Can a Healthy Hustle Exist?
“Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours per week” - Elon Musk
Ah, hustle culture. Whether it’s that 20-something entrepreneur you follow on Instagram discussing their latest achievement, or a Tim Ferriss podcast guest encouraging you to wake up at 4AM, it seems to be everywhere.
But here’s my problem with it. Why has it become synonymous with overwork, lack of sleep and burnout?
To be clear, I love the hustle: working on something you truly enjoy, bringing to life an idea you want to see in the world, adding value to society. That’s what makes me tick.
I believe you can do it without sacrificing your health—or at least, it’s working for me so far. In this article I want to share a few things I've learned along the way to help you stay on top form while you’re hustling.
The 9 to 5 actually makes sense (sort of)
I know what you’re thinking: “I’m self-employed because I wanted to escape the 9 to 5 grind.” I did too. But hear me out. Whether you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur, the line between work and rest is increasingly blurred—especially if you sometimes work from home.
When you’re not feeling particularly productive, there’s always the temptation of working late into the night to hit that deadline. We’ve all been there.
To get my business off the ground, I was under the illusion that every second counted. Slacking wasn’t an option.
But soon enough, this always-on, always-working mentality became unhealthy and counterproductive. I found that my focus, motivation and energy were all taking a hit.
In my search for a solution, I came across the practice of fixed-schedule productivity—which involves setting a fixed daily work schedule—and it completely changed the way I work.
Since implementing, I usually start my work day around 8am and finish at 5pm, without fail. Having a fixed schedule not only allows me to establish a clear boundary between work and rest, but it also makes it easier to do meaningful work without any of the usual distractions.
If you're finding it challenging to separate work from leisure, try sketching out a daily schedule. It'll probably take a few weeks until you find a rhythm that really fits. But I can almost guarantee that it'll have a positive impact on how you allocate your time.
Be conscious about your health
Being your own boss, you’d think that keeping in shape would be a walk in the park (literally). But that’s not always the case. Once the deadlines and workload pile up, and the inevitable stress kicks in, the lure of junk food and working into the night becomes all too real.
I found that having a fixed schedule actually made it easier to plan in early morning runs or evening soccer games. Even if you’re not the most active person in the world, taking a short walk every day will do wonders for your health.
A fixed schedule also means that I always have time set aside to prepare a healthy meal. Do I cook every night of the week? No. But having a set schedule means that I'm significantly less likely to reach for a pre-made meal or order takeout.
Now I think about health consciously, things have changed. I never used to think about my sleep schedule. I never used to care about my screen use before bed. Now I do.
It’s this mindset that actually led to me launching my own company, LUMES—a computer eyewear company which helps people work more comfortably in front of screens and get a better night’s sleep.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
When you’re a solo founder or self-employed, there are highs and lows. And sometimes the lows can be pretty tough. Whether you’re waiting for your next client or your next sale, it’s easy to fall into a “me against the world” mindset.
The constant stream of “overnight success” stories and “crushing it” posts don’t help either. Ever felt discouraged from reaching out for help because you might look weak, or worse, unsuccessful? You’re not alone.
It took me a while to feel comfortable asking for advice. But I soon realized that asking for help is not about letting your guard down, it’s being realistic about what you can bring to the table—and accepting that you don’t have all the answers.
Finding a peer group of entrepreneurs or freelancers or meeting up with friends and family can often help you to see things from a different perspective. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
Try thinking in blocks, not lists
I wouldn’t call myself the most organized person in the world, so scheduling each minute of my day was daunting at first—especially scheduling time off (who does that?). Turns out, I do now.
If you’re looking for a healthy productivity hack, here’s one that worked for me. Like most entrepreneurs, I used to manage my thousand and one tasks using a to-do list. But it wasn’t working. No matter how many things I was crossing off, it wasn’t getting smaller.
Here’s my problem with to do lists. While they’re great at reminding you of tasks you need to do. They’re not very productive.
Prioritizing high impact tasks is crucial. With a to do list, you might end up tackling small but easy-to-complete tasks ahead of challenging-but-crucial activities.
Psychologically it feels good to cross off a task. That's why we'll often reach for the easier, less time consuming tasks first. It's a trap that can really stifle your productivity over time.
Which brings me on to my next point: make time for focused or “deep” work. If you schedule your day in time-blocks, you’ll be able to focus on the most important tasks without any distractions.
Now I can actually schedule time to think creatively about problems—and not feel bad about it.
Be happy doing nothing
When’s the last time you truly did nothing?
My guess is that you probably can’t remember. And this is exactly what’s wrong with today’s always-on, distraction-around-every-corner world.
It’s really important to mentally check out now and again. Just like you need rest days from the gym, you also need rest days from work.
Why do your best ideas come in the shower? Because it’s one of the only times when your mind is at rest.
Try meditating, taking up a creative hobby or simply walking to get a coffee. You’ll be amazed where your mind wanders when it’s unfocused.
In the end, the healthy hustle is about finding the right balance between how many hours you put in, and how many hours you take off.
And next time you’re feeling guilty about not working, remember that science says being lazy is actually good for you. Can’t argue with that, right?
Guest writer Nicolas Deskos is the Founder of LUMES Eyewear. When he’s not cycling along the canals of Amsterdam, he’s promoting healthy hustling.