Working Day and Night

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Books, Rules of Thumb

It’s less about working day and night than working on the right things. I used to determine when I needed a break by when I was too sick to work. It’s an effective stopping rule but not particularly well thought out.

“Working yourself to death is a highly regarded form of suicide.”
Frans Hiddema

I took the day off. I read Paolo Bacigalupi‘s “The Windup Girl” and had a couple of long phone calls with folks I hadn’t spoken with in a while. Bacigalupi’s novel has a complex plot with a rich set of believable characters. It is set in a coherent dystopian future, one that I found plausible, though unlikely, but very thought provoking. He has other short stories set in the same future, collected in “Pump Six and Other Stories” that I had read earlier.  I picked up both books last weekend on my first foray into a real bookstore–made of out of brick and mortar with wood bookshelves–in more than a year.

There are different ways to take a break:

  • get a good night’s sleep
  • take a nap
  • meditate/pray
  • take a vacation
  • read a good book
  • volunteer your time

Working with technology startups in a global firm is incessant: someone is always up, sending e-mail, and your computer is always ready to work. When I worked as a furniture mover, picking up heavy objects and moving them without getting hurt, I was physically tired at the end of the day and even with an overtime assignment no one expected me to work more than ten or eleven hours a day. But mental work, knowledge work, collaborating with people, leaves me tired in a different way.

I am not sure how to develop an internal circuit breaker, I used to simply work until I became sick. As I have gotten older I no longer pull all nighters and now make a point of taking a short walk every hour or two to get a break from sitting and staring at my PC. But fundamentally there are few days when I feel like I have done enough.

Strangely, today was one such day, even though I did almost no work.

“The right track takes detours.”
Frans Hiddema

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