Henjo Hoeksma
Henjo Hoeksma

I decided to work ab-normal hours

Huh? You might wonder what I am talking about... Ab-normal hours? What is ab-normal hours? Were you working normal hours before? What the heck are you trying to communicate?

Well — let me try to answer that!

Normal vs. Ab-normal

Normal is so much as the accepted norm of doing things. Ab-normal is, well... the opposite of that. But I guess that's nothing new to you ;-)

Usually I really don't give much about the norm. Most of the norms are inventions to live a mediocre life —and that is absolutely not what I am aiming for. So that would fit well with working ab-normal hours right? Let me explain what normal hours for me mean —at least over the last half year.

The last half year working 40+ hours has been normal for me. Starting a business, working in the (web) development industry in general and figuring out new stuff in order to keep up with everything, ushered me into a life of working 50 to 60 hours on average. I do not complain. I know most of this has been a choice I made myself. Though sometimes a little more unconscious then I would like ;-)

My reasons were valid: in the circles I am in, people are working many more hours then I did (at least in my perspective), so I felt the peer-pressure to do the same. Not that I had to, but you know how it goes: it just doesn't feel right when one is doing more than you. I was left with the feeling that I should do more. It didn't matter when talking about it with people, they were more than eager not to put their working hours as a facto-de-standard —and certainly gave me the freedom to do as I thought was best.

Another reason was simply the amount of work to be done. Thoughts like 'if I do this now, I can be free to focus on something else tomorrow' and 'we just have this deadline and else we're never going to make it' are great stimuli to just work another night.

Reading & knowing

The last couple of weeks I have been reading article after article1 about being productive in the context of working lots of hours. Articles describing it is just the way to go when starting a new business. Articles talking about sacrifice to achieve the goals you have set. But also articles that describe that working much hours is actually counter productive. Articles about people deciding to just stop working 60 hours per week and work no more than 32 and being more productive in those 32 hours then working almost twice that amount.

I knew in my gut working hard is not the same as working smart. I also knew being exhausted after an all-nighter —just because you're so much in the flow and making so much progress— would mess up the day after, and most likely the day after that as well. Doing an all-nighter simply means depriving your body and brain from the rest you need, resulting in a lesser ability to focus in the days to come.

We all know: knowing something isn't the same as doing.
And trying is absolutely not the same as achieving.

I also knew —and was most lovingly reminded to that of course by my wife— that the effect on our family is not nice. (Not nice being quite an understatement...)

In order to succeed in life relationships —and especially family— is of undeniable importance. We are all born out of the womb of another human being. We are literally born into relationship. Without it we grow unhappy, weirdly detached from real life and with that the chance to be successful, really successful.
I am not talking about the mere outwardly successes of having a good job, making lots of money and being able to buy all things you would like. I am talking about being successful in terms of your inner-man, your character and your general state of happiness.

Plain simple: working so many hours, getting tired and my mind always at work-stuff, put me in a position to my wife, kids and friends where I simply do not have the energy to really, heartedly listen to their stories, enjoy the time together (you know this time is precious — after all: I could be working you know!) and enjoying life.


Overall the conclusion was inevitable: this had to change. I needed to change. And hence my decision. To work —for me— ab-normal hours, setting a new norm.

A morning after the day after my last all-nighter (you still follow?) I woke up, took a shower, got dressed and the first thing I said to my wife after 'good morning' was: 'I am stopping this. From now on I will only work 40 hours a week. I will no longer work in the evenings. If I open the computer, it's because I want to do some fun stuff, write or whatever, but no work!' I told my kids right after: 'If you see me behind my computer it is okay to talk to me and to disturb me, because I am not working.'

Over the last few days I have redefined that decision to be more fitting and not restricted to an amount of hours. My decision is to be free to work during the day. I am also free to do other stuff if needed/wanted during the day. I will no longer work evenings. Not even when there is a deadline. I might get up early to get an extra hour of work, I might not. But I will have time to do something else but work2 and fulfilling the demands of setting up a business. The business will succeed anyways, regardless I work less hours. Maybe it will thrive actually even more! Remember: success is not always what we in our business think it to be.

1) Most of these articles came skimming through Medium and the links in those articles pointing to other articles, blog posts etc. And heck, even some scientific stuff on how the 40 work-week came into being and what scientifically was proven as bad side effects of working too much hours a week.
2) I am currently writing a follow-up article on what these other things actually are...

Please give feedback and share your experience! Aren't we all learning and growing? I'd love to learn from you or be encouraged by you!