Overwork your way to Mediocrity or Catastrophic Failure [Videos]

For those afraid of failure or those who doubt their own capabilities, fatiguing themselves by “working yourself to the bone” sounds like a great motivational mantra but science has proven that it is wrong. Not that having spurts of super productivity and superhuman effort are not absolutely necessary sometimes, but most of the time they are not and energy should be saved for those times when it is required. As much as we want to reach success yesterday, working yourself to the bone constantly is just going to trip you up and delay your success. Balance is more important than getting there faster. Science has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that fatiguing yourself mentally not only leads to mistake but can make you sick and can create permanent changes in your brain. Mark Zuckerberg famously recently made a point about why he uses the same trademark “uniform” each day (see video above), and that is to save mental energy. The less choices you need to make the more energy you have to spend on crucial things!

Working intensely and focused is an absolute for success but fatiguing yourself in doing so is not only unwise but counterproductive and dangerous for the business. How many deadly accidents have been attributed to fatigue? How much have these catastrophes cost the business? How much has the little mental errors caused by fatigue, that were not catastrophes by themselves, but which led to eventual failure or poor performance cost businesses? Working your butt out means different things to different people. My wife has zero energy it seems, she can take no more than 8 hours without crashing big time. I have a lot of energy for work (because to me it is pleasure I guess) so I can easily put 10 hours (decreased from about 14 hours when I was younger) without a problem and still be fresh for the rest of the day. I guess a lot of this has to do with attitude and the body’s energy levels. For example if I am dealing with a lot of numbers and repetitive work, I can hardly deal with 5 hours before I space out, but if I am doing my normal never monotonous work, I am good to go and energized for 10 hours easily. I can easily go 24 hours without loss of productivity if the work is truly inspiring (but I will crash for the next 3 days)! We all have different capacities and we should recognize this in ourselves and businesses should as well, particularly startups where the work load is crazy.

Mental fitness is no different than physical fitness and often quite connected to physical fitness. People with more mental fitness, like top athletes, can really show the rest of us off by working double what we can do because they have that much mental energy, but these people are as rare as top athletes are. However, like physical fitness you can “exercise” your way to more mental energy and there are several startups working on this issue already. Chronic fatigue can be very damaging and working hard and focused for the length of a person’s energy level is the best someone can do to produce well for that day and for the long term. We each have varying degrees of mental energy and some can work way more than 8 hours and some still only 5 hours, not working past our limits for prolonged times is the important thing. We need to recharge with other kinds of activities that actually let your work batteries recharge and keep you productive long term.

If you look at productivity studies you will see no matter how sharp and strong you are; productivity decreases wildly after you hit your energy level and are on reserve batteries—even if you are not aware of it. Here is a video that speak towards this:

It is simply counterproductive to work beyond your energy levels as you are constantly running on half empty batteries and the chronic low energy will decrease your output and impact the rest of your life as well. For the business having a fatigued workforce is just as bad as not getting the work done in time because it builds on itself and interferes with all future projects since it is chronic and unrelenting.

If the work a person does is their passion as it is mine then work becomes pleasure to a certain extent and it does recharge easier and makes you lose less energy. I absolutely LOVE what I do and for me 90% of my work is fun and engaging and pleasure. I do stop when I notice little errors that my mind starts making and I seek a different kind of pleasure just as hard as I do work—because for that different kind of pleasure I have full batteries that coincidently also recharge my work batteries. Pleasure and energy are the keys, as long as you have energy for what most people call “work”; do it and enjoy it as fun, then turn your energy to another kind of fun totally unrelated to “work” and you will find a new vibrancy in that! Just remember that fatigue, whether you acknowledge it or not is the greatest enemy of productivity and greatest friend of ! Quitting at a good time and starting fresh the next day will keep you more balanced and energized rather than going an extra 4 hours with decreased productivity and incrementally decreased productivity from poor rest and continually building generalize fatigue!


Work until you drop can make the business drop eventually from fatigue mistakes.

Measure human energy levels, not time, and find incremental productivity rather than incremental fatigue.

Human productivity has little to do with time worked but rather with focused energetic work.

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