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I haven’t been taking the time to do nothing lately. Even though the world has given me plenty of time to slow down, I’ve been stuck in a go-go-go mentality.
In our society, we’re taught that if we’re not being productive, we’re being lazy. This fear of laziness can affect our mindset towards relaxation without us even noticing it.
But if you don’t give yourself time to decompress, you’re more prone to burnout. The problem with burnout is that it negatively affects your creativity, motivation, and mindset – the things you need to do good work in the first place.
In this post, I’m sharing the negative side of the hustle mentality and practical tips to help you slow down without guilt.
What Is Hustle Mode?
Defining Hustle Mode
Justin Anderson defines hustle culture as “the belief that one must spend every waking moment fully exerting themselves to become successful.” If we’re not doing something…ANYTHING, we start to feel like we’re being lazy.
I’ve always tried to juggle a million things at once. Back in 2016, I was working a full-time job, getting my master’s degree, and blogging on the side. More recently in the past two years, I was trying to juggle my own business, contract work, and coaching a dance team.
There was a point when it all became too much. I thrive with variety in my work life, but not THAT much variety. I felt like I was constantly in hustle mode up until very recently.
At least in the U.S. where I live, there’s a huge emphasis on the hustle culture. I was talking to my friend recently who said her coworkers will email her at 10 pm. I remember one of my old coworkers used to send emails at 2 am.
Hustle culture is definitely romanticized. We hear stories of people grinding late at night until their hard work finally pays off. We think we need to do the same and use it as inspiration, even when we’re struggling.
I’m all for creative energy, and I recognize that it comes in waves. Sometimes I stay up late doing work because I’m inspired, but it’s not part of my routine.
It’s rare to hear a success story that involves a solid balance between work and personal life. Instead of trying to mimic everyone else’s hustle, I think it’s important to try and achieve better levels of balance. I’d like to believe it’s possible to be successful without hustling yourself to the ground.
The Problem with Hustle Mode
Burnout is real and it affects your creativity, motivation, and mindset. If you’re in hustle mode, you might be making things more stressful for yourself because your mind is constantly in a state of overwhelm.
Hustle mode doesn’t give you much time for self-reflection or the opportunity to learn and implement new things.
There’s also the issue of feeling pressured to stay busy because other people are telling you to. Just because you have free time doesn’t mean you need to fill it to the brim with activities. There is beauty in slowing down and doing nothing.
During quarantine, you might have felt pressure to take on new hobbies and learn new skills. If you feel inclined to do that, that’s great. But if you feel called to relax, that’s what you should do.
I like what D’Shonda Brown said in this article: “I see classes, seminars and webinars galore about how to “properly” use your time during quarantine and how to keep yourself busy and productive. Truth be told, I think that’s the issue. We shouldn’t feel like we have to do something just because we can.”
Do you need to slow down?
One way to know that you’re stuck in hustle mode is if you feel useless when you’re not doing something. Do you feel guilty if you take a break or don’t get your to-do list done?
If you want to figure out if you’re overworking yourself, click here to find out if you might be dealing with burnout.
5 Tips To Pause and Slow Down
How do you counteract hustle mode? Here are some tips that have helped me to slow down:
1. Notice when you’re inspired by hustle culture
When you’re scrolling through Instagram or reading books for personal growth, notice if you feel inspired by someone’s hustle. It’s obviously not a bad thing to be inspired by other people working hard. But you also need to be smart about your strategy. It’s important to do things with intention, not just because you think they should be on your to-do list. Think about ways you could find a better balance between action and relaxation.
2. Check yourself when you think “I need to do more”
Where does this thought come from? Are you trying to prove something to someone? Realize that you don’t need to do EVERYTHING. You’re already doing enough. If you can train your mind to stop thinking you need to do more, you won’t feel as overwhelmed.
3. Adjust your daily routines
Create space in your day that separates your workday from personal time. Do something for yourself in the morning before jumping into emails first thing. At the end of the day, do something that signals it’s time to let go of work (take a bath, go for a walk, etc) and try not to do any work after that.
Related Post: How To Create A Daily Self-Care Routine
4. Schedule in blank time
Add a blank timeblock to your schedule at least once a week (better yet, once a day). You don’t have to include any particular tasks or plan it out to a T. Block it off and know that it’s your time to spend doing anything but work. Something that’s been helping me is taking a weekly tech detox every Sunday. On these days, I no longer check emails or do anything work-related, which has given me some much-needed balance in my life.
5. Journal it out
To better understand your relationship with hustle mode, you may need to dig deeper into your mindset around self-worth and productivity. Here are some journal prompts to write about:
- What about being productive makes you feel good? How do you feel if you’re not being productive?
- Who inspires you in the business/work world? What type of lifestyle do they lead?
- What would your ideal work-life balance look like?
- Do you feel like you need to DO something to be worthy? How are you worthy outside of work? How are you valuable in this world beyond your work?
New to journaling? Guide my Master Your Mindset Journaling Guide.
Do you have the hustle mentality? What needs to change so you can slow down?
I hope this post has encouraged you to step away from the hustle mentality or at least try to find a balance between being productive and letting yourself relax. Let me know in the comments if you can relate!
By Leo Babauta
I don’t care about being efficient and productive just to be a better person, to get more done, to be more awesome. Cranking out more stuff for productivity’s sake doesn’t interest me anymore (it used to).
Today, I care about productivity only as it affects my mission.
I’m on a mission to change the world, and if I can be more focused, effective, and powerful as I do that … then it serves the mission.
What doesn’t serve the mission is burning myself out. I’m in this for the long haul, and rest and self-care are incredibly important.
I also don’t want to just have my nose to the grindstone. I care about the experience I’m having as I’m on my mission — it needs to be powerful, joyful, meaningful. I’m not just cranking widgets.
With that context in mind … let’s look at what is essential to this kind of productivity — what I think of as Essential Meaningful Productivity.
What’s Essential Meaningful Productivity
There’s three parts to this:
- Essential: You focus on what’s essential, not just busywork, not what feels urgent, not on what other people are asking you for (though what’s essential might be some of all three of those). This should be essential for your mission or something incredibly important to you (health, loved ones, etc.). Work on what matters. This means getting clear every day on what’s essential to you.
- Meaningful: This should not just feel like the next thing on your task list … it should feel like the most meaningful thing on your task list. You might even open yourself up to feeling like this is your purpose, your joy. This is serving someone out of love, with devotion. It’s like when I made dinner for my wife & kids last night — this was an act of nourishing them, of taking care of them, of loving them. Writing this post feels like that for me. In fact, we can bring that kind of meaning to most tasks, if we practice this kind of devotion.
- Productive: In this mode of work, I’m focused. I don’t turn away from the difficulty or discomfort or uncertainty, running to distractions or easier tasks. It’s important, it’s meaningful, it’s an act of love — and the people I’m serving are so worth this discomfort. I clear away distractions, and go into full-screen mode, giving this my entire focus.
As you can see, these three parts overlap quite a bit. Each word is really describing a different aspect of the same thing, but each is useful.
So how do you do this? Let’s look at the keys to making this happen.
The Keys to Essential Meaningful Productivity
You can actually do this in an infinite number of ways, but here are some elements I’ve found to be important in my own exploration:
- Work on what matters. Do you know your most important tasks for today? For the week? For the month? For your mission or life? This is something to get clear on. We don’t always have to be perfect, but the idea is to know what’s essential, and to focus on that more of the time.
- Structure sessions. Most of us just go through the day doing random things at random times, with no structure. Some people structure their days so rigidly that there’s no room for spontaneity or rest. The middle way, I’ve found, is to create structured sessions: 30 minutes for working on an essential task, for example. Or 90 minutes for writing. 15 minutes to process your inbox or messages. Two ideas: do your top most important task for 60-90 minutes at the start of every day. First thing. Second, do focused pomodoro sessions (25 minutes of focus on one task) 6 times throughout the day, every day.
- Pour yourself into it. Put meaning & joy into each session. OK, you’re starting a session. Make this a meaningful session — first, by reminding yourself why this is meaningful to you. Second, by pouring yourself into it fully, as if this were the most important thing in the universe. The only thing in the universe. Third, let yourself play, find joy, or otherwise /feel alive/ during this session!
- Turn towards instead of away. You will feel uncertainty, fear or discomfort around some of your most important tasks. That’s called “groundlessness” — the uncertainty of not having solid ground under your feet. Instead of turning away, turn towards this task. Stay with the groundlessness, mindfully. Be present with the fear and uncertainty, but don’t let it force you to exit. Let it be an act of love and devotion to stay in the middle of the groundlessness as you do the task.
- Put smaller things into focused sessions. It might be true that few individual emails or messages or errands are going to be essential — so under the guidelines above, you might think you should never answer those emails or messages, never do the errands. But doing errands, paying bills, answering emails — these are all important at some level. The juggernaut of your mission will grind to a halt if you never maintain the engine. So the answer is to batch less important (but still necessary) tasks into focused sessions. Spend 15-20 minutes processing email, for example. These batch sessions become essential.
There are other ways to work with these ideas. For example, you might spend half a day, or an entire week, focused entirely on something really essential. You might structure your day so that you are doing certain tasks at certain times — meditate and write in the morning, messages and meetings and workouts in the afternoons, for example. But none of that is essential to the approach.
The main idea is to have structured sessions for essential tasks, turn toward the groundlessness and pour yourself into it with meaning and joy. It’s that simple.