"Only in recent history has 'working hard' signaled pride rather than shame."
--NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB
Overwork is the new normal. I should know. Many years ago when I was training to become a doctor, my classmates and I routinely worked eighty hours a week or more. I particularly remember my surgery rotation during my third year of medical school: in by 3 AM to start checking on my patients followed by rounds with the residents and attending physician at 5AM.
After a full day of clinic, surgery, emergency room consults and lectures, if I was lucky, I could leave by 8 PM. Every fourth night I was on call overnight and worked approximately 42 straight hours.
Things have changed... slightly. Medical residents can no longer be scheduled to work longer than eighty hours a week. There are many contributing factors but it's no wonder residents and doctors are burned out. And an epidemic of burned out doctors has disastrous implications for our healthcare system.
The problem of overwork is not unique to medicine. Since the Industrial Revolution, the American way has been to work longer and harder in an effort to increase productivity. But is that truly what we're getting? Author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang argues not.
In his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, Pang argues that real productivity, the kind that leads to practice-changing scientific discoveries, incredible works of art, writing that moves people to action, and innovation that changes how we live, comes not from maximizing the number of hours we work in a day, but from allowing enough deliberate rest (as opposed to simply "vegetating") that will lead to the insights we seek when we sit down to work.
Pang is not the first person to espouse the value of rest but he has compiled numerous scientific studies to prove his point as well as myriad examples from writers, thinkers, painters to make his point: that deliberate rest is the true key to productivity, deeper ideas, more mental and physical energy and a better life. I found it a most interesting read.
"We need tools to help us push back against the culture of burnout and overwork. Restis one of those tools."
So go ahead. Do yourself a favor and buck the trend. Say no to overwork and watch your productivity and happiness soar.