Working Hard With No Regrets

Posted June 2nd, 2011 in Observations and tagged , , , , , , , , , by Greg Bayer

Working for a startup usually means putting in more hours than others. Recently, I spent two days on less than 3 hours of sleep in order to push out our new Pulse.me release. This doesn’t seem strange to me and didn’t make me unhappy. In fact, it was one of the most exciting and fun things I’ve done in a while. However, after mentioning it to some friends, I realized not everyone understands why it can be good to spend so much time “working” to build something you believe in.

Upon hearing about my sleep deprived state, my friend sent me a link to the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed along with the comment “you might need this.”  I appreciated the link and enjoyed the reminder to live life to the fullest, especially with regards to keeping in touch with friends and loved ones. I also realized that my friend didn’t understand that for me the long hours I put in are all about fulfilling my dreams of creating new technology and impacting the world in a positive way. According the article, not chasing after dreams is people’s #1 regret.

Of course there is an opportunity cost to time spent on any endeavor and this inevitably contributes to spending less time with friends and loved ones (regret #4). I believe maintaining a healthy balance between the two is critical. Simply “working less” (regret #2) would not make me happier. Chasing after dreams is an essential part of my life. The feeling of fulfillment I get from doing so makes me a much happier / more content person, and this in turn positively affects my relationships.

However, sometimes I do get caught up in chasing my dreams and forget to make time for friends and family. Just like realizing dreams, successful relationships are built on quality time spent together. I always appreciate being reminded to dedicate more time to this essential part of life, as I was today. I’d love to hear your thoughts or personal experiences on achieving the right balance.

Disclaimer: This post was written in a sleep-deprived state.

  • just remember that what you think is revolutionary today
    will be thrown aside tomorrow

  • Tom

    “Working less” as a regret is heavily founded upon the traditional concept of working a job you don’t like 50 weeks a year and take two weeks of vacation to do what you really want, plus compensate for that job you don’t like by buying more stuff. Seth Godin covered that pretty well in “Poke the Box.” It’s a great culture for an industrial age – work a boring job, buy more stuff so companies can sell more stuff.It’s also getting outdated as people realize that buying more things or going on better vacations doesn’t make up for spending 60% of your waking hours doing something you don’t really like.

  • Paul Keeble

    Would you code drunk? What about high on drugs? Sleep deprevation of that amount reduces your cognitive ability so much that you would fail many complex task tests in the same way as if you were.

    Its not cool to work like that, it produces poor quality work that you’ll be maintaining and fixing for years to come. Consistent reliable release of features is what you need to aim for, not half killing yourself to get stuff done a little earlier in any way possible. Start taking pride in the quality of the work you do!

  • Etienne Neveu

    Great post about prioritization. Though I’m not sure about the sleep-deprivation part. Sleeping too little is bad for focus and for health ( http://www.usmansheikh.com/random/a-lack-of-sleep-can-kill-you ).