4 Ways to Achieve Ambitious Goals Without Falling Into the 'Hustle Culture' Trap

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Setting goals and maintaining them is an important part of succeeding at work and leveling up your career. But when should work and career goals come at the expense of your health — physical, mental and emotional — and come before your family and personal life?

Hopefully, the answer is that work never comes at the expense of yourself and your health. But oftentimes, we’re sucked into a culture of overwork, where it doesn’t seem like we have any choice but to work. Other times, we have unhealthy working conditions that threaten our health. Most times, we have no choice but to work — to maintain our finances and monetarily take care of ourselves and the ones we love.

Overwork isn’t healthy, or even productive. But the infamous “hustle culture” glorifies it and can make us believe we have to work overtime to get ahead.

“Hustle culture” values overwork as the only way to succeed. It believes that workers should do anything they can to achieve their work goals, even if it comes at the expense of their health and personal life. It is a culture where people are praised for 80-hour workweeks and where working hard, long hours is the key to success.

While success at work is important, it doesn’t have to be defined by hustle culture. You can still reach ambitious goals without sacrificing your health and life outside of work. Here are a few ways how.

1. Set boundaries.

It’s a cliché for a reason — setting boundaries is a crucial way to delineate between work and life. Studies show that you’re actually more productive when you have clear boundaries and take regular breaks, as long as you’re intentional about it.

These boundaries can be set in many different ways. They can be as simple as a calendar block during a lunch hour or turning on “Do Not Disturb” or auto-responders during certain hours. It can mean scheduling in break times to your day. 

If people continue to violate these boundaries, it may mean having a conversation with your managers and coworkers about how important these boundaries are to you — not simply for your health, but for your productivity and their success, too.

2. Redefine success.

Hustle culture tricks us into believing that better work comes from more work. It’s important to redefine success outside of the number of hours you work and focus on quality, not quantity. 

How can you reassess your goals so you’re focused on the outcome, not the hours? Are there other non-time-related goals you can set along the way? 

Set new goals for yourself about rest and recharging as well. If you’re overwhelmed, start small and aim for taking just 15 minutes a day completely away from work to do something to reset. Maybe that’s taking a walk or chatting with a family member or friend. Remember, rest is as essential to success as working is. Make rest a requirement for your success.

3. Prioritize.

When we’re in the midst of hustle culture, everything on our plate seems high-priority. Deciding what to work on and when can add to decision fatigue and drain the energy we need to finish our tasks. 

Decide your to-do list before the beginning of each day and stick to it as much as you can. For longer projects, break tasks into smaller parts and give yourself flex time in case you need it.

If the work keeps coming in, set expectations before taking on new work and be clear with whoever’s assigning it about when you’ll be able to turn around your portion.

If your deadlines are always strict and you’re concerned about time, you can also consider crashing the project.

“If you aren't familiar with that term, it's one used within the PM discipline and it describes ways to look at what you've got left and what your resources are to make sure you get there,” wrote an anonymous commenter on Fairygodboss. “It’s also a good idea to build some float into your project schedule always. That way if things get crucial, you still have some time to play with.”

4. Reject internal hustle culture.

Hustle culture can also be a dangerous mindset, one that makes it easy to be hard on oneself for taking necessary rest. Rejecting internal hustle culture can be even more difficult than rejecting it when it comes from external sources, like a coworker or company, as it leads to feelings of shame, guilt and self-doubt.

To reject internal hustle culture, focus on how you’re feeling while working. When do you find flow? When do you feel exhausted? When and how can you feel rested? Looking internally to judge your productivity and health will help you concentrate on serving yourself and your own needs, rather than hustling to fit someone else’s definition of success.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for avoiding hustle culture? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

This article reflects the views of the author and not those of Fairygodboss.