reducing work hoursEver thought the solution to burnout is to reduce your work hours?

It seems like that’s a default reaction.

When I recognized I was suffering from job burnout that’s exactly what I believed too.

I thought to myself:

Hey, just ease up a bit. Have the talk with the boss then work a few less hours per week.  Maybe even work from home a day or two. That will solve things.”

Well, let me share that it doesn’t.

While working fewer hours per week might offer some temporary burnout relief, it’s actually a wild-goose chase.

It’s a fruitless pursuit.

In fact, if you’re experiencing burnout and someone tells you just to work a little less and relax more, don’t listen.

Here’s why…

Reducing Your Hours is Outdated Advice

At one time this may have been sage advice, now it’s ineffective.

The reality is that even when you’re not at work, you’re still connected to work.

It used to be when you were out of the office the only connection was a home phone.

Now you’re connected by a work cell phone, a personal cell phone, and at least partially stalked on social media by your boss and co-workers.

Even when you’re technically working less, you’ve got that constant “on-call” stress that keeps you from truly being free.

It hangs over your head during your non-working hours because you know you could be called at any moment.

It keeps you from making the true climb out out of the burnout hole.

Reducing Your Hours is Built on a False Assumption

The spinning burnout mind is a 24-hour situation and reducing work hours doesn’t resolve it.

It’s a false assumption that when you leave the office for the day that you’re off duty.

And it’s time to blow that assumption up and get rid of it for good.

Just because you’re not working, doesn’t mean you’re not thinking about work.

Even when you close the laptop, you’re…

  • Thinking about what you should have done at the office
  • Losing sleep about looming project deadline
  • Performing the mental gymnastics in how to prioritize your work to-do list

You may be saying to yourself “you should be able to leave work at work”.

Maybe we all “should” but it’s not easy, natural, or even possible for most of us.

Sure you can compartmentalize your work life for awhile to keep your work thoughts boxed up, but I’ve tried that experiment for a long time and it’s not sustainable.

Maybe you’re thinking that if you reduced your work hours, you could pursue yoga, meditation, cooking, family time, mixed martial arts, even downhill mountain biking to distract you but…that’s all it is…a distraction.

The reality is that when you’re dealing with burnout that last thing you need is another distraction.

Reducing your hours just becomes a distraction from the solution.

Reducing Your Hours makes Burnout Worse

Working fewer hours per week may even make burnout worse.

When employees reduce their work hours is often feel guilty.

Sometimes, they even feel shamed by their work colleagues that they can’t handle things like a “big boy” or “big girl”.

This leads to all kinds of internal muck, confusion, and even be beating yourself up…all of which makes burnout worse.

Also note that fewer work hours doesn’t usually translate into a substantially lighter workload.

Reducing your hours just means you get to cram more into a tighter work window which of course is incredibly stressful.

If you don’t recognize how stressful that can be consider what it’s like to fit 2 weeks of clothes into a single airplane carrier on bag.

It’s stressful just thinking about the packing, doing the packing, trying to fit you’re overstuffed bag through the security screening machine, and finally trying to cram it into the overhead.

That equivalent work day stress compounds burnout and makes its worse.

Work More Hours, Not Less

Ok, I’ll admit that was an intense beat down on reducing your work hours.

But I’ve got something that’s really going to help.

You don’t need to reduce your hours.

Maybe what you really need to increase your work hours.  I often work more hours now than I ever did when I was burned out.

You just need a deeper evaluation on how you’re filling the hours you have.

Here are the key questions to consider:

  1. Are your work hours filled with activities that energize you and play to your natural strengths?  Or are they filled with life draining, soul sucking ones?
  2. Are you struggling to not to think about work outside of work and fighting to compartmentalize life? Or are you ready to try something more enjoyable and creative?
  3. Are you ready for the thoughts you’re spinning outside of work (about work) to driven around work you care about, people you enjoy, and building towards a career you are excited about?

If you’re ready, I’m ready!

Focus on Quality Hours Not Quantity

With burnout, it’s incredible helpful to think about the quality of hours and not the quantity of hours.

You could be working 20 hours a week but if they’re soul-sucking, dream crushing hours then you can still burn out.


You could be working 70 hours a week playing to your passion and strengths and never experience a minute of burnout.

So is your ratio of Soul Sucking hours to Soul Filling hours set appropriately to avoid burnout?

Here’s a quick exercise to know:

  1. Pull up your calendar from last week
  2. Count up how many hours your worked
  3. Now review your hours and designate them as “soul sucking” or “soul filling”.  “Soul sucking are the hours of activities that left you feeling drained and depleted. They are the hours where work was hard and a “grind”.  “Soul Filling” hours are when you felt energized, inspired, and enthusiastic by your work.  There are also when you were so entrenched in the moment that you lost track of all space and time.
  4. Any of the hours where you’re on the fence, put them in the soul-sucking count.
  5. Now count up your total soul sucking hours versus soul filling hours.

So here’s your formula:

If Soul Sucking Working Hours < Soul Filling Working Hours = Inspired

If you’ve got more energy boosting hours in your work week, then congratulations.  Keep rocking and continue to measure you’re soul-sucking to soul filling ratio on a periodic basis.

If Soul Sucking Working Hours > Soul Filling Working Hours = Burnout

If you’ve got more soul-sucking hours than soul filling then you’re either already burned out or going to burnout.

Take the next step by scheduling a 25-minute quick fire session with me here and receive a tailored 3-step action to plan to filling your day with more soul filling work hours!

To Igniting Your Career!

Ben, CBO

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