurd hours is a bad idea. It also reminds me of the Bill Gates quote which I’ve found to be true: “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job…because he will find an easy way to do it.”

Of course the point of the Bill Gates quote isn’t to hire “lazy” people per-say. I have found these types of people actually aren’t even “lazy,” they just hate boring work and are more interested in doing important, meaningful, valuable stuff. They’ll obsess about removing the pesky, repetitive tasks from their plates to focus on the more interesting and creative tasks (which, in the knowledge economy are nearly always the most valuable). [Note from Hillary: Yeah to Adam for not falling into the perfectionist trap of using a moralizing, judgmental label like “lazy” uncritically.)

In digital marketing, you could literally work forever. There are always more posts to create, communities to nurture, campaigns to imagine, conversions to optimize and strategies to flesh out. Your growth is truly up to you. And yes I am definitely guilty of working too long, but balancing here is really the key. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and I’ve managed enough teams successfully long term to understand how to keep them motivated and excited to come to work every day: and it always comes down to balance.

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