Think Like a Breadwinner by Jennifer Barrett

Think Like a Breadwinner by Jennifer Barrett

Author:Jennifer Barrett [Barrett, Jennifer]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Published: 2021-04-06T00:00:00+00:00

Lesson #7: Working Harder Than You Have to Is a Waste of Time

For months I was mystified by how chill my good friend’s husband, Clinton, was about his job. He came home consistently at the same time. When he wasn’t at work, he wasn’t talking or even thinking about it—or didn’t seem to be, anyway. In fact, he was building a completely separate business as a speaker on the side. And he often spent his downtime writing, practicing, and giving talks, or taking workshops to hone those skills. Yet he was in a senior management role at work and the primary breadwinner in their marriage. How was he able to disconnect and still be effective in his job? I felt like I was thinking about work almost all the time, and often doing some on weekends.

When I asked him about it, he told me that as long as he was hitting his targets (and he was) and his boss and his team were happy, he didn’t need to put in any extra effort. Putting in additional effort—especially when he had outside interests that he wanted to have enough headspace and energy to pursue—would have been a waste of his time.

It seems so logical, but this was a mind-blowing revelation to me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized this is the major mindset shift many of us need. In fact, working harder and longer hours can often be counterproductive. Devoting valuable time and energy to a job during our off-hours keeps us from being fully present with family and friends. It can undermine the kinds of outside pursuits that can pay off more in the long run. It’s not serving us. And frankly, it may not be serving our employers either.

Despite our country’s glorification of overwork—surveys have found that one-third of Americans work on the weekend and a quarter do work between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. during the week—the data show that working more doesn’t necessarily produce better results. In fact, it doesn’t take long to reach a point of diminishing returns. Stanford researchers estimate that after about forty-eight hours a week, or an average of nine and a half hours a day, a worker’s output drops sharply. And, if Clinton’s example weren’t compelling enough, a group of economics researchers released a study in April 2019 that found working longer hours than someone else in the same job doesn’t even earn you more money! It can actually lead to a 1 percent decrease in wages.

Yet women in particular have been conditioned to draw a correlation between the amount of time and effort we exert and the results we produce. It’s not just about proving our value. At school, we learned that if we worked harder, we’d be rewarded. Putting in extra time—doing extra-credit work—resulted in better grades and commendations. But the same doesn’t hold true in the workplace.

Lisa Damour, a psychologist who wrote a book about stress and anxiety in teenage girls, noticed in her own


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