Work ‘Till You’re Empty, Not ‘Till You’re Dry

Lately, I’ve been trying to live by a certain motto — work ‘till you’re empty, not ‘till you’re dry. I know that’s a ridiculous concept in a day and age when people are literally working around the clock, but I think it’s actually worth considering.

Reason being, I notice after a good five or six hours of intense, focused work — work on one specific thing — not only does my mind begin wandering, but I also just can’t think much more about what I’m doing. It’s like, I need to take a break. And then, even if I come back to it after the break, I’m still not that focused. So I just stop. And I move on to something else, or I just stop working period.

When I start up again the next day, I feel a lot better. Fresher. My thinking is a lot more clear, and it would seem like I’m firing on all cylinders. Which is to say that I don’t feel quite as burned out had I kept pushing beyond that five or six hour mark, willing myself to finish, to keep crushing it, or whatever it is people tell themselves they are doing when they are trying to complete a herculean task.

In some ways, I liken it to going to gym. You know, you go hard for a good hour, maybe an hour and a half, but after that, you’re entering territory whereby you may do yourself more harm than good. You over-train, as the saying goes. And when you over-train, you open yourself up to injuries, to fatigue, and to an odd bit of mental strain that can affect your decision-making, which may lead you to eating very poorly. That poor eating, it can completely negate everything you just did in the gym.

Point is, there is a limit for how much a person can do, and obviously with discipline and effort, you can raise that limit quite a bit. But you also have to take note of when you find yourself getting too tired, and just stop. Because when you keep pushing and pushing and pushing, yeah, things get done, but are they getting done to the best of your ability, to the standard you set for yourself? Perhaps not.

So, that’s been my thing of late, and if you have that sort of freedom with your time, I encourage you to try it out. Over the long haul, I think you’ll see your work improve. Get in, go hard for a short spell — a couple of hours — then either switch to something else or stop altogether. Come back tomorrow and do it again.

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