It’s late, you’re tired, and your inbox is still overflowing with unread messages. This is the moment where you decide whether it’s better to power through or power down.
On the one hand, you could power through in order to stay on top of things. There is value in that approach because maintaining control limits stress. Further, for better or worse, business rewards productivity.
On the other hand, you could power down to maintain sanity. There is value here in that rest and recovery are critical for maintaining one’s well-being. Further, it prevents burnout, which is connected to major episodes of productivity derailment.
So what should you choose?
Typically, our personal characteristics drive this decision. Things like personality, motivation, and the like.
What we should be incorporating into this decision are situational elements. Can certain people wait for your response? What does your calendar look like over the next few days? How have you been doing lately on sleep, stress, and overall well-being?
When in these moments of deciding whether to power through or power down, consider the context and implications of your decision.
I once saw a pinned tweet that essentially said the following:
“I love my job. I love to work. I’d work 100 hours a week if I could. But I also want to take lunch with a friend at a moment’s notice. And if a family member is sick, I want to take an entire month off and never check my email.”
While this example is relatively extreme, I think it nicely summarizes a paradox of working in the 21st century. Our willingness to work extremely hard is tied to how much flexibility we have.
For many, it’s more likely that we work somewhat hard and we have some degree of flexibility. Organizations aren’t just going to give employees extreme flexibility. That’s too expensive.
But if employees, in mass, staring demanding it - and offering extreme levels of commitment in return - it might just happen.
We just can’t help comparing ourselves to others.
It’s not your fault - it’s innate.
From an evolutionary psychology perspective, comparing one’s self to others ensures that we are doing the right things (and not doing the wrong things) in order to survive.
The problem is that in a world where we’re all doing relatively fine, this tendency is problematic.
We take a hit to our self-esteem when we compare to people that are "better" than us.
To ensure that social comparisons are helpful instead of hurtful, we have to take the thought process a step further.
What sacrifices have they made? Is that really what I want? What knowledge, skills, or abilities do they have that I don’t? Is it realistic to acquire those talents?
Social comparisons can either be depressing or facilitate growth. The choice is yours.