head shot of Zlatian Iliev


Work Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

October 10, 2022

Recently I have been thinking about how lucky I am to find a career path that fits my interests so well. It is the perfect combination of things I enjoy doing, namely problem-solving and psychology. When you really like doing something it’s very easy to get consumed by it and overwork. So I had to put some boundaries in order to prevent that from happening.

One of those boundaries is that on average I would like to be working around 40h per week. I do understand that there might be situations that warrant working more for a short period of time to put out a fire for example. I am okay with that as long it is the exception.

I respect the people capable of working 80-100-120h+ weeks for a prolog period of time. Those individuals are capable of achieving great things. Making such a sacrifice is not for everyone, certainly not for me. If you plan to work that much I would highly recommend asking yourself at what cost are you willing to do it. For me, the answer is that either my personal life or my health has to take a hit. None of which I am willing to trade for career success.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of doing only the bare minimum requirements of your job either. Far from that. I want to work with smart, passionate people and do my best to make an impact. I am very eager to learn and grow professionally but I also want to do it in a sustainable manner. Having constraints when tackling a problem makes it more interesting. That means I have to make the best use of my time.

There were periods in my career when I worked 12-14h days. What I learned from that experience is that I am unable to be at my best for that entire amount of time. On a good day, about 4 hours of deep work is all that I am capable of doing. After that, my ability to do productive work slowly goes down. There is a threshold after which working more doesn’t yield a net positive outcome. You want to learn what your limit is and know when to stop before that happens.

3 tips to make the best use of your time

Maximize the time you have to do deep, uninterrupted work. Make sure that your day is not broken into small chunks, context switching is a productivity killer. You want to have at least 60 minutes of uninterrupted work at a time. The more, the better.

In most companies, there is an infinite amount of work you can do. Write things down and spend time planning and prioritizing your tasks. You want to be doing the most impactful work. I really like the Eisenhower Matrix for task prioritization.

Last but not least, don’t underestimate the importance of sleep. Getting a sufficient amount of rest is absolutely crucial. Plenty of research has been done on the topic so I will leave you with two book recommendations:

  • Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson
  • Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Hopefully, at least someone can find value in reading this article.

Keep a growth mindset and take care!

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