It’s a common myth in American culture that hard work pays off. We’re told from a very young age that if we want success in life, we’re going to have to struggle for it. Often times this lifestyle encompasses other less-than-optimal attitudes like choosing to compete and trading invaluable resources like time and health for lesser resources like money or temporary success.
I’m definitely a victim of this mindset. When I first started this website, I can remember spending upwards of 12 hours a day optimizing and tweaking anything and everything I could get my hands on. And don’t get me wrong – I learned a lot – but I got burned out fast.
After a few months of spending way more time than I should have blogging, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. You’ll notice that, in the archives for example, June of 2011 only has two entries. I simply got tired of spending so much time doing it so I had to take a break.
I can hear you thinking: “But you wouldn’t have the results you have now if you didn’t work so hard.”
It’s true, hard work does generate results. But it’s not the most intelligent way of achieving things. Working really hard at something will definitely yield progress, but the problem is that that progress often comes at the cost of other parts of your life. You can bet I didn’t have much of a social life during that period, and my inner stillness was very lacking with all the crap I was focusing on doing all the time.
But what if there was a way to generate the same excellent results you’re used to without sacrificing your free time or mental health? Luckily, there is. This is essentially the illegitimate, lesser known (but smarter) offspring of the “work smart, not hard” cliché:
Don’t Work Hard; Instead Work Consistently
Consistent effort is what will produce results in your life. Marathon workaholic sessions will do little more than frustrate you in the long run. Sure, you may get some short-term results, as I mentioned, but you are sacrificing a whole heck of a lot for little overall reward.
Additionally, unless you take the extreme approach of working really hard AND really consistently at the same time (which will kill you), you’ll actually get much more results from consistent effort.
For example, right now I get up at 10 in the morning and work on various website related activities until about 4pm. That gives me a solid 6 hours, 5 days a week to spend on generating traffic, creating awesome content, and reaching out to my readers (that’s you!).
I find it much easier to balance this time when I have a regular schedule. Back when I was doing marathon sessions, I would often get sidetracked on an obscure programming problem and spend 12 hours achieving nothing but frustration.
When I have a specific timeline to follow, I tend to focus on more effective tasks, yielding greater results. Plus, I avoid the burnout that inevitably occurs if I spend too much time focusing on one thing.
And this all is part of a bigger concept about finding balance.
Finding Balance in Your Life with Work
Part of my “never work hard” paradigm is that life should be easy. If you find that work is a complete drag for you, chances are the problem is manifesting from one of two things:
Your work isn’t in tune with who you are and what you love OR you haven’t achieved balance between your life and work.
The former is the subject of another article, but the latter can be addressed here.
There are a lot of different aspects to our lives as human beings. We can arbitrarily split that into as many sections as we want, but I’m going to mention a few main ones:
- Work (whatever you do to keep busy and pay the bills)
- Play (anything you do for fun)
- Social (family, friends, events, etc.)
- Health (duh)
- Inner (meditation, introspection, joy)
If you focus too much on any one area, all of the other areas will suffer. Likewise, if you don’t focus enough on one area, everything else will degrade too.
When we do lots of really hard work, our natural life balance starts becoming skewed. If you’ve ever worked late hours in the office for a week or more straight and you know what I’m saying. All of the other areas (play, social, health, inner) take a big hit at the expense of one (work).
Repeat this pattern long enough and you’ll end up with a very unbalanced and unhappy life.
The solution? Create your life in such a way that you never have to work hard again. Being consistent will give you plenty of results, and as a bonus you get to keep your sanity.
Also, don’t forget to connect with me so you can keep updated with all my super awesome content. Bonus points if you click the StumbleUpon button below.