Mental/physical risks of working hard and how to mitigate them


It is of course best to only bite off what you can chew. And many workaholics are accomplishing just as much as someone who puts in half the hours. But! If you find yourself in a long-term all-work-and-no-play situation, what physical and mental risks do you face and how can you best mitigate them?

I'm on my second large business start-up. When my partners and I on the verge of mental and physical breakdown, we say "holy karoshi!" making light of the Japanese term, "death from overwork." But sometimes it seriously feels like we risk that. Please give specific advice. Meditation, exercise, etc. are of course acceptable answers...hopefully, however, an empathic and experienced soul has some deep thought to offer here.


Time Management Personal

asked Dec 15 '10 at 11:37
204 points

2 Answers


The first way to mitigate the risk of burnout from overwork is to, wait for it, NOT OVERWORK! :) Seriously, everyone has a different work/play balance. I find much of what I do, because I love it, part-work, part-play, so I can take on more "work" than most. Find what yours is. Can you work a 40hr, 60hr, 80hr, 100hr week? With that in mind, I set fixed blocks of time for work, and fixed blocks of time for play. And, there has to be a CRITICAL reason to deviate. Furthermore, if I must borrow time in one block, I make sure it gets moved to another area.

Secondarily to that, managing a hectic, entrepreneurial life is all about disciplined organization, after you've circumscribed your time. For that, I use a personal combination of ideas from Scrum, and from GTD, to make sure I know what I am on, what's coming and, most importantly, what I can commit to within my allotted block. That reduces the stress level immensely. IMO, stress, which leads to health and mental issues, comes more from seeing the looming pile of demands, feeling like you must commit to it yesterday, and then don't deliver.

I call it "Block And Tackle". It works very well for me.

Lastly, you have to differentiate from stress from spikes/events in the business, and from not managing your day-to-day properly. The former is acute and unpredictable; you only weather it by positive attitude. The latter is much more fixable and much more important to fix. As an analogy, the body can take one night without sleep, but can't take not-quite-enough sleep on an ongoing basis. Of course, a week of sleep deprivation will definitely kill you! :)

answered Dec 16 '10 at 03:13
1,383 points
  • +1, this has great insight! Best of which is the suggestion that you can increase your work tolerance by loving your work. This leads me to two other thoughts: (1) delegate not just low-level tasks but also ones that others may enjoy more than you, and (2) visit a hypnotist to convince you that you love all aspects of your work! :) ha! I love it, but I'm keeping the question open for a bit to see if there are other contributions – Emile 13 years ago


I would suggest looking at how you can restructure your business so that the work pressures are less, can you tell us more about your startup. the four hour work week has some good advice on this Doing things like

  1. Schedule time for family and friends
  2. exercise is very important as it will help stop your system getting run down from being in a constantly stressed state
  3. Getting a masseuse to come to your work (my personal favorite)
answered Dec 15 '10 at 12:01
522 points
  • Tim Ferris is full of it. 4 hours!! I like his book for pareto's law and such, but I never seen an entrepreneur accomplish what he claims. He's coming out with a new book that says you can make your girl orgasm for 30 minutes. Yours may end up giving you the book and telling you to look at how to restructure your pleasure organs. ;) No jk. Thanks for the advice, though I need some deeper thought on this one. – Emile 13 years ago
  • While not all of the advice is applicable to everyone, I got a lot of value in the approaches he suggests for modularizing and outsourcing the bits of your business where your not adding value. The area I got most immediate value out of was the tips around hiring a virtual assistant to do my web research for me. Perhaps you could provide some more information about your business so I can offer a less generic response. – Ben 13 years ago
  • Yea I like him. His claims are outrageous but he has a lot to offer (like his method for peeling hard boiled eggs: Thanks for your answer. Info on my business isn't required though, since my question is not how I can restructure my biz to gain more time, but rather "If you find yourself in a long-term all-work-and-no-play situation, what physical and mental risks do you face and how can you best mitigate them? – Emile 13 years ago
  • the 4 hour work week is a myth/joke. the guy knows how to market and do the "self help" bit but there is no substance except maybe the virtual assistant bit – Tim J 13 years ago
  • @Pierre, yea I just pissed at Tim because now my girlfriend wants 28 more pounds of muscle and a 15 minute orgasm. :) – Emile 13 years ago

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Time Management Personal