This is something I wanted to include in the introduction to the book as well, but had to substantially reduce it due to space. So here’s the full thing (especially the quote from the Fast Company article, which is my favorite part):
Sometimes I’m asked: Can you become too productive? How do you know when you are working too much?
It’s definitely possible to work too much. Proverbs 23:4 says: “Do not toil to acquire wealth. Be discerning enough to desist.”
I would suggest that, except for certain seasons, you are working too much when it prevents you from being able to devote the time you ought to the other callings in your life (especially your family)—and do it in an undistracted way.
Now, here’s the issue: Most of the time, it’s not as though you can just flip a switch and just work less. There may be dependencies in place that make it impossible for you to slow down. Most often, I think the main problem is that we don’t know how to work less.
This is a chief reason we need to learn about productivity and effectiveness.
I don’t think that simply working a lot is equal to workaholism. I think people who work a lot take it in the chin too much. The issue is whether it is interfering with other callings and responsibilities in your life. But the mere act of working a lot is not in itself workaholism.
“Extreme Jobs,” a recent article in Fast Company, for example, notes that some people are “happy workaholics” and are not suffering from adverse health effects:
And don’t try telling them that long hours and high stress will ultimately make them sick. “There are studies that look at the impact of weekly work hours on health, and two that link it to heart disease,” says Paul Spector, professor of industrial and organizational psychology at the University of South Florida. “But here’s the kicker: In order to pay the price, it has to be a job where you’re forced to work hours that you don’t want to.” In other words, if you like what you’re doing, there’s no physical risk. “The data suggest that people who are doing it because they want to are perfectly fine,” says Spector.