Six Weeks a Month

Today I was up in Tokyo for a series of meetings with managers and colleagues to share information and make plans on a number of projects. All in all, it was a more productive trip than usual and resulted in some positive outcomes that should help a number of people solve complex problems with less stress and frustration. While at HQ, one of my new managers took a look at my time sheet for the past month and noted that I’ve clocked about 6 weeks of working time in the last month, which results in using a rather large chunk of the department’s monthly overtime budget. Given the tasks on my plate and the amount of output that comes from all this, he signed off on the time sheet so that payroll can do what they do and said something along the lines of “we’re still saving thousands a month by not hiring vendors to do your job.”

As anyone might surmise, I don’t mind putting in the hours to get things done so long as the end result is worth the effort. Most of the time the ends justify the means. Occasionally I miscalculate or make a glorious mess of things. However, the amount of work that goes into every hour that I’m at my desk is nothing to sneeze at. When I’m on the clock, I work hard.

While I’m Tokyo today I had the opportunity to observe a number of my colleagues at their desk going about their regular tasks. Servers were being managed. Accounts were being set up. Systems were being tested. Everyone was moving at a very leisurely pace, as though they had to fit two hours of work into an 8-hour day. This struck me as odd, especially as I tend to consistently beat myself up for not getting enough done in a day despite the 11-to-14-hour days that I put in. There is no denying that I’m self-driven to get things done, nor is there any point denying that I bully myself to accomplish more with an increasingly critical attention to detail in order to not only solve the problems of the day but the problems that I can foresee coming down the road if “lazy” decisions are made in the present. Watching my colleagues in Tokyo go about their day with ease, however, made me wonder why it is that I insist on pushing as hard as I do. Six weeks of work means 80 hours of overtime, which is about two hours per day. Would it not make more sense to use those 120 minutes for better things, like playing with my kid or getting some sleep?

The questions are rhetorical, as there’s no doubt in my mind that any reallocation of time would result in more stress at work as I perceive fewer things being accomplished, but I can’t help but wonder how it is that I’ve wound up in this sort of situation. What is it about my upbringing or personality that drives me to do what I do? Nobody in my family acts like I do and few have any reason to. Is this just the luck of a genetic draw?

I’ve tried on several occasions to take it easy at the day job, but any slow down generally reverts back to a nose-to-the-grindstone mentality after three or four days. There is no changing this just yet.

Hopefully the desire to succeed and accomplish complicated goals will not fade anytime soon. I’ll depend on it quite a bit over the next couple of years.