We tend to obsess about hours per day/week worked.
Look what that life-hacker gets done in thirty hours a week! Wow. They did that in their spare time in the evening working 10hrs weekly. He’s been pulling 60hr weeks for months now.That’s the wrong metric.
Some people are sprinters. Some people are marathoners. Others are steeplechasers, decathletes, and boxers. You can look over and say “wow, that person is working a 12hr day, just like me”, but you don’t know what kind of intensity they’re putting into their work.
If you burn super hot, you’ll destroy yourself doing a forty hour week. A sustainable pace for you might be doing four hours of focused, distraction free work. If you burn medium, you might be able to swing the 60 hour week and still stay moderately productive. And then you have to figure in the impact over the long haul. The sixty hour, medium-rare week might feel sustainable, but only time will tell.
We’re told that if you “love your work” you’ll be “energized” by your work. That might be true for some people, but it isn’t true for everyone. For some, passionate work takes a great deal of energy and leaves you spent. Holding yourself (and others) to that standard can be dangerous.
A big personal realization was that my “normal” is not “normal” (as in my perception of normal). In eight hours I can dig myself a pretty big hole, especially if I have time free for uninterrupted work. I work intensely. I run the risk of overwhelming the people around me (and burning out). Trying to keep up with coworkers leaves me at disadvantage.
But that’s just me. My friend Gloria describes her eight hour day as “pretty chill”. She kills it, but without the same level of intensity. She’s more of a marathoner.
So…look inwards and gauge your own energy. And accept that you’ll still have distortions in how you sense time, output, and intensity. It’s “normal”.