why overwork is a flawed strategy

i think overwork is a flawed strategy for two reasons:

  1. it creates a perception of a volume of work that is unsustainable
  2. it undermines strategic thinking

on this first point, people who overwork make it look like it’s possible to do more work than is actually sustainable. this happens at the level of individuals all the way up to top-level leadership.

when individuals low in hierarchies do it, it just creates false expectations of how much work one person can do. this, in turn, creates perceptions in other people’s minds about what someone’s capacity should be and that influences how much people rely on or expect from someone.

when leaders do it, this effect is magnified. because people high in hierarchies tend to do lots of delegating, when they overwork and overcommit, they spread their excess work onto the people who report to them. this embeds the people around them into the same cycle of overwork. it then creates a perception that an organization’s capacity is higher than it actually is.

the result of this is that it creates the necessity for more overwork because now that’s where everyone (culprit included) thinks operational capacity should be.

now, i could see this as a strategy to grow an organization (by operating over capacity, that could make the case for hiring more people to do the work). unfortunately, i’ve never seen hiring people (a) lead to less overwork and (b) not ruin people’s lives in the process.

now the second point is, imo, the most important reason overwork is a flawed strategy. spread attention undermines strategic thinking because, again imo, good strategy is creative and inability to focus undermines creativity. when you as an organization leader are busy being pulled in different directions, you don’t have time to step back and think. and as so many people have said before, breakthrough moments often happen in downtime¬†when your brain is processing information in the background.

these two reasons are just more parts of why i’m committed to not overworking. i hope, over time, that this reality becomes increasingly clear to more people so we can shift this part of our culture.

writing: 14:14
spell-check, link-finding, & formatting: 15:55