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Hard Work Means Effort, Not Hours

March 22, 2012

Work Hard, Not Long
Our society was built on the puritan values of hard work and discipline. To this day, we are a nation of long workdays and very few vacations. According to an article in CNN from last month, even the vacations we do take have us tied to our smart phones and laptops instead of beach hammocks.[1]

 America is in the minority in this regard. Right now, two-dozen industrialized countries mandate at least four weeks minimum of paid vacation.  And that includes the Germans, who are known for their discipline, hard work and efficiency. Then there are others, like Finland and Brazil, who require six weeks, while U.S. employers are not mandated to provide any. As in, zero.

Ironically for us, longer hours don’t necessarily equate with higher productivity. Surprisingly, Sweden offers employees five weeks vacation and has a more competitive economy than the United States. And while Luxemburg requires thirty-two days of paid vacation, they are also twenty-seven percent more efficient than Americans.[2]

“There is simply no evidence that working people to death gives you a competitive advantage,” said John de Graaf, the national coordinator for Take Back Your Time, a group that researches the effects of overwork.

Have We Gone Too Far?
According to an Australian palliative nurse and author, the second-most common regret of the dying people she counseled was that they worked too much.[3] And that’s in Australia, where employees typically receive twenty-eight days of vacation, though none is mandated.

Overworking has been proven to lead to various quality of life reductions, including higher levels of stress, illness, depression, sleep deprivation, and more.

So when I say hard work, I don’t mean long hours. I mean purposefully and productively. And that applies to your leisure as well, whether that means family, travel, or your creative pursuits. Give your life your all.

What Are You Working For?
I consider myself a motivational writer and speaker, primarily in the realm of small businesses and entrepreneurship. How than could I be promoting less working hours and more leisure time?

It seems to me that despite the long hours American’s spend slaving away, not all appreciate the value of hard work. Many of us plug along mindlessly, wasting away behind computer screens, unhappy and unfulfilled.

Success is dependent first and foremost on how it is defined. Financial wealth is typically an important part of that equation, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But wealth encompasses more than just finances. Demanding excellence and working hard are not synonymous with sleeplessness, social isolation, and stress.

Work Hard, Work Smart
Imagine yourself on your deathbed, reviewing your life from start to finish. What would be on your list of regrets?

Decide now that will not live with regrets. As an entrepreneur, set yourself apart by working hard and smart. Be efficient, creative, innovative, and dedicated. But by the same token, eat well, exercise, sleep soundly, and relish and cultivate relationships with family, friends and acquaintances.

Create a balanced life in which the time you spend working is quality, focused time, and where you challenge yourself to do more than you ever thought possible. Determine that what you are working on and for are in line with your mission and values as a human being. As you shift your priorities, you will raise the bar on the levels of success you have the potential to attain in your life.


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