I have been working seven days a week for years. Decades, I mean. I’ve also had four burnouts. Think they may be related? Yes, but not necessarily the way you’d think.
It’s not the work that drains you. I write seven days a week. Some days less than others. But every day I have to write something. That’s because I’m a writer and, as per Steven Pressfield (see his The War of Art or Do the Work), in order to be a writer I have to act like one, which means writing every day. No excuses. Excuses are for losers get back to it right this second.
What makes me unduly tired isn’t the writing. It’s the feeling that no matter how hard I work it’ll never be enough. This feeling stems from the Impostor Syndrome, which is not so much a syndrome as a really bad mental habit.
I have suffered from this mental habit for as long as I can remember. I had it as a kid. I have reasons, or excuses, for it. But like I said, excuses are for losers. Ultimately that one’s on me.
About a year ago I decided to tackle it in earnest. I began regularly telling myself that I was working hard enough, that I was really doing my best, and that I was as good as anyone else. That my work was worth something. And so was my sanity.
My progress is slow. Painfully so. But it’s there. Now I find myself not working evenings - unless I’m finishing a big project or have an urgent deadline. In my line of work, schedules aren’t always predictable. But as much as possible, around 6 pm, I stop working to enjoy a pleasant dinner with my partner followed by quiet reading or a bit of Netflix before early bed. Sometimes as early as 8:30 pm. Because sleep is more than necessary. It’s crucial, and you deserve to get as much of it as you need.
I’m up early every day (5 or 5:30 am; around 6 or 6:30 on weekends). I train first thing in the morning for an hour or so. Then coffee, a bit of breakfast, and I start my day’s work around 8 am. By the time 6 pm rolls around, I down tools and relax.
And by “relax”, I mean: sit there watching a movie not feeling guilty that I’m not working some more. Because I could be, you know. Working some more, I mean. To avoid feeling like I’m a fraud.
I don’t think I’m a fraud anymore when I stop working after 10ish hours to enjoy a movie or a book. I used to, and it was draining me like crazy (see “four burnouts,” above).
That one small mental shift is making all the difference in the world.