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Dealing with toxic work habits and fooling yourself

Aug 14, 2018 | Posted by Cristina in Articles

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I’m a hypocrite.

I’ve written extensively about the importance of keeping a healthy routine, getting the right amount of sleep per night, taking breaks and disconnecting from work. Every time I read one of Jason Fried or DHH’s articles about how toxic work habits shouldn’t be celebrated, I tell myself that I completely agree with them, and instantly hit the retweet button. I can’t wait to read their new book, called ‘It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work‘.

However, my behavior says otherwise. It’s not aligned with that mindset.

It’s been one year since The CEO Library was born, and during this time I’ve been working almost round the clock. I filled ever minute available, working on the project from the minute I got up, to the moment I went to sleep. It’s not unusual to ignore basic human needs, such as skipping meals throughout the day only to realize late at night that oops, I forgot to eat once again, joking that I’m on an unintentional intermittent fasting diet.

I work throughout almost every weekend and during the days when people usually don’t work, such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve or Easter (those are the best, cause it’s quiet and nobody interrupts me, which allows me to cross off more things from my to do list). I even cancelled a few vacations or running competitions I had planned (and paid), because I was feeling too guilty to leave. I caught myself feeling superior and judging those who can’t (or don’t want to) keep up with a similar accelerated pace.

Obviously, I do understand the importance of taking breaks, as they prevent burnout, enhance my creativity and ideas start popping up like crazy into my mind. However, when I did force myself to leave on vacation, I still felt trapped in some form of purgatory. I couldn’t really enjoy the experience of traveling, and wasn’t able to work either, cause I was too tired from being on the road, so obviously my productivity dropped.

I ended up caught in a downward spiral of damaging thoughts about how while I’m out there having fun, I’m missing out on important opportunities that might make a difference or have a compound effect. Every minute spent doing something else besides working on The CEO Library (which is still in an early, fragile state) feels like a waste of time. I can’t stop thinking about how in the meantime, other people are working hard, getting ahead!

I’m living by obvious contradictions and sometimes I don’t even understand myself. It’s hard to stop putting so much pressure. Sure, it would be easy to throw the blame on the society that celebrates this kind of behavior and puts on a pedestal entrepreneurs who work non-stop and sleep under their desks. After all, the media, books, social feeds and day to day conversations are filled with entrepreneurship p*rn.

Or perhaps I do need to work harder, to compensate for other things, such as my luck and context, because of the country where I was born, the fact that I’m a woman and society expects something else from me, that my parents aren’t rich and couldn’t afford sending me to study abroad, and so on. Maybe all those successful people wouldn’t have been so successful if they kept a healthy work-life balance.

Will I ever know? Am I willing to bet on the weight of certain factors? Am I the only one who’s asking herself these questions at night?

I’m going to stop lying to myself and accept the priorities I have in this stage of life. I do believe that, with the right amount of effort, nothing’s impossible, and I’d rather make sure that I’m doing everything that’s under my control to achieve my goals (making a difference in your life, by growing The CEO Library, that is), rather than regret (in the event that the project fails) that I wasn’t “all in”. And maybe I’ll have time afterwards to relax and change my mind about the work-life balance.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.
(Richard Feynman)

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