Is having a strong work ethic overrated?

Imagine a world where we worshipped a good “rest ethic” as much as we do a strong “work ethic.”  Where we encouraged taking time out to rest and prioritise self care – just as much as we applaud someone’s dedication to hard work. 

In our current culture of rewarding hard work and hustle it seems like a stretch.

But could it be possible that worshipping hard work is holding us back from performing at our best.  Think about how much more energy, creativity and drive you have after you’ve had a few weeks off work.


But… taking time out this year has been challenging, I hear you say.

This pandemic has caused the cancellation of almost all holidays and long weekends while piling on a load of extra work for most working professionals (not to mention the added stress of lockdown, adapting to working from home and home schooling.)

So, it’s no wonder that you may be feeling a little exhausted. 

Being tired is one thing… but what impact is it having on your effectiveness at work?

In his research, economics professor John Pencavel found that productivity per hour declines sharply when a person works more than 50 hours a week. After 55 hours, productivity drops so much that putting in any more hours would be pointless.

Fatigue and over working reduces our capacity to problem solve, think creatively, communicate effectively and manage our emotions.

The harder and longer we work – the more the quality and quantity of our work suffers. 

Intuitively we know this. We feel it in our body. We notice our thinking becoming sluggish.  We make silly mistakes and even the simplest of tasks take way longer than it should.

Yet we persist. We uphold our strong work ethic. We push through the fatigue to finish those final few jobs before calling it a day.

I wonder… How would your results be different if you focused more on defining and building a strong rest ethic?

From studying some of the most successful people, I’ve noticed that they work smart and rest hard!

They have rituals and routines in place that support them to ensure they prioritise exercise, good nutrition and sleep.  These are not a ‘nice-to-do’.  They are a non-negatable! Not occasionally when they feel burnt out – but every… single… day.

Successful people know that if they are to function at their best – they need to feel fresh, well rested and full of energy.    

Self-care is not a luxury.  It’s the foundation on which great outcomes are built.  

We need to take time out to decompress, recharge and refocus.  Just like your mobile phone – you work best with a charged battery. 

I know right now you may not be able to enjoy the type of holiday you do most years – but planning time off remains a critical factor in your professional success. One of my clients shared last week that she has scheduled one day off a month, to indulge in a full day just for her.  No work.  No home schooling.  No technology.  No commitments. 

Imagine, how could your work performance be improved by shifting your focus to building a strong rest ethic – to complement your strong work ethic?

What would you start with?

Do you need to book some time off?

Have your work hours stretched into the early evening?

Would building in a morning ritual of meditation or a walk or yoga or journaling be beneficial?

Let’s let go of worshiping hard work and hustle and shift to respecting the need to take care of our mind, body and soul to ensure we do our best work.


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