The Effect of Hours Worked on Quality of Life

I’ve noticed over the past two years that there are times when I just absolutely hate my life – I want to just get out, quit my job, and start camping in the woods and growing a beard. There are other times when I’m content with work, and sometimes I’ll even feel happy and satisfied (shocking!), proud of the systems I’ve built.

These mood swings were quite violent and one week I’d think “Fuck this Earth;” the next I’d tell myself “I’m such a badass”.

I typically work about 52 hours/week. To many people, that’s a lot. Other people are used to spending 80 hours/week in the office and I’m sure they’re laughing as they read this. To me, more than 50 hours feels like a lot, and it’s one of the reasons I want to retire within a few years, and maybe take on a part-time job, or become self-employed.

Now, I’m not happy to work 50+ hours every week. But I’ve gotten used to it. On a normal day, I will work from 8:30 until 6:30 or 7:00. Then I will go home and eat, watch some TV and do some studying/practice and then go to sleep.

It took me a long time to really figure out why my emotions were on such a rollercoaster. At first I thought it might be related to diet or sleep deprivation. While I’m sure those are factors, as I started to pay more attention to my moods, I realized that there were two primary drivers (A) stress and (B) hours worked.

Of course these go hand-in-hand, because when I’m under stress I’m more likely to work long hours.

What’s amazing to me is how just a few hours can cause such a reaction. If I cut out ‘early’ and leave work at 6 pm, I’ll be working just 47.5 hours/week. I’ll see daylight after work (well, not in the winter), and I feel like I’m playing hooky or getting away with something. On Fridays I’ll sometimes even leave at 5:30 pm and thrill at the thought of sticking one to the man! That extra hour allows me to do some things on my own time once I get home, and to recover from work.

Meanwhile, if I’m in ‘crunch mode’ and have to work until 7:30 or 8, that adds up to 55-57.5 hours/week. At that point I begin to feel stretched for time; it impacts my sleep and my ability to do what I want on my own time. Couple that with the fact that each of those hours is more stressful than normal – and you can see why I want to quit.

So stay vigilant. Something simple like leaving work at a reasonable hour could make you a lot happier about where you are. Be analytical and conscious of your emotions, and see if you can figure out what drives your emotions.

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