As men, we’re told to always do more, work longer hours, and rest less. Modern society expects men to always be strong and insensitive. We must avoid showing any negative emotions and keep going because “we are men.”

In the past, we idolized Steve Jobs because he worked tirelessly (rarely less than 90 hours a week). Today, we celebrate Elon Musk’s 20-hour daily work routine. But is it really efficient? Is it healthy? And perhaps the most important question of all, is it making us happier?

Elon Musk admitted in an interview with the New York Times that he’s unhealthy and unhappy. 

Steve Jobs died from cancer when he was only 56. Many people assumed it was linked to his restless work ethic, weakening his immune system. Right or wrong, a few days before his death, he admitted: “Aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to (…) The wealth I have won in my life I cannot bring with me. What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love.”

I made the same mistakes when I started my marketing agency. After 10 years, burnout, and with a few destroyed romantic relationships, I’m here to tell you what I should’ve known before. Here’s what you need to know to avoid my mistakes:

1. Sleeping less to achieve more is a myth. Sleep is key.

Sleeping more allows you to have less decision fatigue during the day, to make better decisions, and to do better quality work. And when you make better and smarter choices, you work less as a result, and often discover faster ways to reach your goals. Less sleep decreases your performance.

It works in every field. Research shows athletes competing in individual sports sleep 6.5 hours a night on average. The legendary tennis player Roger Federer, now 40, is by far the oldest man on the court yet still competing in the top 10. He sleeps 12 hours every night. Billionaire magnate Warren Buffet prefers to sleep at least 8 hours a night. 

Here’s what worked for me: Create a consistent sleeping routine to train your body to sleep. Drink a cup of hot chamomile tea with honey. Use an essential oil diffuser with lavender. Reduce the luminosity of your house over the last few hours of the day. If you work after sunset, use a tool like f.lux. It adapts your computer screen’s luminosity so that it’s warm at night and like sunlight during the day. If needed, use a sleep mask and earplugs to reduce noise and visual pollution while you sleep. Make sure to sleep enough to be fully recovered before starting another working day. 

2. Exhaustion is a sign of chaos, not a badge of honor. Resting is key.

Being ridiculously exhausted, to the point of risking burnout, is a sign of bad time and energy management. Resting when you need to is better than quitting, said Richard Branson. Who can  argue with that?

Moreover, exhaustion is tricky. You usually feel it when it’s too late and you need a break. It’s the same with burnout. Oftentimes, it won’t take a few hours or days to recover. My body and mind needed more than a month until I was again able to work.

What worked for me: Don’t start working right after you wake up. Dedicate 1 or 2 hours in the morning before work, and in the evening after work, to relax. Work using a timer. Respect your breaks, weekends, and days off. When you are on holiday, be on holiday. Everything can wait for you to be back at work because health is more important than money. 

3. You are not a robot, and that’s good news. Your humanity is key.

Resting and trying new hobbies and activities such as painting, gardening, or visiting a local museum is known to increase creativity. Many famous discoveries have occurred during rest, like Newton when he saw an apple falling from a tree. Serendipity is a real thing!

Moreover, your body will tell you when something is wrong. Listen to it. If you’re more productive in the afternoon than in the morning, you don’t need to feel guilty. Everyone’s different and it’s what makes us human. 

Here’s what worked for me: to make sure I’m not being trapped in a robotic, tireless, and depressing working routine, I try to schedule a new activity at least once a month. It allows me to completely rejuvenate my mind and disconnect from work. Listen to your body. When you feel tired, rest so you can work better next time. 

4. Having quality moments with your woman is an investment. 

I don’t know what your dating life is like but I know for fact you will lose someone you love if you stop nurturing the relationship. That’s what happens when you only think about work 24/7. Trust me, your woman can feel it when you’re  not fully present with her. Nobody wants to feel neglected. 

Once you realize the power of an intimate, balanced, and loving relationship, you won’t go back to your old self. When it comes to rest, nothing beats unconditional love. As the saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman. 

Here’s what worked for me: to ask my woman to remind me when she notices I’m overworked. To spend quality time together daily. To consciously dedicate time to nurture and grow my romantic relationship. To remind myself daily of how grateful I am to have peace and love at home, and of how useful it is for recovering from the battlefield that is business.

5. Less work, more happiness.

Some people take weekends only to rest so they can be ready for Monday. 

In my country (France), we take our weekends very seriously. If there’s a customer who’s willing to spend a lot of money on the weekend, we politely decline his request. We respect our art de vivre. It could be defined as knowing  how to enjoy life to the fullest. 

Unlike the performance oriented American culture, we don’t live to work. We work to live. 

Of course, working hard is important for performance, but so is being happy and enjoying the journey. You are not a robot, and you don’t need to be. Rejuvenating is just as important as the performance itself. 

Here’s what worked for me: Making sure I do things I enjoy every single day. Get breakfast in bed (hey, why not?!). Go for a spontaneous walk in the forest. Get lost in a library. Whatever beauty surrounds you, stop and contemplate it for a moment. 

There’s nothing more pleasant than being highly productive without sacrificing your health in the process. Smart, modern men should stop sacrificing important areas of life such as their loving relationship and  health just because hustling has become a trend. It’s just not worth it. 

Photo Credit: @ayoungh on Unsplash.