how do people survive jobs with long hours — and is it worth it in the long-run?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I recently started my first professional job since graduating college. I work in an industry that is notorious for long hours (think 60-80 hour weeks for 4 months in a row). I knew what I was getting myself into when I accepted this job, but now that it’s here I’m really struggling with the hours. My physical and mental health has been deteriorating, and I carry stress with me even when I’m not working.

How do people survive working jobs with insane hours? I intend to stay 2-3 more years (as is traditional in my field) then move to a job with more work-life balance, but even these next few years seem impossibly daunting to me. Do you have any advice for how to succeed when there isn’t much work-life balance? How do you stay productive and alert when working 12+ hour days, six days a week? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I am also curious if those who have worked long hours look back with regret for the time they spent working, or feel that their hard work was worthwhile. I am hoping that my work now will pay off for me later, but I am really worried if I’m sacrificing too much for my professional life. Thank you so much for your thoughts!

Readers, please use the comments to weigh in!

{ 476 comments… read them below }

  1. Sara M*

    I worked a year and a half of 80 hour weeks, burned out, and got extremely sick. I left the industry. I’m still paying a mental health cost 20 years later, to some degree.

    How sure are you that these long hours will lead to better things? I think I could have endured two years if I’d been sure it would get better. But as I got deeper into the industry I realized it was a lie. YMMV.

    1. Witchqueen*

      Yyyyyyeeeppppp. And always make sure it’s not your current job. I work in PR at an agency, which is a subset of the industry known for long hours and lower pay. The trade off is that its a flexible position. Several of my coworkers work from home. But with more companies offering that sort of work/life balance the perks of an agency are tarnished by the culture.

      I hope to move to corporate soon, where the hours are more manageable and the payscale / opportunity is better.

      1. Analysis Paralysis*

        Agree!

        At various times in my career, I’ve worked crazy hours (50-70 / week). Most recently, I’ve worked a minimum of 50 & up to 65 hours per week for the past 6 months straight. I’m exempt & salaried so no extra money.

        It has NOT been worth it. Not. At. All.

        I’m missing out on my Real Life. I don’t get home until 7:30pm at the earliest. I don’t get to enjoy time with family or friends — or if I make time, I’m tired/stressed/not ‘present in the moment’ with them.

        My mental health is suffering- it’s harder to control my anxiety & depression, and I’m inadvertently curt with people (work & personal) & sometimes I don’t even realize it.

        I’ve gained 20 pounds & am already feeling the extra effort needed to do everyday things.

        I’ve missed so much of my son’s childhood that I’m fighting tears as I type this.

        It’s one thing to pour on the extra hours for 1-2 weeks, a few times a year, when something needs a big push. It’s entirely different to sustain it long-term.

        My advice: don’t do it. Next best thing: set very defined length of time tied to a specific goal (such as: “I’ll work at LongHours Company for 2 years to gain experience in X specific thing, then I’ll change jobs to leverage X thing, but somewhere with better work-life balance”). Then you MUST stick to your plan (unless things got better). Don’t get sucked in — sometimes when you’re working long hours, you don’t have energy to think about job searching.

        And in the mean time, practice good self-care — lots of good suggestions from other commenters.

        All the best to you!

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Yeah, none of the career hardship that I have undertaken recently has paid off. I’m reaching the end (I hope) of a stretch of long hours, and like you, I’m exempt. It is what it is and there are others doing more than me, but the person who is stuck with the craziest OT gets paid time and a half. . .so, he’s working a ton, but he might be able to buy a new car with how crazy it has been. I just end up eating m&ms for lunch and yelling at my family. . .no new car at the end! Everyone below me gets straight time OT or time and a half, and everyone above me is a shareholder, so I try to remind myself that it’s still a well paying job that I am well-suited for and good at and that I should not look at only the downside. But there are times when it’s hard to keep a good attitude.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Also: had my annual wellness exam today, and my BP was 131/74. Last year it was 118/73. In spite of 60 hr weeks, I still average at least 4 hrs of working out per week a lot of the time. (When it gets bad at work, I will go 2-3 weeks with zero, but sometimes I can find time for 10 hrs.) I don’t know. I had a 19 hr day with travel on Tuesday and started coming down with a cold Monday night but can’t take a day off & haven’t had one since June while also covering for team members who take unscheduled PTO 3 weeks in a row.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      My story is very similar. I worked at a law firm and did 60 hour work weeks for 8 months straight, burned out, got physically ill, and I’m still dealing with the side effects of those illnesses (yes, plural) six years later. At the time, I had little choice but to work those hours – I had an extreme amount of student loan debt (still do) and I lived downtown in a mid-sized city making, like, $15/hr. OT was mandatory at my company, but I worked all available hours (mandatory hours were up to 5 most of the time – the extreme end was 10) because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to afford my apartment and, thus, I would have ended up homeless.

      I did wind up leaving after nearly three years there for a much better job (in pay and work/life balance) in an adjacent industry, so I don’t regret the decision I made to put in that kind of time. I wouldn’t have gotten the better job without the crap one that came before it (my old firm has a reputation in the city of being a horrible employer with very hardworking employees), which led me to the next job/company where my degree was finally a requirement, which then led to where I am now – a fully remote employee on track to getting a six figure salary by my mid-thirties by doing what I love (writing and editing).

      OP, you just have to determine what trade offs you’re willing to live with. I personally couldn’t do 80 hours a week – that would kill me. No amount of yoga, running, and writing could keep me sane doing something like that. Whatever you decide to do, know that your decision doesn’t have to be permanent – mine wasn’t.

      1. Veronica*

        I just want to mention for those who are worried about paying their student loans, that can always be worked out with the government. You can call and ask for forbearance or deferment, or a lower payment plan. I had loans in default for several years and they were still willing to work with me. They have different payment plans you can choose from. Please don’t let anxiety about your loans drive you to work too hard.

        1. Federal Middle Manager*

          I know multiple people whose student loans have literally doubled (or more) due to prolonged forbearance and deferment (asking for deferment or forbearance between jobs or during a low-paying “temporary” job). It’s not a negligible concern.

          1. Drowning*

            This 100%

            I graduated during the recession and could not find a job in my field. I eventually gave up and went to grad school. I didn’t start my career until 27 and start earning enough to even make a dent on my loans until now – I’m 34. I’ve taken a number of forbearances over the years and I’ve seen my loans balloon to $150,000.

            If you have any other option at all, do not take a forbearance.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Agreed, Drowning, and I’m sorry we’re both in that horrible situation. You live and learn I guess.

        2. S. Bourdeaux*

          You do not have this kind of leeway with private loans, FYI. And years of forbearance and deferment of mine while I wasn’t making enough to pay them have left me with MANY regrets as my variable interest private loans have now snowballed to more than I’d ever even borrowed in the first place. And even with federal loans, you can’t just ask for lower payments and not pay for that another way (higher interest, etc.). Many people do not qualify for lower payments than they’re making. Please realize not all advice about student loans is possible to give to everyone; you don’t know everyone’s situation or where their loans live.

          1. Veronica*

            I’m saying it doesn’t hurt to ask and explore all options. Some may not know they have any options.

          2. Veronica*

            I was lucky, I took my loans in 1989 direct from the government before private loans were much of a thing AFIK. Then it seemed like I was cursed – whenever I got to a point I might be able to start making payments, I lost my job.
            After several years I got annoyed enough to take the bull by the horns and get my loans out of default and consolidated them into a D.O.E. income contingent plan, which I’m still on more than 15 years later. No, the loans and the way I managed them weren’t the smartest thing, but the payments are manageable.
            After I consolidated my loans I received several solicitations from private companies that tried to deceive me into thinking they were government agencies and let them take over my loans. So you all have to watch for that, they are ruthless predators who will deliberately deceive you. I suggest dealing only with the Department of Education. The part of it that handles my loans is called Navient.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Navient is a terrible company that bought out Sallie Mae and has been sued over the years for unethical loan practices and for steering graduates with private loans towards forbearance options with steep down payments instead of income-based repayments. To any new grads with loans reading this, try to get your loans out from under Navient if you have them as a servicer. I filed several complaints against them with my state’s attorney general’s office and was even able to get partial credits from them on some of my loans due to them mismanaging my payments.

              Terrible company.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                They are awful. My student loans were through Navient/Sallie Mae and they lost a few payments and tried to go after me. Then their website wouldn’t let me change my payment amount – I wanted to pay *more* than the minimum to pay it off quicker.

                I have since paid off my student loans, but I filed a crap ton of complaints, and I think only got out from them because I was so stubborn back at them for them to find my ‘missing’ payments and fix my recurring payments. And with refusing to take their predatory ‘loan repayment’ strategies that they tried to force me into.

                I wish my parents would have been more helpful when I was 17 and they were in essence taking out my student loans for me in my name. I got through with multiple student loans with ridiculous interest rates, when if they had shopped around just a little I could have gotten at least a 3-4% drop.

              2. kris*

                YUP. I have my Navient payments set up as autopay but I renegotiated a couple of months ago and when the first due date came, they deducted my old rate AND my new rate, overdrafting my bank account, and they took a week to pay it back (and that was after HOURS on the phone fighting for it to not be 2 weeks). What’s awesome is that this came at a time where I had only had to renegotiate because I had to start a new HUGE monthly payment from the dept of ed so my wallet was suffering from that new cost too.

            2. Veronica*

              I’m sorry you all have had bad experiences with them. My only complaint has been they get very naggy when I get 1/2 month behind on my payments. The times I’ve talked to someone there they were very nice and helpful, and never tried to make me do anything other than what I was already doing.
              Maybe they’ve changed since they began handling my loans ~15 years ago?

              1. DataMonkey*

                Navient actually hasn’t been around that long. They split off from Sallie Mae in 2014, but they haven’t had a good track record and have been sued for illegal practices by numerous entities. This more recent lawsuit details some of their misdeeds: https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_Navient-Pioneer-Credit-Recovery-complaint.pdf

                I would keep an extra careful eye on all your statements. They tried to raise my minimum payments above the standard payment rate, which I pointed out was not allowed! They finally backtracked and made it right but if I didn’t know the policy, I wouldn’t have caught it.

                1. Veronica*

                  Yes, it was originally Sallie Mae that handled my loans.
                  My payments have always been within a few dollars of the same amount, though they’re higher now than originally because I have a better-paying job now. It’s a good amount, I’m not complaining.

          3. Fortitude Jones*

            Thank you – you stated this well. I’m pretty sure people with loans have looked into all of their options – forbearance on loans when you’ve graduated during a recession is not a wise choice especially if you can only secure a low wage job, which is what happened to me. Your debt will balloon due to the interest accrual and the untouched principal payments. I was fortunate that my federal loans were basically frozen for a year because I graduated in 2009 and didn’t find a job until late 2010 – my resulting loan payments there weren’t bad (I’ve paid a couple off since then and am now stuck with mostly private loan payments).

          4. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

            I will say that the income-based repayment plan I’m on is a life-saver. I’m only required to pay~10% of my income, distributed among the different loans. Now, if I only payed that, I’d end up never ever paying the loans off. But that gives me leeway to pay my other life expenses first and then dump as much as I can after that into loans. And it gives me freedom in how I pay my loans–so after that 10% payment, I put as much money as I can toward the higher interest loan groups first instead of distributing money equally across all loans.

          5. lemon*

            And even with federal loans, you can’t just ask for lower payments and not pay for that another way (higher interest, etc.).

            If you enter one of the income-based repayment programs for a federal loan, any amount remaining after 20 years of payment will be forgiven. So, if you owe more than you will be able to pay off in 20 years, this option makes sense. If not, you have to weigh whether or not the interest you’ll accrue in the long-term will be worth the lower payments in the short-term. (Assuming you have a choice, which, unfortunately, most people don’t because they can’t afford to make full payments.)

            I hear you on private loans, though. Private lenders are truly evil and have no mercy.

            1. lemon*

              I will add to this: for people who qualify for an reduced repayment program for federal loans who don’t enroll because they’re afraid of the interest, take a look at what your interest rate actually is. It might make more sense in the long-term to put your money in a retirement account if the account has a rate of return that’s higher than your student loan interest (especially if your employer does matching contributions).

        3. Tora*

          I’d add for younger people to think very, very hard before committing to any particular school or degree. I graduated right before the great recession, and if I knew then what I know now I don’t know if I would have committed to graduate training, or university training come to that. Unfortunately students have to start thinking critically much sooner about the path they want to follow, and if the financial investment is worth it in the long run.

          1. Devil Fish*

            I understand what you’re trying to say, but this is bullshit. No one knows the future, there are no safe degrees and no amount of critical thinking is going to save anyone from a system rigged against them.

            I was told to get an accounting degree because everyone needs accountants. Midway through that it turns out coding is the new hottness and that’s what I should be doing instead. Then it was a business degree, but only if you really want to move up in life. Then I said hell with it and went for the art degree I wanted in the first place because it’s obvious no one knows what they’re talking about anyway and most jobs that want degrees don’t even care what you majored in unless the technical training is relevant.

            1. Tora*

              I disagree! I think there’s a lot of solid research students can and should do about job availability, hiring requirements, and school costs before they decide to rack up the debt on any career, no matter what it is. I’d also include information interviews to determine whether a job matches expectations, what skills are needed, and what hours are like which is the original LW’s question.

              In my opinion it would be irresponsible not to do this research ahead of time. It may not guarantee success, but it will certainly help students figure out the investment in time and money they can expect to make for different careers.

              Anyway, I hope the art degree is working out! :)

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                It is wise to do the research, but it isn’t wise to assume that chasing the hot degree will be hot when you graduate. Things move quickly, and research on job availability at 18 is not likely to line up with the job availability numbers at 22. Devil Fish is not wrong that a lot of jobs (that don’t require engineering, technical, or other specific training) are just looking for completion of an undergraduate degree. There is a financial calculation of how much to spend on said degree (state v. private school, community college/four-year university, are Ivy connections worth Ivy money, etc.), but if you hate accounting or computer coding as an undergraduate, there’s no point getting a degree in it and launching a career in which you’re going to be miserable.

                I work in a field that flat-out did not exist when I was in college. It started emerging about two years into my career, and I got in at the ground floor. (I still don’t think my own mother understands what I do, nearly two decades later, but it’s legal, pays the bills, and provides health insurance, so I’m not sure she cares much beyond that.) My undergraduate institution, way ahead of the curve on technology, even for we dumb liberal arts majors, gave me a huge advantage in my field, but there is no way I could have foreseen before enrolling. (And I’m married to a history and English lit major who’s worked in the tech sector doing technical work for the last 20 years, so even they’re pretty flexible on the degree and major if you can pick the relevant skills up.)

                The control freak and planner in me hates the uncertainty, but a Ouija board would have been better career guidance for both of us than making a heavily-researched five year plan at 18. I am a pragmatist, but I hire too many of what my classmates pursuing STEM/business degrees called “would you like fries with that?” majors to tell people to stick to nursing, coding, engineering, or accounting if they don’t want to live in a box.

                1. Devil Fish*

                  Thank you. This is what I was trying to say but you explained it so much better!

                  Full disclosure: I was researching “stable degrees” at 32 because I’d been in customer service my whole life and ohmigod did I want out. Accounting is stable, so I tried that. A few classes in it became clear that what they were teaching me to be was a CPA when what I’d been thinking was bookkeeping (my fault there). All the bookkeeping jobs in my area want a degree (any degree) or experience (any experience), so that was out. I don’t understand how tech works (despite being de facto tech support for both parents) and can’t do coding, my brain isn’t wired for either of those no matter how hard I tried, and the informational interviews my college set up between me and prior tech majors were … uninspiring as far as longterm job prospects.

                  Tl;dr: No matter how much research you do, no one can tell the future. We’re all just trying to hedge our bets as best we can and it seems unfair to blame people for not getting a better degree than what they ended up with or not using their degree, especially when I think of all the former nurses I know who were injured on the job so badly that they can’t do that work anymore and they’re still paying off student loans (now working at a call center, natch).

              2. Bager*

                I did this research back when I started studying, and everything indicated that there would be a job for me at the end of the degree. Three years into my degree, large, unforeseen circumstances completely ruined the job market for my background. On top of that, I had completely burned out on the sort of tasks I ended up being qualified for; tasks I genuinely enjoyed at the start of my studies. It was… not a good time for me, as you might guess.

                I get that the idea with your suggestion is to make sure people actually do take a look at what they can do with their background. And I fully support that; it’s a lot safer from a job perspective to, say, learn computer programming than study literature. But even that isn’t foolproof. Circumstances can change greatly, both for the market and yourself, in 3-5 years.

                1. Tora*

                  I don’t see what’s so controversial about researching a degree and career.

                  I’m not saying it’s foolproof. I’m not saying it’ll definitely lead you to the perfect fit in a hot field. BUT it will allow you to get a snapshot of many things: How much different degrees and different schools cost. What your funding options might be. What jobs are really like, and what career paths might look like. What your daily activities might be. What skills you will probably need to get a foot in the door. You’ll also probably get a clearer idea on what you enjoy, what you might be good at, and you might discover new options that you didn’t know existed, or that are very new and might not have existed a few years ago.

                  Maybe the word “research” is tripping people up. I’m talking about an ongoing process of critical thinking where you do your best to learn as much as you can before you make any choices that will affect your life long term. You might still decide to choose a different path later on, but at least you’ll have done your best to make an informed decision.

                2. Tora*

                  And I actually think it’s very damaging to minimize how important this research is! I don’t think high school students in particular are educated anywhere near enough about how important career planning is. Even basic things, like what schools to attend, how debt works, how to manage student expenses, how to track emerging trends, and how to identify what your options might be (university, work placement, etc.) It’s not about making a set-in-stone five year plan when you’re 18, it’s about flagging major risks and potential opportunities that you might not know about if you don’t make the effort to learn about them. And keeping your eyes peeled for new info that might affect your choices as you go along.

                  Again, I’m not saying it’s foolproof , but I think there is minimal education provided on this stuff and it is doing students a huge disservice to say that planning is pointless, when it absolutely can help you find great stuff and avoid big mistakes.

                  Okay I’ve gone on long enough. This is my control freak, planner opinion! :D

                3. Devil Fish*

                  @Tora | Yeah, I think we actually all agree here but we’re talking past each other or something. :)

                  The research/education you’re suggesting isn’t provided by high schools due to lack of budget and it’s not provided by colleges because they don’t have a monetary interest in discouraging students from attending their schools. The closest thing is probably the FAFSA application which has a quick explainer on how student loans work (and I’m still sick to my stomach when I think about how much money I owe on those because of how interest works).

                  Personally, I was straight-up lied to by the college I’m attending multiple times. I asked my advisor some basic questions about job prospects for different degrees and I trusted them not to lie to me because I’m stupid I guess. They sent me information that was very positive and set up informational interviews with past graduates and when I finally got a few of those people on the phone that’s where it all went to hell.

                  The stable degrees were not actually stable. Most of the people I talked to had to relocate multiple times to find a job in their field and some of those jobs paid less than what they’d been making while they worked through school. These were accounting majors and coding majors and tech majors. Most of them had multiple part time jobs (some not in their industry at all), had to cover their own insurance themselves and were struggling. I don’t know why the school let me talk to them but I’m glad they did.

                  I suppose I could have done all this at 18 but at the time I was poor and terrified of debt and didn’t see a way to put myself through school at all. I worked retail and food service and call centers to save up enough to keep my head above water but I’ve still had to take out loans. The whole system is set up this way. It’s not about education, it’s about profit.

    3. CMart*

      I’m in accounting, but did not do the public accounting route which is an industry notorious for the “endure the grind, pay your dues, it’ll be worth it!” philosophy.

      Comparing notes with my friends who are professional peers (from the same grad program, we all have our CPA, entered the field at the same time) it really does not seem worth it. I’ve spent this entire time at a F500 company doing corporate accounting/financial analyst roles. I work 35-40 hour weeks, never travel, have unlimited sick time, standard vacation that I’m encouraged to take. Most of my buddies have left public within the last couple years and moved into industry, into the exact same kind of role I currently have.

      We’re all “senior” accountants or analysts. We are making the same salaries, give or take 5%.

      But they killed themselves for 2-4 years in public accounting for a lower salary than I was making in industry, for the promise of “experience” and “exit ops”. Perhaps it’s just my region (Chicagoland) but it really feels like they were taken for a ride.

      1. De Minimis*

        Honestly, I do think it may have paid off for a lot of my former Big 4 colleagues in Silicon Valley. A lot of them work at really flashy companies, went into investment banking, venture capital partnerships, etc.

        The people for whom it doesn’t seem to have made sense are probably those who stayed even longer–the managers/directors who were chasing partnership. Most of them ended up leaving for smaller firms and becoming partner there, but it’s obvious that probably wasn’t what they’d set out to do.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        What you just said is so reassuring to me. I’m retraining in accounting right now and I know I simply cannot handle those kinds of hours! So knowing that those pathways exist to have more defined work hours is a big relief.

        1. De Minimis*

          I went into government/nonprofit and am super happy with my work/life balance.

          My opinion is that university accounting programs do a disservice to students by making them think that public accounting is the only path. I know when I was in school they basically said that government was only for the students with poor grades.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            Agreed. I interviewed with the Big 6 (when it was still the Big 6) and because I was a non-traditional student (a little older, night school student, a few years of work experience), they took a pass, even though my grades were very high. I was crushed and thought my career would never amount to anything. But…I ended up getting a job in the private sector that paid more than the big firms, and now, 25 years later, I make a great living as an Oracle Financials consultant.

        2. HelloHelloHello*

          I think paying your dues in public accounting (especially Big 4) for at least 2 busy seasons (ideal 3) is worth it. As someone who did three years and then transitioned out, it didn’t seem as necessary for the first handful of years as it does now. I’m now at an executive level of a corporate accounting and reporting team responsible for the hiring of staff/senior level accountants. We look for Big 4/large public firm experience because the candidates with that background have truly performed at a better level once in the job. Its not that the jobs necessarily align, but the Big 4 training is invaluable to a employee’s work ethic and team work.

          Its not ideal – but if you are in public and your mental and physical health are not suffering, and you want to continue the accounting/CPA track – I urge you to push through. You may not see it at first (such as when you transition out to a senior level on the corporate side) but I believe it will give you the leg up as you grow your career.

          1. Data Miner*

            Agreed. I also went through public accounting and we give preference to those who have that on their resume.

            To survive public accounting, find an industry that is NOT heavily regulated (i.e. not healthcare or banking). Because heavily regulated companies face the additional burden of stiffer regulatory requirements, that challenge is passed on to the auditors, so you’ll likely have a more difficult time coping with the hours/work load. That said, you’ll likely transition into private in an industry you audited but for the people De Minimis mentioned who went into banking and private equity, my bet is they’re still working the same crazy hours as they did in public.

            1. Tired Employee*

              I made a career change to accounting in the early 90’s. I graduated when I was 32 with a masters in accounting from what was the #2 program in the country. All the big eight firms recruited on campus. Almost every one of my classmates was hired by one of these firms. I passed the CPA exam on the first try. I was not hired by any company during the recruiting process – including the company which eventually hired me a few years after graduation and still employs me 25 years later. It happened that the person from Arthur Andersen who interviewed me was a former high school classmate. (Hey Sean M – if you’re reading this, you suck.) He was a bit too honest and told me that, at 32, I was too old and would never make partner, and that they were looking for kids who would work 80 hour weeks, and I was therefore not an attractive candidate. I was floored that I was already over the hill! ( In recent years I’ve wondered whether it was age discrimination or gender discrimination – if they thought I would have babies and resign. I never had kids.)

              My current employer has given me an interesting and lucrative career. However, when they interviewed me in grad school and passed? That was for a program that takes fresh-faced grads and puts them in a special program with mentoring and job rotations, and fast-tracks them for management. The other hiring preference and path to management is experience at a big four firm. I have seen no differential between these two groups and the rest of us, and some of us can work circles around them. I’d also say that if I’d had all the mentoring and preferences, I too could be in upper management. I challenge the assumption that public accounting makes better corporate accountants. In fact I think that attitude discourages diversity by perpetuating old-boy networks and disadvantaging non-traditional students.

              Hours? I’ve worked 60 hour weeks my entire accounting career. It’s not that bad!

        3. CMart*

          Perhaps my Big 4 buddies will be making $150k+ in 10 years while I languish at $100k. I don’t know.

          I will be okay with that if it is the case, honestly. I do think the accounting world is split into 2 types: those who went into it to make money, and those who went into it to have a stable life.

          Personally I do think there is a ceiling to how much money is “worth it” (likely in line with the finding that happiness plateaus around $80k/year because your material comforts are met and happiness must then be found outside of wealth). I didn’t get into accounting because I want to be a CFO of a F100. I got into it because I wanted an office job with a good salary and benefits to support my family. And I want to spend time with that family.

          People who are further in their careers who started in B4 who have commented are right – people in higher positions who have done B4 public do tend to prefer their own when it comes to hiring. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs with equal titles and benefits for those of us who did not go that route. My company wants public (B4 preference) for certain accounting roles (technical, SEC reporting manager, internal audit) but the vast majority of finance/accounting roles here don’t care that much.

          You will get a job. A good job. You’ll make money. It’ll be SO FINE. I promise.

          1. SecondCareer*

            I came to accounting after a career in advertising and I have my accounting designation – I did not work for the Big 4, and in my country (Canada) the accounting profession has only merged in the last 5ish years to the CPA designation – the “top” accounting designation was CA and that’s all the Big 4 would hire. I would argue that those who are trained as CPA, CAs have very narrow training, it’s all be the box, and the box is very small. If you want to work in industry if you want to influence business decisions and have more of a role outside of a central finance function not doing the Big 4 route for a few years is the best way to accomplish that. It really depends on what you want – but I had done the crazy hours in ad agencies and proved to myself I could do it – the last thing I wanted to do is get back on that treadmill (not that it was an option since I did a CMA).

      3. I was a spy in Boca Raton*

        Another confirmation here that professional life does not have to kill you. My husband got a lower level non-attorney position at a specialty law firm. The place had a fairly relaxed work environment (by law firm standards) but still had a great reputation in its specialty area. (I remeber that one partner worked a lot but he had a crapload of alimony and child support, as well as mainianing his girlfriends and high life!) When my husband decided to go to law school, the firm was behind him. Since he was working for them full-time and going to school at night, they cut him some slack at exam time and, eventually bar review time. When he was admitted to the bar, he became an associate. He worked a forty hour weeks, occasionally a bit more, so he had time for family and community activities. We had enough from his salary for me to stay home with a child. He eventully was promoted to non-equity partner

        At one point, the company was courted for a merger with one of the big national firms with a number of offices and hundreds of attorneys. There was a date for the merger but, as part of the courtship process, my husband and another partner were asked to meet up with the lawyers in the same specialty from the big firm at the specialty area’s annual conference with spouses to come along as well. (I did not turn down a week in January at a luxury resort hotel in Florida!!) For the headine evening event, the big law firm bussed in from the other side of the state all of it’s legal staff in the specialty. The other wife and I learned that attendance for them was compulsary and that they were all expected to be at work then next morning bright and early even though all of them would get home after 2 am. Our husbands got to chat with some of the higher ups about the firm’s culture and goals.

        Husband’s firm called off the merger. They decided that they did not want to trade off their good name, successful practice, and comfortable, unpressured work culture generating pretty good income for a high pressured and stressfull environment just to make the partners more money.

      4. AnonGoodNurse*

        I totally agree with this. I went in-house straight out of law school instead of going to a firm. I went to law school late and graduated in my early 30s with a 6 month old son. I was not interested in the big law route. The trade off was a lower salary, but the work life balance was totally worth it. Considering a lot of people leave Big Law to go in-house, I think I had the same outcome… just a bit earlier.
        A few years later I switched jobs. The company was poorly run and I was swamped… worked way more than I wanted and didn’t have a say in anything. Not to mention, I was still getting paid “work-life-balance” salary. The only problem was there was no balance… which I repeatedly reminded my boss was the reason I wasn’t in a law firm. I ended up going to work for our government regulator where a) I get paid more than I did at either previous job; and b) the work life balance is amazing.
        My point is similar to CMART’s, I have a lot of colleagues who went the Big Law route. We all ended up in the same place making the same money. The only difference is I had a lot more time with my family. I could have made more money early on, but it hardly matters now. A lot of industries (law and accounting in particular) try to make it seem like this is the only way. But it’s not. Stick it out a year if you can and then move on. Everyone will understand.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        This is really interesting! I also am in accounting and skipped over public. I thought I made a choice to forego some eventual salary bumps in order to have reasonable hours when moving in with my now-husband and starting our life together. To hear that you make similar to your peers is really reassuring. I know I was *definitely* underpaid when I started but only because I had zero idea whatsoever to ask for when they hired me. I could tell pretty much right away from the surprise in their voice that I undersold myself haha.

        I really wish salary talks were more open. I have no idea how in line with my peers I’ve been. Someone left my last job a couple of months before me and I was very tempted to email her and be like “hey I know this is weird but I have been wondering if I’m underpaid so I wanted to ask if you would be comfortable telling me what they paid you here.” I’m never going to see her again, I totally should have asked and if she thought I was out of line then oh well she could just not respond lol.

        I do know that I have no regrets whatsoever about skipping public accounting.

      6. Dancing Otter*

        Interesting, I also put in my time in the Big 6 (as it was then) in Chicago. Illinois has a practice requirement before you can get a CPA license. That’s exactly how long I stayed.

        The big firms look good on a resume forever. (Arthur Andersen alums may be the exception to this.) They offer mentoring and continuing professional education that’s much better than that available from the CPA society. They are, or used to be, good about outplacement because they *want* their alums in controllership positions at clients and potential clients. That’s the good side.

        The hours can be insane during busy season. As professionals, we were all exempt, of course. We had to bank our overtime hours to use during slow season, when utilization rates dropped. Which was better than not getting anything for them, we thought; we were all hired straight out of school. Busy season does end, though, much as the client relations partners try to drum up business for the summer and fall.

        Having satisfied the practice requirement for licensure means that I can now hang out my shingle as a sole practitioner, or be a signature-level officer in a smaller CPA firm. I don’t have to pass the excruciating IRS exams to be credentialed to practice before the Tax Court. I can be the “financial expert” on a non-profit board. (Never again, but that’s just me.) A lot of companies want that public accounting experience for the controller/CFO level, which can be limiting to anyone else trying to get promoted without it. So, it does have benefits down the line.

        The only time I actually became ill from excessive hours was not in public accounting. I was assigned to both spearhead a system conversion and prepare all the fair market value footnotes for the annual report simultaneously. (Multi-billion dollar derivatives portfolio, and a treasury department that considered deadlines mere suggestions) Pneumonia is nothing to take lightly; I still need an inhaler on occasion fifteen years later.

      7. LBAI*

        Another accountant here. And, I did the Big 4 during the time Andersen was going under from the Enron debacle, and I was working 90 hour weeks. It sucked. BUT, I learned so much. Really. I did my 3, and got out. Now that I’ve been in industry for many more years, I’m still grateful that I had that experience.

        But let me also say this, I’m a hiring manager now, and my (really well known major) company is outsourcing all its general accounting to India. Which means that there are no entry-level accounting jobs to be had. I have no entry-level jobs on my team, and Big 4 experience is a MAJOR benefit to have on your resume. It means that you’ve got some level of advanced accounting experience and are probably someone worth interviewing.

        1. Tax Nerd*

          CPA here, with 10+ years of tax seasons at the Big 4.

          First, there’s actually a huge difference between 60 and 80 hours. If I only have to do 60-ish, that’s what I try and do. I want to get the work done, not impress my boss with how many hours I put in. (Even if they cared, it wouldn’t be worth it to me.) I’m not gunning for partner, because I don’t want to put in that kind of effort, and I’m just not that motivated by money. I certainly like money, and it’s how we keep score, but that’s not what gets me up in the morning.

          In order to get through each busy season, I try to frontload as much as I can earlier in the week. For me, I’ll aim for 14 hours Monday and Tuesday, 12 on Wednesday, 10 on Thursday, 8 on Friday, and 4-5 on Saturday, or something like that, which only gets me in the low 60s. If I have to, I’ll do 14ish M-F, and the rest on Saturday. I’m pretty avid about insisting on one whole day off every weekend to do laundry, re-charge my brain, etc., so I only work Sundays if my boss demands it. (And if they do, I would probably start sending out resumes when it’s over.) I don’t even try to pretend that I’m going to work 10 hours M-F, and make up the rest on Saturday. This is easier for me, since I’m in tax, and far enough along in my career that I don’t have someone standing over me. I would have a hard time sitting in an audit room for 80 hours for more than a year or two. But the more years of it you can stand, the better your landing at the next job.

          I just tell friends and family that they won’t see me for X months, and if they do, it’ll be Friday night or Sunday afternoon. Friends and parents mostly understand. When I started my career, and was single, any dating life was brought to a screeching halt. Now, my spouse is pretty understanding, so I’m lucky. ( I’ve never had kids, so I can’t imagine doing this job and being an involved parent. That seems near impossible.)

          There are definite downsides. For me, it’s my health. Years of eating donuts/sandwiches/pizza for months on end has not done my health any favors. But it was free and there, which was cheaper and easier than bringing in salad. Some firms are getting a notch better about healthier options. I don’t sleep enough during the week, and too much on the weekend. I’ll have a drink or two after a long stressful day, which is probably more than is recommended per week.

          Upsides? I actually like what I do, if not the volume of it when it’s crazy. Every year I learn a ton, and get better. With some industry jobs, I would have had the same year over and over. I spent a year in industry during grad school, and then two years later on, and in my experience, the grass wasn’t any greener. The money in public accounting is probably a little better, but that depends on what industry you’re comparing to. In some industry jobs, the hours are just as bad, but your best ever raise is less than 5%. It’s easier to get promoted into management, and within layers of management, with public experience. At some industry jobs, you have to wait for someone to retire in order to get promoted, and I’ve seen too many people get passed over for years on end. With my resume, if I ever want out, there are plenty of places that want someone with my experience.

    4. Quill*

      I burnt out in college because I was taking 16 credit hours with 3 uncredited, 3 hour labs a week. (Meaning that class time was 25 hours, bringing the total coursework including homework/prep to about 50 hours a week.)

      I honestly don’t know how people survive 60 hour weeks, let alone 80.

      1. Former Employee*

        I really think it’s different. A lot of work is not that challenging, but still has to be done. If you work 60 hours, I doubt that even half of that time is spent on complicated, brain exhausting tasks.

        My experience comes from having worked long hours in an area of the the financial services industry. There were many requests that were for standard things that I simply had to approve and then pass on for others to complete.

        Certainly, there were busy times when I was working on a major account and I had to make sure that all the numbers were correct, all the terms and conditions were spelled out, etc., which meant I had to do the work myself, but that didn’t happen every day.

      2. Less Bread More Taxes*

        In a kind of similarish vein, I had 16 hours of classes plus two part time jobs during my undergrad. I was away from my house 8am-10pm Monday through Friday, on top of job #2 and homework on the weekends. I’m actually shocked I did as well as I did. I remember one of the internships at the time saying “I bet you’re dreading graduating and having to work 40 hours a week.” Are you kidding me? That would have easily halved my hours.

      3. TardyTardis*

        I once took 19 credit hours and worked close to 20 hours a week as a nurse’s aide (didn’t need any PE!), and got a 4.0. But I was a *lot* younger then. I think I’d stopped taking any foreign languages by then, though. AFROTC and upper level econ was enough fun (granted, I always took a history class for dessert).

    5. Anon for this*

      This site has helped me realize that no matter what – I have to make some changes. I’m a HS teacher which means that I barely clear $60K a year. That may sound like a lot but that’s after 20+ years, with a Masters, and that number actually reflects all my side hustles (adjuncting at a state college and yes – working over the summers). Fall term I average close to 60 hours a week AT WORK, not including the grading/prep/paperwork I do in my PJs (spring term does give me a bit more breathing room). It’s so wonderful when I’m forced to go to PD about reducing stress or I’m told to take care of myself first and I want to scream. Which kid would you like me to abandon? Which curriculum would you like me to ignore?

      I don’t regret the hours when I bump into a former student who tells me I changed their life. But the mental health cost is too great so I think it’s time – ask yourself what kind of validation you’re getting from your hours. Slaving away for really good pay may buy you the house that gives you freedom – so look at it as a cost-benefit analysis. Or is there an intrinsic validation like social work that keeps you going? Is it just reputation? I’m slowly learning how to be content with the little things and have watched a few School of Life videos on youtube that have helped (I recommend Taking it 1 Day at a Time or Why You Don’t Have to Be Exceptional).

      Bu

      1. Silence Will Fall*

        I walked away from teaching a few years ago. I didn’t realize until I was out how ground down I was. There are parts I missed, but none of them are worth my physical, mental and emotional well-being. Best of luck as you make your changes!

      2. Avasarala*

        You remind me of a season 3 episode of Queer Eye where they make over a teacher. She works at that high school all day every day and has for decades. She and her husband watch TV for fun, that’s where she buys her clothes on the shopping channel because she doesn’t have time to go shopping. Her whole life is the school and the students. The episode was about trying to show her to take time for herself. It’s amazing in a way that she so fully devoted herself to the school and the students, but in a way it was very sad, because she was close to retirement and when she retires she will have nothing–no hobbies, no vacation memories, few stories of just her and her husband, because she was working all the time.

    6. RUKiddingMe*

      This is spot on. Is there any kind of certainty (as much as *anything* can be certain) that there’s a personal payoff at the end? Or is the investment ultimately only going to benefit The Company(TM) and possibly end up with long term issues for the OP?

      Early on I worked like 18/20 hour days. No days of for weeks at a time. I thought it showed dedication and (ahem) gumption …(it was the early 80s).

      Ultimately I was passed over; title, raises, promotions…in favor of a (male!) coworker who was not nearly as smart, accomplished, dedicated, etc. as I was. It wasn’t my perception. It was a demonstrable difference.

      The worst part is that the BS was perpetrated by my female boss who had worked her ass off against misogyny/patriarchy to achieve her position. She’d done the whole “work four times as hard to prove you are equal” thing but then turned around and did it to other women. Five years in and I quit on the spot.

      Since then the only place I do that kind of time/effort for is RUK Inc. (not my real company name). If I’m going to kill myself for someone to succeed, then “someone” is going to be me.

    7. smoke tree*

      I think a good rule of thumb is to be honest with yourself about what you can really handle, and pay attention to signs that you can’t handle it anymore. I’ve been in environments that become a race to the bottom where everyone is competing to work longer hours, exist on less sleep, endure more, prove your toughness. These expectations make it really hard for people to admit to themselves that they just can’t, or don’t want to, put up with those conditions anymore. But it’s a kindness to yourself if you can recognize the signs before your health seriously declines and you have to deal with the consequences, possibly for years.

    1. Door Guy*

      So much this. I had a stressful job that kept me doing 12-15 hour days 6 days a week. Did it for a bit over 2 years and towards the end my mental and physical health was incredibly poor. I very likely would have had a breakdown in short order if I hadn’t gotten a new job offer. Talking to a few former coworkers nothing got better after I left (there was some massive staff/policy changes – in a little over 2 months 5 of the 6 total managers in our office left, including the General Manager, as well as big moves higher up the chain so lots of people in new positions with something to prove). In fact, I actually got a call this morning from one of my top performing former direct reports asking if we were hiring as he can’t do it any longer himself, either.

      My current job is ~50 hour weeks and I can deal with it just fine as it’s all set hours and nowhere near as stressful.

  2. Shawn*

    I don’t feel it’s worth it to be honest. Sounds like you are fresh out of school and already burned out. I would suggest to find that work/life balance NOW. Don’t wait until some future date because I will tell you that the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to make the change. I’m 47 years old and just now doing it. (It’s something I have wanted to do since I was 25.) Life is too short to work so much. Find that happiness and that balance now…not some future date. This is of course only my opinion so take it for what it’s worth!

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Yup. One of my biggest life regrets (age 56) is the time I out in making someone else able to buy a vacation house when I could have been doing literally anything else for me/mine.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes, make sure you’re prioritizing who you are apart from the job. Even if they get short shrift sometimes, your relationships, health, interests and hobbies are not worth sacrificing.

  3. Dwight*

    Live and work for your time off. Even in those 12-13 hour days, take breaks. Remember to eat well, and to exercise (When I did this 2-3 sprint of 60-80 hour weeks, I put on about 30-40 bad pounds). If you’re travelling for work, take advantage of whatever city you’re in, and have fun. If you’re earning more money in this job, don’t blow it, create a nest egg (one of the few things I did well in this situation).

    1. Law student*

      This. Also, make sure you’re taking a lunch break. I did working lunches for 3 years until my therapist told me to stop. Having that hour break to just eat and not focus on anything else did make a difference.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        When I worked 60 hours a week at a law firm back in the day, we weren’t allowed to work through lunch – since the majority of us were non-exempt operations staff, we had to take a full hour lunch, no exceptions. If anyone was caught working during lunch if they chose to stay at their desks to eat, they’d be written up. That was the only thing that firm did right (protecting our lunch hour). I usually spent that time walking somewhere for food and/or going home for a break during the day (I ended up moving down the street from the office seven months into the job due to the excessive mandatory OT and not wanting a two hour commute each day on top of it).

      2. Door Guy*

        Yes! Even if you don’t go anywhere off site, just get out of your office/general work space and decompress for a bit. Make sure you keep the distinction between “work time” and “lunch time”. If you eat at your desk or are in the general vicinity of your work, you might find yourself tempted to answer that phone call, chime in on that work discussion, respond to that email alert chime, etc.

        My wife used to skip her meal breaks as well and nothing I said ever got through to her. Her employer was taking that time out of her time card anyways, so why work for free! She did it because she worked at an understaffed nursing home and her coworkers wouldn’t be picking up any call lights on her wing while she was gone.

    2. Witchy Human*

      During horrendously busy seasons, I will skip out on basically any (or every) responsibility in my personal life that doesn’t directly help my well-being. Then I’ll go back to normal when (if) things calm down.

      So those few months a year I might use a cleaning service, a laundry service, a massage therapist, as frequent (healthy or healthy-ish) food delivery as I feel like, etc.

      And I don’t let myself feel guilty about it, because those 80-hour weeks mean I make more money–and it’s totally okay if I invest some of it in the preservation of health and sanity.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        This, absolutely this. Those services can make a huge difference. If the extra hours aren’t paying enough to make it possible to afford working them, strongly consider whether this is sustainable.
        (That’s not to say don’t save money– or pay down student loans– too if you can.)

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                I started a cleaning service just so I could get my house cleaned.

                Not even joking. Part of the hiring/interview process is to clean my house (just one room…and none of them are gross/bad/icky) with specific but limited direction.

                I (over) pay some of the cleaners to fo my own house (as if I were just a client) every week. It’s awesome. I haven’t cleaned my own house in at least 10 years.

      2. Tantallum99*

        Totally agree w both of these. Take a full hour in the middle of each 12-13 hour day it really helps. And get a cleaning service or landscaping co. something else similar that you HATE doing in your time off and pay to have that done so you can 100% enjoy and relax every bit of the time off you do have. Also agree with the exercise.

      3. Treecat*

        YES, totally agree. LW, if you know you have to work these horrible hours for a year or two get get your foot in the door of your industry, see if you can take some of that money and use it to invest in this kind of thing. Especially a cleaning service, that makes all the difference.

      4. CSD*

        This is likely the easiest thing you can do for those busy seasons so that you can focus solely on work and not have to be further stressed by home stuff.
        My husband worked 60-80 hour weeks for 6 years and the toll it has taken is huge. He constantly stresses about little things – it’s incredibly hard for him to turn off from work, and atm, that’s resulted in taking a leave of absence from the workforce to try and reset his burnout. Unfortunately, those habits that you learn early on in your career are really hard to get rid of, and in any situation, your knee jerk reaction may to still be stressing about work during off hours even when you are in a job that has been life/work balance, because that’s what you’re used to. Unless you know you can reset those type of expectations for yourself or know how to manage your stress well, I’d say, not worth it!

      5. Alanna of Trebond*

        This is the best actual advice in this thread.

        Arrange your life to maximize your mental health and minimize life admin. That means a short commute (ideally one that can involve walking whenever you can), a building with a gym if gym-type exercise is your thing, paying for delivery services, cleaning services, laundry services… Any minute you aren’t spending on life admin is a minute you can spend some other way.

        I genuinely am not sure how this is possible with 80 hour weeks, but as much as you can, find some time away from your phone and enforce it. A yoga teacher I follow on Instagram calls for “peace before screens” — taking 10 minutes right after you wake up to reflect, journal, or just make coffee before you check your phone.

        Treat your own well-being like an important assignment — one that sometimes can be reprioritized or put off but cannot be ignored. The biggest myth about self-care is that it feels good in the moment. Almost everything I do for self-care (getting my heart rate up, lifting heavy things, putting away my phone at night, going to bed at a reasonable hour when I can, waking up early to exercise because that’s the only time I’m guaranteed to do it) sucks in the moment.

        Find friends who support you. My profession is not as demanding as yours sounds but still requires 50+ hour weeks frequently. One of my close friends is a “work to live, not live to work” person and that clash of priorities is really difficult. I’m not saying you should choose your job over your friends, but you should know who you can vent to and who’s going to be annoyed if you cancel on them because a work emergency comes up, and act accordingly.

            1. Barefoot Librarian*

              I just googled the book series. That sounds right up my alley. I might preemptively join that fan club. :)

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Fully co-sign on this.

      I also recommend being aggressive about scheduling your you time. I still work 50-80 hour weeks, although I’m much closer to 50 hours these days (thankfully, because more than that really burns me out). I was religious about having time for yoga, the gym, meditation, cooking. It did mean that I had very little time for anything else. But I used things like my long commute to call friends and keep updated.

      But when I worked a job with 80 hour weeks, it burned me out quickly and had a tremendous negative effect on my physical and mental health. I felt chained to my job and like the work never ended. And to be honest, the work never does end. But I could decide I wasn’t going to continue to try to drink out of a fire hose, and that mostly worked for me. A good friend of mine has been working 80+ hour weeks (when you include travel, which she’s constantly doing) for over 10 years. It’s literally killing her, and she’s been in and out of the hospital for the past two years. She’s 34.

      It’s ok to opt out of jobs that remain that demanding, and you don’t always have to put in that time before deciding you don’t want to work yourself to death. There may be trade-offs in compensation or upward mobility. But in my experience, you’ll be able to see that you have way more opportunities (including opportunities for high, if not the highest, compensation) when you’re well-rested, emotionally happy, and healthy.

      1. interested party*

        Hi just wondering, what do you do? you seem to have a lot of experience on a lot of different topics here. Almost always find a relevant example. Have you worked across a lot of different fields? How did you find time to religiously do the yoga, gym etc.?

      2. Academic Addie*

        > I also recommend being aggressive about scheduling your you time

        This. I typically wake up and work 5-7 am, then take 45 minutes to get the kids up and out the door, then exercise for about an hour. I write in “7-7:45 – Kids to school” and “7:45 – 9 – Run” every day. I cross it off when it is finished every day.

        The simple fact is that if I leave myself room to equivocate on whether or not I need to exercise, inertia will keep me working at the kitchen table.

      3. Come on*

        Removed. I will not allow you to harass a member of this community. This is unacceptable, bullying behavior. Do not comment here again. – Alison

    4. JaneB*

      I’m in academia and in the teaching semester often do 50+ hour weeks (which is a LOT considering I’m officially not full time). One thing which has worked for me is to get small pieces of movement into the long day frequently – take my recycling to the main bin myself, go to the toilet on a different floor, go to the “hidden” photocopier and do some big stretches whilst my copies run, get up every 40 minutes and walk around the floor. I’m usually too knackered/antisocial to exercise outside of work, but even little pieces of movement help.

      Also I have a large stash of healthy snacks, and I spend money on high quality no-nasties bars and prepared quick-cook food and pre-packed small portions of nuts and things like that where in the quieter parts of the year I would make my own, or meal prep/divide up a large bag into smaller baggies.

      I’m an intravert so I cut out of work socialising in favour of sleep and reading, and keep up with friends and family through texts and postcards and phone calls on the weekend. People who have more need of other people may make different trade-offs!

      1. Traveling Teacher*

        It’s amazing what those small changes can do! One small change that I started doing was: if I had a few free minutes, I couldn’t look at my computer or phone. I had to do something from my list of “things that are actually fun and that I want to do.” Yes, I made a real list and stuck it to my wall! It had been so long since I’d had time to do more than eat, sleep, shower, work that I had forgotten how to relax doing things that I enjoy!

        Once I started taking 10 minutes to sit on my balcony and read, do a row of stitches in the WIP that was taking me forever to complete, or just take walks outside around the block, I started to feel like a person again instead of a machine. I started trying to get together with friends again, too, even just once per week, and that really lifted my spirits.

        Also, I limited my coffee intake to 2x per day. I had got up to eight cups, which started making me incredibly anxious. When I talked to my doctor about it, he advised drinking a lot more water and herbal teas and only having one or two cups of coffee in the morning. Total game changer! He also told me to stop working such long hours, and while it took me awhile to comply with that, he was right. I came out of this fog I had sunk into and started feeling like myself again. If possible, take a Friday and a Monday off in the near future and spend the four days sleeping, being outside relaxing, and eating well, plus whatever you do for fun. Afterwards, evaluate what you enjoyed the most and work that into your day, every day.

    5. Alina*

      Yes, protect your time well. When I had a role very similar to the one I’m guessing the OP is in I made sure to leave the office for lunch ,try to eat healthy, leave in time to go to the gym (and work after if needed).

    6. AY*

      Exercise is so key! When I was working 60-70 hour weeks, I walked to work every day and ran on the weekends. Even though the walk was not even 1.5 miles, it made such a difference to my mental health. I got to see and feel the seasons change, which made me feel like I was missing out just a little bit less.

  4. Mainely Professional*

    How do people survive? They get paid a lot of money and they do it for a short period of time. Which they save and invest. If you aren’t getting paid a lot of money (like so much money you can’t even come close to overspending your monthly budget) then you find a different job because it’s not worth it.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      This is key! Invest early so compound interest can give you rewards in your later years. The freedom I have now is due to investing when I was in my 20s.

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      This is the only way it would ever be a feasible option for myself and even then it would be iffy.

    3. Elemeno P.*

      This. I only had hours like this for a temp job with a definite end point (3 months). The job was notoriously difficult, and I took it to get on a promotion track in my company (it is normal in my industry to rotate your role on a temporary basis). I did well and got a promotion four months after the job was done.

      It was worth it, but it was a very short time, had a defined end point, and was a guaranteed promotion. I wouldn’t do it under other circumstances.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes. The investing is key. The worst is when you make a bunch of money and blow it all, because then you have wrecked your health without getting any of the “benefit” of these kinds of jobs.

    5. cmcinnyc*

      thisthisthis

      My experience with overwork came along with underpay (passion doesn’t pay–but it does keep you going!). I absolutely loved what I was doing, so in that respect I don’t regret it, but I spent 19 years without health insurance. I’m healthy today due to massive good luck, the genes of a tank, and did I mention good luck?

    6. Eillah*

      That’s assuming you earn enough to be able to build a savings, which is less and less true the younger the person you’re speaking to is.

      1. Mainely Professional*

        I’m assuming based on the letter and the comments below from people who are pretty sure this is someone training to be a CPA, but…there are many fields where “a few years of working 80 hours a week for a huge six figure salary and or to get to where you will earn a huge six figure salary” is the norm. Medicine, law, startup tech, etc. So I think the point stands regardless of cost of living. The only reason to willingly work these hours is for a huge payoff or maybe some kind of moral obligation. Either you do this to earn and save and later not work insane hours, or maybe you’re Mother Teresa. Working in Silicon Valley maybe you can’t save any money, but if you’re going to become a dermatologist in Cleveland…push through, baby.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Either you do this to earn and save and later not work insane hours, or maybe you’re Mother Teresa.

          Or you’re the working poor and have no choice but to work these ridiculous hours or wind up on the street.

          1. Mainely Professional*

            Of course. Though I suspect in that case it would be multiple jobs adding up to 80 hours, rather than one as in the LW’s case.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            Thank you! A lot of people working ridiculous hours are still NOT making ridiculous money and won’t have the option to only do it for a couple of years or outsource all their household chores.

            (Some of those people are the same people you’re outsourcing your household chores TO. Pay them well! Tip them heavily, and don’t have unrealistic expectations. I mean, speaking as a gig worker with multiple jobs myself.)

    7. LilySparrow*

      Yes! I’m in my late 40s, have caregiving reslonsibilities in both directions, and have a number of health problems myself.

      No way could I work the kinds of schedules I did in my 20s. Fortunately, I maxed out my retirement savings all those years. If I hadn’t, I’d be staring down the barrell of retirement right now with squat to show for it.

  5. anon lawyer*

    I did this for two and a half years after law school (big law). It started out okay (sometimes good, sometimes bad, but overall doable) for two years. But when the burnout hit after two years, it hit HARD. From my observation, you need to be dedicated to and passionate about the subject matter of what you’re doing for the work (long hours, being constantly on call, late nights, cancelled plans) to be worth it. I wasn’t, and it caught up with me eventually. I got great training there, so I transitioned to a smaller firm with a client base I connect better to and I’m much happier. I don’t necessarily regret my time there, but I have never once thought about going back.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I agree. Hard work becomes easier when you are in love with the content of what you’re doing. In the best of cases, it doesn’t even feel like work.

      1. Feline*

        My 60-80 hour weeks for a year and a half were for the first and only place I worked where I really felt like part of the team and got positive reinforcement in the workplace. I loved what I did all the way until they blindsided me and laid me off during the dot com bust. I’m less likely to commit myself the same way now. I work to live, not live to work.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      You do have to be passionate. At one point I was working 80-120 hour weeks and was telling people I had the best job in the world. And it was. Cool stuff, great boss, exciting.

      I couldn’t do that for other jobs though.

      1. blackcat*

        120 hour weeks!?!?!
        There are only 168 hours in a week…. 48 hours for sleep and all other non-work things in a 7 day period is… not enough…

        1. Quill*

          That’s less than 7 hours per day for sleep… which is often considered to be the clinical minimum for health.

          1. blackcat*

            I mean, as a parent of a young child, I laugh at the idea of consistently getting 7+ hours of sleep (work + house + any amount of self-care + my kid often wakes up 1-2x per night). But, that’s less than 7 hour per day for EVERYTHING other than work. Like bathing. Eating. AND sleep. IDK how it’s possible.
            I’m hoping it’s a typo and Engineer Girl meant 100 hours…

        2. PersistentCat*

          I’ve worked 120 hour weeks, and occassionally more. Notably two 3 month periods where at least 1x a week, I worked a solid 22 hours, and the rest of the week was a minimum of 12 hours. It was in manufacturing, we were bringing in new equipment, and it had to be “supervised” by moi. I totally napped in my office on those 22 hour days, and my bonus those quarters was 2x my salary for that time period. Made it worth it. Plus I was exited about the project & happy to do it.

      2. interested party*

        wow, you worked 120 hours a week? were you in manufacturing? You only had 6 hours a day outside of work hours! That’s wild. I hope you had a pretty short commute! How did you keep yourself awake during work?
        Did they require that time from you, or was it something you took on yourself to go above and beyond?

        1. Wonderer*

          I also did this for a while. I worked 60-70 hours a week for years and it meant that I basically had no hobbies and not a lot of time for friends and family. Every year or so, I would get a ‘slow’ period where I only had to work 40-50 hours and it seemed like a holiday!
          Finally, having a six week period where I worked 120-130 hours each week was the end for me. I think the only reason I physically survived is that I had started long distance running in a serious way a few months before and so I was in good shape. By the end of the six weeks, I wasn’t able to drive anymore because I couldn’t stay awake and I was drinking about 20 cups of coffee a day.
          It took me several months to recover from this, by exercising every day and only working a 40 hour week. After that, I took stress leave and then left the company.
          It was a time of great successes for me in my career, but I realized that I had no interest in continuing that path if it required such superhuman effort. I don’t regret it at all, but I never want to go through it again.

    3. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Agree on the passion driver. I did 60-65 hour weeks for several years but I was in love with the role so my energy level was really high. I had just started dating my husband but it was easy to balance, just had to prioritize my free time to make sure exercising and healthy cooking got done. It worked but when I did a couple of 80 hour weeks, there really wasn’t enough time to do anything but work and sleep. I got burnt out quick.

    4. Deer Field*

      I’m going to say that being passionate isn’t enough in the long run. I am passionate about my current job for many reasons, but I am burnt out and resentful right now, even though I can still objectively see the good work that happens. Emotionally, I’m just done.

      1. Tora*

        Yeah, passion is dangerous in some ways because it can justify a multitude of evils, ie. long hours, low pay, etc.

      2. All monkeys are French*

        I feel this so hard. I chose to follow my passion and now I, too, am burned out both emotionally and physically. The thought of starting over in a new career in my late forties is daunting to say the least. If I didn’t have a partner with a great job/benefits I’d be screwed financially.
        I think the bottom line is that work kinda sucks no matter what. That’s why they have to pay us to go.

  6. Quaremie*

    I am about five years post graduation and have spent most of this time working an average of 70 hours a week. I just wanted to answer your last question about whether or not it was worthwhile. For me, I spent that time really building a name for myself, and getting promotions and raises. Now that I have started my family and scaled back my work hours, I am still reaping the benefit of a high salary and the goodwill and flexibility from my employers who have been impressed with my dedication over the years. So for me, it was definitely worth it. However, I also really enjoy my work and generally did not find the time commitment to be as difficult as others may have.

    1. ampersand*

      Serious (not snarky) questions: How did you find the time to start a family while working 70 hour weeks for nearly five years? Did you already have an understanding partner? Did you not meet someone and start a family until you started working fewer hours?

      1. Quaremie*

        I was already married, and my husband worked at this job with me. We’d walk to and from work together, and often take lunch together, so that helped to fit in our couple-time. We live in a different country than our family and friends, so we didn’t have much of a social life beyond our time spent together, with the exception of happy hour with colleagues. If I’d been single… I’d still be single.

  7. Bend & Snap*

    I did an 8-year stint of 60+ hour weeks for not a lot of money and i regret staying so long. That’s a lot of life to spend at work.

    Incidentally, I couldn’t get pregnant the whole time I was at that job and got pregnant with my daughter within a few months of leaving.

    1. Media Monkey*

      it is crazy how stress can affect the body. I spent nearly 2 years trying to get pregnant. at the time we had a horrendous next door neighbour (domestic violence, damaging property, knocking on the door, posting threatening notes through our letterbox, drugs and alcohol). she was eventually thrown out of the property and i was pregnant within a couple of months.

  8. animaniactoo*

    I don’t regret the time I put in – I was young, I had the energy, I was sharing an apartment which meant that I had roommates to pull me out into going out and doing stuff and I was able to have a life.

    I also don’t regret leaving when I realized that I couldn’t sustain it and that it was insane to be working that much. Among other things, that job taught me to recognize an unhealthy bad setup and work environment. It taught me how to assert boundaries and to move on when boundary-assertiveness was not enough to get the job done.

    What I do regret: Not knowing enough about labor laws and pay which meant that I accepted my “freelancer” status and cheated myself out of 10’s of thousands in overtime pay.

  9. ZSD*

    Do you have student loans that these long hours are enabling you to pay off? To me, that’s the *only* reason that enduring long work weeks for a few years might be reasonable.
    If your student loans aren’t too bad (by modern standards), I suggest you start looking ASAP for a job that will have better work-life balance and allow you to protect your mental health.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      This is my thought. If the OP is being paid well enough to take an awesome vacation, pick up healthy prepared food, and buy relaxing/nice things, then there is a trade off. But a lot of these businesses will take rookies out of school and convince them that the entire industry is 60+ a week and pay them terribly.
      Don’t let anyone convince you that everyone works those hours. Put in your time to get experience, but keep your eyes open for something better!

      1. Roy G Biv*

        Yes! Very much this! I worked for an ad agency straight out of school, for little pay, long hours, and passive/aggressive managers. Name brands! Big clients! So much excitement!

        At the tender age of 29, I got to spend 24 hours wired to a mobile blood pressure tracking device, so my doctor could determine if I needed to be put on meds. I was not surprised to learn the worst BP spikes happened at work.

        So I left that industry, and got into something where I have more work/life balance, make a lot more money, and have had only a handful of days that were stressful at a level still below the daily fire drill that was advertising. I value what I learned in that career, which mostly has to do with people and boundaries: how to spot the drama llamas and not get sucked in; be cautious around charming manipulators; and to give praise, to the person, and their chain of command, for the coworkers who go above and beyond, but usually seek no glory for themselves.

  10. Orange You Glad*

    Based on the schedule alluded to in the letter, I think we may be in a similar field.

    There’s definitely a trend in the field that you have to kill yourself working long hours the first few years and no one feel bad about it because they went through it too. I don’t agree with this practice and it’s not the end of the world not to take the career path that starts with these long hour periods for a few years (I didn’t and I’m doing fine). If you can’t handle it now, it’s better to realize it early and start looking for something with more manageable hours instead of burning out early and potentially exhibit poor performance at your current position.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      Sounds like public accounting to me, which I’m in as well. And it doesn’t have to be that way! Big 4 will work newbies into the ground, but I’m at a very small firm that doesn’t do tax, so we have fantastically stable work. I don’t work more than 40 hours a week. It’s definitely not easy to find a firm like this, but if you do, it’s amazing.

      1. blackcatlady*

        yep, my very first though was welcome to the world of public accounting during tax season! Partner did it for 42 years – it’s a bear. Have you passed the exam yet? Consider moving to smaller firm, the Big 4 will use you until there is nothing left of you.

      2. Minocho*

        I had a friend who was in public accounting. She told me she sat in a meeting where multiple managers sat together with her and knowingly collectively scheduled her for 20 hour days. Knowingly!!!!

        She quit and took a bunch of coworkers at her level and tenure with her.

        I can’t even imagine.

      1. Kate, short for Bob*

        Calling people who aren’t lucky enough to have this kind of physical strength “chaff” says nothing good about you

  11. Law student*

    Boundaries.
    I worked for an elected official for 4.5 yrs before I finally quit and I didn’t have a job lined up. Early mornings, late nights random weekend calls. I felt I was too young to be burned out (26) and I realized I was being burned out for someone else’s benefit. Make sure that you have an end goal and intermediate goals. Working such long hours for someone else, your own goals can get lost and forgotten in the shuffle. If you have boundaries it’ll not only take care of your mental and physical health but also make sure you’re on track with your goals. The job I worked burned me out however, I got 2 really good mentors from that job. I wish I’d known sooner to put myself and my own goals first though.

    1. MsMaryMary*

      Boundaries are important! For me, I had to have at least one full day off a week (usually Saturday) and I rarely logged back in from home after leaving the office. I was usually leaving at 9 or 10, but still. For the most part I was not on call, so if I was off I was really off and could not think about work for a solid day or a solid 10-12 hours.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s key for me, the not logging back in. I used to work very long hours and my co-worker would leave, go home, have dinner, then get back on the phone with me and wonder why I wasn’t doing the same. I told her I would rather be home when I’m home. It saved at least some of my sanity. I once stayed at the office until 11pm to get something done just so I wouldn’t have to touch it at home.

        Granted, at that stage I was working that type of job after working more reasonable hours, and it was a big shock to the system. I had to struggle to hold on to any balance I could get.

        1. Veronica*

          I’m the only person in my office who doesn’t have work email on my phone, and who doesn’t check work emails from home. I’m not doing that until/unless I have to.

    2. Joielle*

      I was in a very similar situation, although working in a different aspect of the legislature. I also stayed for 4.5 years. That included 5 legislative sessions, which was the busy season… so about 5-6 months of terrible work life balance, and then the other 6-7 months of relative calm. Looking back, I think it was worth it – it looks great on my resume and I got a lot of useful and interesting experience. But by the end of that 5th session I was desperate to leave.

      I think the main difference is that OP has just started and is already getting burned out. For me, it was fun for a couple of years, then tolerable for a couple of years, and it was really only the last 4-5 months that I was having a rough time. I can’t tell if OP’s job is cyclical (busy/calm season) or always busy, but if the former, I’d say give it a full cycle before deciding. Sometimes the calm period is good enough that it can buoy you through the next busy period. If the latter, I don’t think it’s worth staying much longer.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        If the latter, I don’t think it’s worth staying much longer.

        Yeah, if OP doesn’t actually need to work these hours due to paying off loans/medical bills or high rent, then I agree. When I was working 60 hours a week for a law firm, we didn’t have a slow period – it was always busy – so that made my burnout worse.

        1. Veronica*

          Re paying off bills and rent – work on finding a place with lower rent, and see if you can make arrangements for lower payments on loans and bills. It’s not worth burning out.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            I don’t have this problem anymore – yes, my rent and bills are still high, but I don’t work in that industry anymore (Law) and my hours are 40, 45 tops. And no, I wouldn’t move somewhere with cheaper rent because where I live, that means either living in the sticks where you can’t get anywhere without a car (I don’t drive) or living in the ghetto, neither of which is an option. Please stop giving suggestions about my life choices – you mean well, but you have no idea what my circumstances are and the calculations I’ve done to get where I am.

            1. Veronica*

              I intended this more as a general suggestion to help everyone, than specifically for you. I also don’t own a car and don’t like living in a car-dependent area. It doesn’t really help because then taking care of a car is expensive!
              I don’t want people to feel like they have to pay high rent, or can’t ask for lower bill payments. They may not have to, they can look for or ask for other options.

    3. BethDH*

      I’d say boundaries too, but in a different way. When you’re working hours that long, it becomes even more important to leave work outside your personal life and make sure you’re not dreaming about work too. I have random little rituals that help turn work off when I leave — a river I cross that is a literal separation, putting my ID badge in a zippered pocket, turning on a podcast or certain music that redirects my thoughts immediately. If you have to work from home sometimes, try to set some boundaries there too — don’t answer email from bed, keep work papers in a covered file.

      1. Shoes On My Cat*

        This!! When I worked in a hospitality job (50+ hours) that was one fire drill after another (after previous hospitality career jobs of 6 12+hour days), I wore my hair down as that was easiest to style. On my way home, up it went into a bun or ponytail! It was a sensory signal that I was OFF & I could get into a down time state quickly, whereas my sister takes all day Saturday to get there and talks about only being able to relax for one day each weekend! (Hospitality management tends to have horrid work-life balance so we have to learn to make the most of our off hours and get in the zone FAST). Sensory triggers really help! One of my favorite bosses rolls down his car windows to blast a rock&roll song as he leaves the parking lot…while still wearing his three piece suit!

  12. HS Teacher*

    I worked a 60-70 hour schedule in finance for almost a decade. Now I’m a teacher. I’m poorer, but much happier.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I worked 60-hour weeks at a teacher, but a lot of those hours were at home at the dining room table, correcting papers and writing curriculum, which was not terrible.

    2. Sleepy*

      Teaching was the 60+ hour job per week that burned me our. I was one of only two teachers of my subject in my state, and I was the senior of the two of us, so I was responsible for single-handedly designing, creating, and revising all the materials for four different courses, as well as promoting the program, in addition to, you know…teaching. I was a pioneer for this subject in the entire country so while I was working my ass off creating materials and making about $40k/year (because I started teaching with only a bachelor’s) people were coming to me from all over the country asking to be given the curriculum and materials I’d designed. Simultaneously my colleagues in the same school were cold and unfriendly to me because they were envious of the “special” status and recognition I’d earned by teaching this rare subject.

      Like others are saying, when I finally burned out, I burned out hard. There was one day I woke up crying so hard I could barely get dressed, and when I got to work I realized I’d left things unbuttoned and unbuckled.

      I don’t regret it because I got a lot of recognition I was able to ride on for the next few years, and it enabled me to complete a dream project later on. I still haven’t made much money–my dream project hasn’t netted me a dollar so far–but it’s given meaning to my career and life beyond what can be measured monetarily. I now know the very real benefits and very real costs of following my passion in my work, which is something I needed to learn.

  13. Falling Diphthong*

    A lot of the time, they have a spouse. Who does not work those insane hours, and handles all the practical life things like paying bills and arranging a social life.

    Two specific circumstances I’ve had this suggested.
    • Married friends starting grad school, part of the orientation from other grad students was that it really helped to have a wife, regardless of your gender and orientation. A person who would handle the rest of life while you lived in the lab.

    • A mom of small kids (with a wife, so no roles assigned by gender here) suggested that the usual parenting pattern was that one parent had a full-time job with benefits–and, often, travel and long hours–and the other had a more flexible, predictable job that left them available to pick up scattered pieces the parent who had to suddenly travel to Tulsa this week could not. Which I’ve found to be pretty common amongst the child-rearing in my town. People who both have crazy jobs explicitly hire someone to manage all the things they don’t have time for.

    If you’re single and not raising kids, then to endure this I think it helps to:
    • Pay someone else to do stuff that takes time you don’t have, like cleaning.
    • Pare down–make your commute short, for example.
    • Find something that does get you out of the work head space, like leasing a horse or playing a sport or whatnot. My husband works crazy hours but part of the year he leaves early one day/week to engage in a sport. Having one thing in your life that is not work, that you prioritize, is important. You probably can’t manage to have many things, because you are not going to be having any work-life balance.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Best money I spend all month. I’ll give up caffeine before I give up my cleaning lady & I subsist on caffeine.

    1. Eva*

      Agree. But it sounds like the OP is in a field where they are expected to wait to start a family until after the more intensive early years. Although, I’d ask the OP how sure they are about work/life balance say 5 – 10 years in. A field that demands crazy hours at the beginning usually still has demanding hours later on (even if not as demanding). If OP wants kids, will they be ok with being the working all the time parent who can’t make it to school orientation, soccer games, etc, or have they seen themselves as a parent who would be more involved? If the second, this whole field might not be for them. It’s a special kind of misery to want to be with your kids a lot more than your work allows you too.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I agree with this. I am not married and haven’t been married throughout my career. I really could use some help managing the housework, chores, cooking, cleaning. It’s certainly easier if someone else is managing or at least sharing that and providing/arranging a social life.

      As a single person (even married), you may be sacrificing friendships when you don’t have time after work for a social life and lose touch with friends.

    3. Manders*

      Yes! No one said this when my partner entered grad school, but there was an unspoken assumption that male students would have a supportive girlfriend or wife who could handle household tasks. Most of the female students didn’t have romantic partners and I think that lack of support did hold them back in subtle ways.

      A lot of household work (cooking, cleaning, pet care, shopping, some parts of child care) can be done by others if you have money to throw at problems. If you’re working long hours AND you don’t have money for these things, you may have to accept that this is a situation where you’ll be hanging on by your fingernails until you find a new job.

    4. Blueberry Girl*

      Yes, all of these things. But I really would emphasize the paying someone to clean/cook/whatever and finding something (anything) you love and can make some time for. Don’t let all of your personal identity be sucked up by work. It’ll be killer in the long term.

    5. FindThisVeryInteresting*

      100% this. I work 70 hours a week most weeks (happily and with steady progression towards my C-Suite goals) but I have a stay-at-home husband so when I’m off, there are no errands to run, no house cleaning to do. I can just exist and recharge.

    6. Wonderer*

      This is how I was able to do it. We lived overseas and my spouse wasn’t allowed to work for most of the time. Of course, that became its own problem after 10 years or so…

    7. LawLady*

      My husband and I both work high-intensity jobs (me as a biglaw lawyer, him as a medical resident). We make it work by both doing what we can, and contracting out for the things we can’t.

      A dog walker, a cleaner, etc. are so necessary to our lives working.

    8. Working Mom Having It All*

      Honestly, I’d say the opposite. Generally, this only works if you’re willing to put off serious relationships or any kind of “settling down”, kids, home ownership, family responsibilities, etc. until your 30s. There is no fucking WAY you’re working a 12 hour day, commuting out to where the affordable single family housing and good schools are, and then getting up and mowing the lawn on weekends. You need roommates and no responsibilities.

    9. So bitter I’d better be anon*

      This comment really hits me where it hurts. I am the ‘support wife’ who has watched my career slowly tank in favour of my workaholic husband’s. I pick up all the s*** while he reaps the rewards and then focuses on ‘self care’ in his downtime.

      I think it is very important to consider the ethics of this approach (leaving life management to your spouse). They are paying a high cost to maintain the relationship with you.

      People may say that the spouse will also reap financial rewards but I have often seen a wife support the husband through the career building years on little money and then when things get easier she gets traded in for a less bitter model.

      I don’t think that pushing your responsibilities into your spouse is at all an ok answer here on how to manage long hours.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I don’t think this comment was meant to be a suggestion, just stating what the poster has seen or heard secondhand works for the people who chose that path.

      2. SecondCareer*

        I hear where you’re coming from, but I also think honestly, that this is the kind of thing that has to happen if one of you is going to have a high powered career and you want kids. I’m the lead parent – and I struggle with that at times because I think I’m more ambitious than my husband – but I’ve mommy tracked myself because I changed careers and he travels a lot. Our life only works with a maid, and batch cooking on the weekends and me in a flexible job making less than half what he does. I totally get how that’s not the best idea, and that the cost is significant but at the same time – I have a hard time making this work now in my flexible job, let alone a job that requires more hours.

      3. BellsaPoppin*

        I really wish I could give you a hug and have a long chat over a cup of coffee. I’m in a career where this is the norm for “support spouses”, and I’m watching my beloved husband slowly get beat down by this dynamic. I value incredibly what he has sacrificed for me (living in our home country, his social life, his career) so that I can do my dream job (long hours, fraught politics, etc.). I can only be as effective as I am because of his sacrifices and what he does on a daily basis to keep the home front moving forward.

        But at the end of the day, his retirement funds are less, his security system is less, and yes, I can’t tell you how many divorces I’ve seen and the “old, bitter spouse” who is usually a wife getting replaced by a younger enthusiastic usually-from-a-developing-country-and-happy-to-get-out lady (who is usually a super nice person, but the power dynamics of this are creepy as hell).

        It’s not sustainable. It out-sources the true cost of insane working hours onto another person. And lets not forget what this does to any kids in the family. :(

      4. Kira*

        This thread is very helpful for me. I also feel like I’m left to do all the personal-life maintenance just because I’m the one who finishes work at a reasonable time of day. I get very anxious about the unending to-do list that I feel will never get done unless I do it – figure out taxes, arrange for home repairs, coordinate travel for family holidays. And it’s not that my SO doesn’t do some of these, it’s that I feel like I’m alone working on them and that the default assumption is that I’ll do them unless I specifically ask.

  14. Bubbeleh*

    Sometimes you know something, intellectually, but you don’t KNOW know it until you’re all up in it.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have had only one job with 50-60 hour weeks — and it was one I loved so (seriously) it didn’t feel like work. Otherwise I’ve kind of self-selected jobs with a normal 35-40 hour week.

    But my brother wasn’t quite so lucky. He went to law school. Came out. Got a job and got hit with those kinds of hours. Thought he would be fine, but…not so much. He found out that he HATED the hours and promptly changed course and became a corporate, 9-5 lawyer. And worked happily at that until retirement.

    All that to say? It’s OK that you didn’t KNOW know what you were getting into. It happens. But now you know, and you can look at ways to switch course if you want, or hold on a bit until you’re sure you’re not going to adjust.

  15. rayray*

    I’m of the opinion that work/life balance is incredibly important for everyone. At my old job, I had a few periods here and there of working long hours, and it was draining. I was exhausted and irritable. I think if you need to pull the occasional long day here or there, fine. If you work a week or two straight of 10-12 hour days, it is going to take it’s toll on your health and well being. Consistent long hours are going to affect your health. Sitting for extended periods of time, being stressed, not having adequate time for exercise, not eating well, not sleeping enough, not getting any social interaction outside of work, etc.

    Life should be enjoyed, and you need time to yourself to spend with friends, family, or even just watching movies, reading, exercising, sleeping, etc. It really isn’t worth it in the long run.

    1. rayray*

      Just want to add to this-

      LW says they’re a recent grad – so I may be wrong here but let’s just say they’re young and single.

      Please do not let your employer take advantage of you for this reason. I know this doesn’t happen to everyone, and yes I also know that people who aren’t young or people who aren’t single get hit with bad hours too . I just know from experience that if you are young and single, it’s just assumed that you don’t have a life, or that your spending time with family/friends isn’t as valid or important as the others in the office. I actually did feel that way to a certain point – I understood that sometimes a coworker had to stay home with a sick kid, or maybe even leave early for a kid’s play at school. However, when it comes to taking long hours EVERY day, please don’t let it be because you’re the single person with no kids.

  16. KayEss*

    I spent a bunch of time trying to break in to an industry known for brutally long hours and abysmal work-life balance. I never “made it,” in part because I slowly came to realize that even at my absolute best, that life would destroy me—and I hadn’t been at what I considered my “best” since college.

    Some of us are simply not equipped to deal with that kind of schedule. It’s not a moral failing, or necessarily something you can “fix.” It’s just a trait.

  17. StlBlues*

    I did hugely long hours for about 3.5 years (audit). I averaged over 80 hours a week, and some weeks were worse. Our schedule was Sun-Fri all day, half day Saturdays. Doing definitely worked for me professionally and personally (lots of travel to cool places) – until it didn’t, when I stopped. In my career, though, the ‘sacrifice’ paid off with much higher job titles and pay during and after.

    I think the advice for how to get through it is going to be highly personal, but here are my thoughts:
    First: Some people just CAN’T do it. (Only you can say if this applies to you or not) If it really is hugely and consistently making you unhappy, it might not personally be worth it. I knew some people who left because they were just always unhappy.

    Advice:
    1. Taking a break – even when I was working from 7am to midnight most days, I took 2 no-work breaks: 30 minutes for lunch, and 1-1.5hrs for dinner. Your mileage may vary on what is possible for you, but that worked for me.
    2. Know your work style – some people work better in the office, alone/with people, at home. If you can get flexibility around what works best for you, then ask for it. I worked from home many days after dinner, unless there was a work reason that I needed to stay at the office.
    3. Organize your work around your rhythms – I’m the best in the afternoon, so I’d try to keep that time reserved for the ‘hard’ work that I needed to do. Routine meetings I scheduled in the morning. Easy, lower-thought maintenance work I scheduled for the evenings.
    4. Guard your real time off — No matter how much you’re working, I’m sure you’ll get some time off. (We had half days on Saturdays. yay?). I DID NOT WORK during that time. It didn’t matter how much was going on, I did something fun/relaxing during that time. If you’re busy enough to work 80 hours every week, then taking a little time isn’t going to make or break you. (Not to be depressing, but in those situations, the work is never ‘done’ anyway!)
    5. Trust your loved ones – I was dating my long distance (due to travel) bf during this time. We’re now married. I was fully up front with him about what I was going through, and he was a big source of support for me. Having someone to call even for 5 minutes really helped me get through the day. (Thinking back, I probably called him more in a rage or almost in tears than he thought was normal, but such is life!) Your person/people might be family, or good friends, or even coworkers — but having someone to commiserate with can really help.

    6. Tuesday Night Dance Parties – your idea might vary, but I had a tradition with my close coworkers to break things up. Tuesdays, we got a bottle of champagne, went to someone’s apartment, and ROCKED OUT to Beyonce for about an hour after dinner. Did we need to? No. Why the champagne? I dunno, it started one day. But having this scheduled, weird outlet was a really bright spot to look forward to. (When we were in the northeast, we occasionally had a fudgie the whale cake too. Why? again. who knows? It just made it fun)

    1. StlBlues*

      Oh – also:

      7. Work out. I meant to say this, but during my 1-1.5 hour dinners, I’d go to the gym, maybe for 30 minutes. There’s something really helpful about doing something physical when you’re working the long hours.

    2. miss_chevious*

      This is really good advice for handling the hours. I did 4 years of Big Law hours and didn’t get burned out and part of the reason for that was because I guarded the actual time off I had (usually just Sundays), religiously (no pun intended :) ). I didn’t check email; I didn’t “catch up” on things; I didn’t let calls leak in to that time. I did fun things, relaxing things, or NOTHING.

    3. Veronica*

      I know what you mean about the Tuesday night dance parties. When I got involved in music and dancing, it changed my life. I had something fun and joyful to look forward to, and it made me much more able to deal with bad things at work. :) <3

  18. Bopper*

    In some fields, e.g., accounting, the work load is like that…but the requirement for two years of work experience to get your CPA license so you are kind of stuck with that. Big Accounting firms expect that most leave after 2 years and then you are an “alumni”…and other firms are happy to hire Big Accounting alumni.

    have you gotten to the point where you are in the other 8 months where it is not as busy?

    https://www.firmofthefuture.com/content/cpa-work-life-balance-busy-season-survival-techniques/

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      A very small, very practical note: when my friend was doing her 2 years of this, she ordered enough underwear to get through the worst 6 weeks so she didn’t have to do (much) laundry. She said everybody was re-wearing clothes, and the office was pretty gross but when you get home at midnight and are back in the office by 7/8, you don’t have time to do anything else. So stock up on underwear/bras/whatever is closest to your body and just prepare yourself for a full day of laundry once everything is over.

      1. Joielle*

        Yes! Sometimes you just have to survive, and if that means eating a ton of takeout or hiring a dog walker or buying 6 weeks of new underwear, that’s ok. Sometimes the cheapest way to pay for things is with money (rather than sacrificing your sanity trying to do everything yourself). Don’t feel bad about that.

      2. MOAS*

        Haha, I was writing this in my original reply but kept thinking that I shouldn’t cz it might gross people out.

        When I first started, I wasn’t making a lot, so I just stopped doing laundry. for 3 months, just kept buying underwear. Made my life easier. It’s been a few years and now I can pay to have it taken to the laundromat (although maybe I should clarify — the laundromat didnt’ cost money, its the fact that we have a car now and my husband is willing to do the heavy lifting [literally] of taking the laundry and picking it up).

    2. ACDC*

      I’ve seen a lot of jobs that actually require Big 4 accounting experience, so this is definitely something to be mindful of.

    3. Non-Public Accounting CPA*

      You just have to work 2 years under a CPA. It doesn’t have to be public accounting. I went straight to a large company after college and was able to fulfill the requirements. Not going into public accounting was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and my career has not suffered because of it.

      1. ErinFromAccounting*

        Agreed! I’m halfway through my CPA exams (pray for me… lol) while working at a F500 company, and I am so, so glad I decided to avoid public. Some of the accounting/finance managers and directors in my company have backgrounds in public, some don’t. I wish schools didn’t push the B4/public path so hard, accounting students need to know that they can still have a great career if they start out in industry!

        1. Orange You Glad*

          Schools pushing students into Big 4 is an issue. I knew early on in college that I wasn’t interested in the public accounting path. My school basically offered no career support for students like me that wanted to go down a different career path. I did ok and found a job I love but I know plenty of people that burned out after a few months at a big 4 firm.

      2. De Minimis*

        It depends on the state, mine only required a year [thank goodness, or I never would have gotten my CPA.]

        1. Oatmeal’s Gone*

          I was just coming here to say that, every state is different. I had reciprocity in 5 states and then ended up in one that required 2080 hours in audit, or 4 years in government . Sucks since I’m not and never have been in audit.

          1. De Minimis*

            Ugh, what state is that? I’ve never heard of one that required audit hours. What do tax people do there?
            My state has the “A” designation for people who can perform the attest function, but I think they have the same one year requirement. It’s just if they’ve worked in audit, they can get the special audit designation.

      3. Lx in Canada*

        I am debating pursuing my CPA, and I work in government. 37.5 hour work weeks are pretty nice. You couldn’t pay me enough to go into public accounting.

    4. Orange You Glad*

      You’re not required to work 2 years of long hours at a big firm to get your CPA. You just need work experience. I work for an in house accounting department of a mid-sized company and had no issues meeting the work experience requirement for my CPA (and I’ve never worked over 40 hrs per week).

  19. Bg*

    I think there are fields that it might be worth it. But you have to make sure you are as supported as possible during the busy months. Keep a healthy diet even if take out is needed to save you time. Get as much sleep as possible. Get bursts of break and activity. A quick walk. Ten minutes outside. Yoga nidra is a great brief refresher. Keep social but low energy. Maybe movie nights or something else. But let your people know what you need. Most important set this plan before you start the busy time. You can make self care a priority with a clear rested mind.

    1. Em*

      This. I don’t make enough money for my hours to actually be worth it, but basically, I live very rurally and my job is the only real career opportunity for me without selling my house. My hours are only as bad as they are because there’s a 1.25 hour commute each way as well.

      So there are things I do. I never work more than 12 days on. I cannot manage it. I prioritize sleep. I meal prep. I also request days off months in advance to give myself 3 day weekends here and there so I have that to look forward to.

      I also have an out strategy. I know how much more time I need to put in at this level until I can switch jobs (looking at 3 more years). I’m getting raises and promotions as fast as I can to try to make it more worthwhile.

  20. Malarkey01*

    For me I have a busy season with insane hours and travel that’s then offset by slower periods. That seems to make a big difference. During the hectic times I basically have to check out and work becomes my priority (obviously my family is the most important thing in my life but during a 3 month period I’m not volunteering for any carpools, field trips, etc). My husband basically has to handle all parenting and household responsibility for that period, and friends and extended family know I’ll be AWOL during that period. For the couple of hours I have between work and sleep I make sure to recharge and take time for me without feeling guilty about things I should be doing and I’d make Sunday my family fun day and ignore the household stuff to just relax.

    This may sound miserable but the upside is that the rest of the year I have a ton of flexibility and can really go overboard with the stuff I missed out on and then my husband gets a much deserved rest for part of that time. The financial benefit of these hectic times and the later flexibility make sense for our situation. But, I’ve really learned not to try to actually balance work/life during a heavy period since that usually translates to trying to do it all, but rather accept that during this time not to feel guilt over work priorities (in the same way I don’t feel guilty leaving work early to attend a class play during the light times).

    1. Joielle*

      YES. I think this is a key point – if you realistically don’t have work life balance for a period of time, then don’t try to balance your work and life. You just end up feeling bad about not being able to make it work. This only works for short periods, of course, but it’s ok to let nonessential things go. There’s no sense in feeling guilty about it, guilt doesn’t add hours to the day.

  21. Not Australian*

    “How do you stay productive and alert when working 12+ hour days, six days a week?”

    You don’t, and you don’t have a personal life either – unless you’re one of the rare individuals like Margaret Thatcher who can survive on only four hours of sleep a night and has inexhaustible energy. That level of effort is not sustainable for any length of time – the occasional special project, perhaps, with a definite end-date – and your health *will* suffer. Take it from one who’s been there, done it, and carries the scars – not only will nobody thank you for putting in the extra effort, nobody will even notice.

    There is no switching off from a job like that, and I would recommend you to start reconsidering your long-term plan. It’s better to establish a good work-life balance at an early stage and maybe meet your personal targets – whatever they may be – more slowly than it is to try to accomplish everything in the first few years and then relax a bit.

    Sacrificing your mental and physical health for someone else’s aims may seem like a noble thing to do, but the best person to look after you is *you*; you should start doing so as soon as you can, and find a job that doesn’t haunt your nightmares.

    1. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I’ve seen people sacrifice their entire lives for their jobs and then get laid off and marched out by security. That kind of devotion isn’t rewarded the same way it was 50 years ago.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      Yeah, the only recognition I got from Evil Law Firm for my 60 hour work weeks was a “promotion” that wasn’t actually a promotion – they changed my title to paralegal, but didn’t give me the subsequent bump needed to match a paralegal’s salary. In turn, I left for a much higher paying job seven months later.

    3. irene*

      I suspect even the rare individuals like Margaret Thatcher are doing less well than they think! My dad was one of those – and he’d get up early on the weekends even if he wasn’t getting called into work so he could indulge in one of his two hobbies (house reno and motorcycles). For 28 years.

      He seemed to be doing okay and attributed a lot of his health issues to genetics and getting older, even though he admitted work was stressful and it would be nice to take more vacations.

      Layoffs happened 2 years ago and he’s less financially comfortable, but he is constantly remarking on how much better he feels with a strict 9-5 job. his health problems didn’t go away entirely, but they’re not as severe or easier to manage and he feels better in general ways he didn’t realize he was feeling poorly before.

      Personally, I get into burnout when I’m working more than about 32 hours a week or more than 7 hours a day for 5 days. It’s really difficult to keep up at my 40-hour 5-day-a-week job when I know that I need 4 days at 7 hours for optimum stress and health, and especially when we’re always so busy that i could easily work 80 hour weeks. Even when I genuinely enjoy my work! But I’ve inherited my dad’s sense of obligation and I’m trying very hard to use him as an example to protect my time more.

      1. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

        Yeah, my FIL worked like a demon and slept 3-4 hours a night and did not understand why people would need more sleep than that and/or not want to work 80 hour weeks. He also died of brain cancer when he was 53. I don’t know if his crappy self care was part of that or not, but it make me really, REALLY not want to sell my life to people who will just replace me when I drop dead after years of sacrificing my life to them.

    4. Djuna*

      Was looking for someone who was blunt enough to say “You don’t.” I’d go one step further and say “You can’t.”
      I start off wonderfully productive on a Monday (my one rule: no work on the weekend) and then things plummet over the week (three meeting-heavy afternoons midweek don’t help) until Friday when I’m there in body but not much use to anyone by the time the afternoon rolls around.

      I have been working 50-70 hour weeks for a few months now, and I’m wearing thin. We are hiring, so I know this is temporary, but I’m middle-aged and I am tired. I took PTO yesterday, intending to have a lazy day reading a book, maybe playing video games, and I wound up napping through most of it.

      I had someone from another team come up to me today and ask if my boss was aware of the hours I was working. He’s on a different team that works 11 hour days 4 days a week, and he’d noticed (bless him) that I was in the office for the entirety of his shift every day, and working an extra one on top of it. My boss and my grandboss are both fierce advocates for work/life balance, but this is the busiest time of year for us so we’re running to stand still until we can get more bodies to throw at the work. If I didn’t trust this was temporary, I’d be actively looking for a new job even though I love the one I have (when we’re not short-handed) and the people I work with.

    5. Media Monkey*

      if you listen to Matthew Walker (he is a sleep researcher and wrote the book “Why We Sleep” – his work is fascinating. if you don’t read the book, he did an episode of the Joe Rogan podcast where he outlines his work) we says there is research linking short sleep hours and dementia. 2 famous people who both claimed to exist on a few hours sleep a night – Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan – both suffered in their later years. it is also a very rare parson who can actually function on that little sleep – a small fraction of 1%

  22. Jane*

    Burnout will reduce your ability to function and hurt your resume far more than switching jobs too soon will.
    I’m prone to burnout, and have gone down that road several times already. Each time I seem to permanently lose a piece of myself- my motivations and jnterests change and I don’t fully regain them.

    I’m currently burning out again, due to overwork in a job I like a lot. The piece I will lose this time if I don’t stop now/very soon is an extremely marketable skill set that I enjoy using. So I am gearing up to quit a job too early myself, though i’ll be close to the two year mark and have ways to minimize the impact. I will land on my feet, and lose far less than I would if I stuck it out. This is the first time I’ve handled it proactively though. It’s taken multiple fuckups in the other direction for me to learn.

  23. New Job So Much Better*

    I worked crazy hours and took work home nightly at my first job in the mortgage biz– it was the 80s when interest rates were falling from the high teens to 8% and EVERYONE was refinancing. It was like that for several years and I’ve never regretted putting in all that time and learning so much.

  24. CheffyEffy*

    It’s pretty impossible for us to tell you if it’s worth it (sometimes it is!), but should you decide to keep grinding out long hours at your job – know that it can become more manageable. I work 75 hours a week most weeks, at a very physical job, and when I first started doing that I was useless after work for the first few weeks. After a month, my body and mind started to adjust and it’s now not so bad at all. Pay attention to little things that make your day/week easier (eating your favorite breakfast, getting into a routine when you come home, having your dog as a computer background, etc.) and really try to make those things happen every day. Best of luck!

  25. Engineer Girl*

    I can offer these tidbits

    Make sure you schedule fun time into your calendar.

    Make sure you have a decompression activity at the end of the task. Preferably something where everything is handled for you and you don’t have to think. Bonus if it is away somewhere.

    Always schedule time for exercise.

    Get a vitamin D test to make sure you’re getting enough. So many of my coworkers (me included) ended up with a deficiency. Lack of vitamin D has long term health implications.

    Try to see some people on the weekends. Even if it’s only for 2 hours. It’s also OK and stay home and decompress.

    I’m not sure all that hard work was worth it. Twenty years ago my management rewarded that work. Nowadays my employer acts entitled over it. I can say that the long hours on my first engineering assignment created a reputation that leveraged my several jobs in the future. And those jobs leveraged more jobs.

    Key thing: only let it be for a few years. Don’t let it become a lifestyle or you’ll regret it.

    1. StlBlues*

      +100 on “only let it be a few years.” I think some jobs like this can be huge stepping stones to better things, which is why I did it. However, you shouldn’t want that to be your whole life.

      The job I was in had a 5 year program / advancement possibilities within it. After about 3 years, I just realized I was done. At 3.5 years, I left. Could I have gotten promoted again? Probably. It had just tipped into “not worth it” territory for me. When I recognized that, I got out.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      “Twenty years ago my management rewarded that work. Nowadays my employer acts entitled over it.”

      Amen. Although I wouldn’t say my management rewarded long hours even 20 years ago, it was more like, “Hey, we’re making you work this mandatory OT. Sorry.” Now, I feel the attitude is, “You should expect it to always be like this.”

    3. Veronica*

      IMHO try not to stay home every weekend. That could make a person lonely. It may be different for introverts, but I think it would be good to socialize for at least a couple of hours, as Engineer Girl says.

  26. Too many hours*

    When I was right out of college I took a job that was a far commute and also worked longer hours. It was not worth it to me. I am firmly on the work to live stance, and have made sure that any jobs I take give me amble time off and closer to 40 hours a week. I may make less money but I am much happier!

  27. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I’ve had jobs with long hours (late nights, early mornings, weekends, holidays) and for me, it wasn’t worth the long hours. There just wasn’t enough pay or career growth opportunity to make it worthwhile.

    However, my husband is a professor. He went through some periods of grad school alternating between healthy hours and crazy hours, and his postdoc alternated between crazy hours and really crazy hours. He says it was worth it, to get to where he is now, and has more control over his work-life balance.

    What would make the distinction for me, is are the crazy hours something you have to endure for a fixed period of time to get to a better place, like grad school or a medical residency? Or is it just the nature of your work, and you’ll be doing crazy hours indefinitely? I’d say the former is worth it, but the latter isn’t.

  28. OhNo*

    I worked for a year and a half with 10-14 hour days, and it definitely had a serious impact on my mental and physical health. I was tired all the time (only getting 6 hours of sleep will do that!), got sick way more frequently, and never had time to do any of the self-care activities that normally help me with burnout.

    The few coping strategies I did come up with might help, though:

    – First, take plenty of breaks. Even if they’re only 5 minutes, get up and away from your work space, walk around, get outside and see the sun. I usually took a 5-10 minute break every 2 hours.

    – Second, set aside time when you know you’re not going to be productive (I always had a half hour or so after lunch, and the last 30-45 minutes of my workday), and use that as stress relief. Read AAM, check silly blogs, window shop online, whatever. One of the hardest things I ran into was feeling like I should be working every second I was at work, and the guilt that came up when I wasn’t. I had to let go of that guilt and know my limits or I would have felt even worse than I did.

    – Third, make your peace with the fact that your end product might suffer. Especially if you’re super tired (like I was!), or just can’t focus perfectly for 12 straight hours, know that you might make mistakes and that’s okay. Build in a back-up or double-check with someone else if you can, but if not, just don’t stress too much about perfection. You’re human! Things get missed! It’s not the end of the world!

  29. banzo_bean*

    I am going to take you at your word that you need to pay your dues for 2-3 years and then you will be able to transition into something more sustainable.

    I’m nearing the end of graduate school were I worked fulltime. I was very unhappy, even though I loved my job and my classes because my life no longer belonged to me, but I pushed through my remembering 2 years is a relatively short amount of time in the grand scheme of things.

    I also had to adjust my expectations on a lot of things in my life. For example my diet and exercise habits weren’t going to look anything like they did before school. I still tried to eat healthy and cook for myself when I could, and I prioritized exercise over other leisure activities. That helps but I definitely am not in as good of shape as I was before.

    You also have to fully seek out and take advantage of the opportunities you do get for leisure. Take vacations when you can. Plan out weekends when you’ll just relax. I would plan out days every three months for just reading and relaxation. I needed the quiet.

    Also, your life now unfortunately runs on a tight schedule which means you need to schedule everything. Spontaneous, impromptu plans just aren’t a part of your life anymore. Time with friends, cooking dinner, evening walks, reading, showering – all of that happens on a schedule that you need to set in advance. Flying by the seat of your pants won’t work- you schedule when you’ll do your laundry. And you stick to that schedule.

    Finally start doing things in advance that make those busy days easier when you have time. Freeze meals ahead of time, iron your clothes in advance, plan your dinners, etc. Outsource and automate as much as you can in terms of taking clothes to the cleaners, hire a cleaner, get a robotic vacuum. You’re going to have to spend a little money to compensate for the time you’re losing, hopefully your salary is able to handle this.

  30. Oh No She Di'int*

    I have worked ridiculously long hours for years and years. But that is only because I own my own business. I wouldn’t do it otherwise. I do it because through all of this, I have a personal legacy that I am passionate about and can point to and say, “I built that.”

  31. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I have only done 60-hour weeks (12-hour days 5 days a week) for any significant period of time. It was hard. I basically woke up, went to work, came home, went to bed, repeated the next day. It felt like all I did was work, commute, and sleep. I did gain weight from this. Granted, I also had family responsibilities and homeowner responsibilities on top of all that; as well a long-distance relationship (he lived 2 hours away, so one of us would go to the other person’s place Friday and come back Sunday. We didn’t meet every weekend though, because he worked 80 to 100-hour weeks at the time with the new business he’d just started!)

    Would probably do that again for a year or two if I got paid enough that I could retire/go to school/change careers to something where I wouldn’t have to worry about how much they pay me/etc at the end of it. But that’s not something that will realistically happen to me at this point, and I won’t agree to long hours for anything less.

  32. Big4anon*

    I’ll speak to my experience in public accounting (which sounds like your industry).

    Surviving – you have to create a routine that works for you, take a walk mid-day, eat your lunch away from your desk, have late night snacks, ect. in Big4 there’s a big “everyone is doing it” atmosphere and that helps. Also, pick a day you leave early enough to see sunlight. My SO has worked multiple 100 hour weeks and still had dinner with me once a week.

    Was it worth it – 100% yes, I only survived 2 years (long enough to be promoted to senior) but without that on my resume and the experience I gain I would not have landed my cushy corporate job. My work life is stellar, I make 6 figures and have very low stress.

    My SO is still in public, they want to be a CFO one day, and that is the best path to accomplish that at their age. They still work 50+ hours, and the occasional 100 hr week, but they have made it to director (step below partner) and make significantly more money than I do.

    Other friends in public – usually the title you achieve in public is the title you stay at, with very few exceptions. There is a huge amount of favoritism in hiring from achieving each title (senior, manager, ect.) in those “good” industry jobs.

  33. lemonade*

    It’s worth noting that these hours can happen outside of high-pressure white collar jobs. When I worked in the restaurant industry, 16-hour work days and 60-hour work weeks were not uncommon. You do start to crack up a bit, but the attitude was, you do what you have to do to pay the bills. I think what helped me was that I truly liked my coworkers–there was a sense of, “we’re all in this together.” We probably had unhealthy coping mechanisms that involved a lot of alcohol, but I’d suggest making the most of your time off, whatever that means to you. Maybe you could try to make your home or your room a calm sanctuary, make a routine of doing a headspace meditation before bed, have standing lunch plans (with a friend or with yourself) on your day off, or designate one night of the week, when you finally get home, to order takeout and watch a rerun of your favorite show. You need to feel like you’re doing something that’s just for you.

    1. Former Hotel Worker*

      Yup, this kind of thing was hugely common in catering and hospitality, only with none of the payoffs associated. Minimum wage, zero prestige, and very little hope for advancement (in the unlikely event anybody wanted to). Plus the hours were irregular shift patterns with no routine. Clopens (11pm finish, 6.30am start) were not uncommon – yes, those are illegal, but I don’t know how that was worked around – and because of the ‘cover’ nature of the job, if somebody called in sick you just had to stay, not because there was anything to do but because they needed a body behind the desk. The longest shift I pulled was 19 hours. My own coping strategy was to book frequent weekends where I could catch up on socialising, but even that got a “talking to” over returning to work tired after trips to see friends because “you should be using your time off to refresh yourself for work, not partying”.

      We did not cope well. The GM worked frequent 70-80 hour weeks and ended up in hospital. The job nearly killed her, in her own words. I had a nervous breakdown and was on long term sick for years. Several people stole from the company out of sheer resentment and financial desperation, and one committed credit card fraud. I’m guessing it might be a little easier to cope with on a living wage and some semblance of routine, but personally I couldn’t do it again.

  34. Falling Diphthong*

    A psych rule I’ve found broadly applicable: You can do anything for 3 months. Longer than that and it’s your life, and it gets much harder to endure something you hate for a distant payoff years down the road. There’s just a big difference between putting your head down and grinding it out for 3 months, versus for 3 years.

    Does this job come with vacation time? Booking a vacation 3 months from now might help you power through until then. Longer term, I think the people saying consider doing something else have a point, if you really loathe the hours and the work/pay isn’t rewarding enough to make it worthwhile–don’t stay until you’re radiating bitterness and doing lousy work. Look for other paths.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, I know I am not someone who is good at enduring something I hate for benefits (or supposed benefits) later. Besides, shit happens. “Later” might just keep on getting put off, or might get derailed by illness or family problems or something else in your life blowing up, or
      – worst case scenario – there may not BE a later. Sometimes people die young.

      I work longer hours than I’d like, but I’m not willing to sacrifice anything and everything fun or fulfilling in the present for an uncertain future. I can do 50 hours, 60 or 70 sometimes, but not 80-100+.

  35. Merry*

    I’m a physician, so for the 4 years of residency I worked 60-80 hours a week and then had to study on my own time. As you’re experiencing, it’s not easy. But it’s possible. For me what helped was keeping my eye on the prize…I was learning my field, this was a temporary situation, and my reward for all this work was very clear. That being said, I was always tired and didn’t see my friends and family much. And forget about hitting the gym or always being able to make a healthy meal.

    If this is a true “paying your dues” period that you know won’t last forever and the end goal is clear to you and highly desirable, I’d say hang in there. Sleep when you can, rest on your days off, do something relaxing on your vacations. Find coworkers in the trenches with you who you can go out for drinks with occasionally, so you can blow off steam with people who get what you’re going through. That helped me immensely, the social connections at work.

    Nowadays I still work 60 hours a week but I love what I do so it’s worth it 100%. You have to evaluate what you are getting out of this and decide if it’s worth it to you.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Honestly I do think this comes down to a personality issue too. There are some people who truly don’t mind the livestyle as much as others. For me, I am passionate about my hobbies outside of work, I consider spending time with my friends and family to be among my highest priorities, and I have a rebellious nature and can’t stand to think that “the man” is taking advantage of me. These things are simply not compatible with working 60-80 weeks for years, so I always prioritize work-life balance in my career over almost anything else. But I have many friends who truly think the money / prestige / job satisfaction is well worth it and genuinely do not mind spending part of every weekend working!

      1. Liz*

        Yes. This is me. I’m 30 year into my work life, and while I make decent money, I don’t have as “prestigious” a job or have moved up the ranks like many of my friends. Sometimes i wonder what would have happened if I had chosen a different career path, but, i also know that I need that work/life balance and the fact that I come in, do my job, rarely need to work overtime, etc. works for me.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah plus I know my own mental health and I don’t think it would hold up. So if I’m still paying my own bills, and my mental health is pretty good, I’ve got no complaints about the tradeoffs!

      2. TechWorker*

        +1 – it’s also just whether you can mentally cope with it. I did long long hours when I was studying – but also had a hobby and it was usually intense stints where I’d then sleep for a week at the end of term. When I started working I was like ‘oh wow I have weekends!!’ – now even weeks when I work 50 hours (not too frequent) it absolutely gets to me. My aim-which-I’ve-not-quite-managed-yet is to be organised enough in my team planning that I can get back to a solid 40 hr work – more experienced managers do it, so its gotta be feasible!

  36. CatCat*

    I had to take a different job. Also deteriorating mental and physical health. Maybe if I’d been making tons of money and could have basically outsourced all the things (all domestic tasks, have fresh prepared meals delivered, someone else drive me around) and if I hadn’t had a family, I could have hung in there longer. Maybe.

    When I put in my notice, the big boss was all, “I always encourage people to take vacation” (um… no) and commented how he’d take a month off once per year (again, not really because he’d still be checking into the office, and like, that’s not helpful to me since I can’t actually take a month off). Maybe if you could truly unplug for a long vacation between these stretches of long hours, it could work. Maybe.

  37. Cyrus*

    Maybe I shouldn’t speak up because I have no experience with this, but I can’t imagine surviving it.

    I’ve had a job with the occasional 12-hour days or 60-hour weeks due to variable schedules, meetings or events at all hours, but the understanding was that I’d make up the time the following day or week by coming in late or leaving early. 60-80 hour weeks for four months at a time would drive me insane.

    Whether it’s “worth it in the long run” depends on exactly how long and what the compensation and your life are like. If I had massive debt and little personal life, and got an offer for a job with long hours that paid far more (like at least 50 percent more, maybe 100 percent) than anything else I could find, and the hours were the only problem with it, I’d probably seriously consider it for as long as I could handle it. I’d expect that it would end the minute I was out of debt or in whatever time frame is traditional in the field, whichever came first, and try not to be hard on myself if I didn’t even make it that long. If I had a personal life I cared about, I’d only take it the job that debt was to the Mafia.

    If I was doing it because it was the traditional path to an industry I was interested in, I’d think very hard about how much I care about that industry. And that specific part of that industry in particular. Two industries that come to mind are law and medicine, for what it’s worth. I have lots of friends and family with law degrees and reasonable work-life balance. Insane hours are traditional in “BigLaw”, but there are lots of other things you can do with a law degree. Smaller law firms may be more reasonable and lots of government agencies and nonprofits employ lawyers, for starters. You make less money than at BigLaw but still a decent upper-middle-class income, in general. I don’t know much about medicine, but I’d look hard for any similar options.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Smaller law firms may be more reasonable

      Not the one I worked for sadly, lol. And the pay was crap too, so that just added salt to the wound.

  38. Jane*

    This sounds like public accounting, and if I’m right, I think most people treat it like a gauntlet you have to survive that sets you up to be qualified for lower stress, higher paying jobs in the future, and you cope as best you can during, and then get out ASAP (I work in industry as an accountant). Good luck!

  39. Penny*

    I’m another person who is in the NO camp with hours like that. I guess it depends on your own personal tolerances and career goals/passions. And it could change with time, though personally I would never have been able to do 60-80 hour weeks, even when I was younger and single/not a parent.

    This was something I really came to terms with in the past several years. Realizing that it was OKAY to not have a capital-C Career, and that I am happiest working with people I like, at an employer that is respectful and embracing of work-life balance, and in a job that I can leave at the office. Working for the paycheck, with your job being one of the lesser things in the list of things that define you, is a completely legit option. I was not raised to think that way, but I’m happy I found my way there. I am that person who, if she won the lottery, would be 100% fine not working ever again and filling her time with her hobbies. That’s where I am most fulfilled, and I like it that way.

    1. londonedit*

      Yes, this is absolutely me. I started off ‘climbing the ladder’ because I thought that was what you were meant to do, but I realised I didn’t want A Career, I wanted to do a job that I enjoy, not have too much stress, and have a good work/life balance. So now I don’t earn very much compared to most of my friends who are the same age as me, but I work my 37.5 hours a week, I like my employer, I’m not expected to stay late or work excessive hours, I enjoy what I’m doing and I have plenty of time in the evenings and at weekends to do non-work things that I enjoy.

  40. Ann Perkins*

    I did this for an Americorps affiliated program right out of college. I couldn’t even stay for a second year because the hours were insane. It was a great cause and I’m happy I did the program but it’s not sustainable long-term. I have a friend in internal auditing who works insane hours and I think his social and personal life have suffered because of it.

    1. Washi*

      Heyy same, except I stayed for 3 years! (2 as Americorps, one as a regular staff member.) My boss was the absolute best I ever had and I learned so much from her and the organization. I credit her with most of my great work habits.

      Was it worth staying? No way. Mainly I was too inexperienced to believe that not all nonprofits require you to work 60 hours a week and that anything less means you’re not passionate. My next job, I had a 37.5 hours/week job with less responsibility that even paid a bit more and where I was overall so much happier. Even without the pay difference, I would never go back. Not to be morbid, but…you never know what can happen, and I’d rather enjoy my life now than telling myself that two years down the road, I’ll finally get to be happy.

  41. CubeFarmer*

    I feel horrible that no one is taking aside these young people and really telling them what 60 to 80 hours a week actually means. I have a cousin who, admittedly, is seriously well compensated for her job, but she’s spent the last decade or so being owned by her employer. Her marriage imploded, and she’s completely burned out. Sure, she makes bank, but she’s miserable.

  42. Burn Out is Real*

    I’m in the thick of a “busy” time and being overworked right now. I go back and forth in whether or not I want to continue in this field which is known for 6-7 days/week work and 60+ hours during about 6 months of the year. I will say that from my early to late 20’s I have become better about saying “no” to certain things and realizing that I’m not doing myself a disservice by saying it. The more I said “yes” because that’s what I thought I should be doing things weren’t getting done to the best of my ability. I will say I have wrestled with leaving this field for a very long time because of the lack of work-life balance and I think once I do I will regret having stayed for so long at the expense of my mental and physical health.

  43. MsMaryMary*

    Human beings are amazingly adaptable creatures. It’s surprising how quickly working 70-80 hours a week can seem “normal”.

    For me, the culture and how I got along with my coworkers really mattered. If the projects requiring me to work long hours were low value or could have been avoided/minimized with better processes, that wore on me more than if we were doing a big push to deliver something the client was really excited about. Having everyone on the team also working crazy hours built camaraderie (although sometimes that kind of culture can get really out of whack). I got really demoralized when I was the only one in the office at 9pm.

    If your work hours are only crazy long four month out of the year, thinking of the finish line and making sure to take extra care of yourself during slow periods is important. Part of how I got burnt out is that I was working 60-70 hours year round with no slow period. I had to put in 80 hours to be able to take a few days of PTO. That wasn’t sustainable for me.

    Your life outside of work will also impact how long and happily you can work long hours. For a lot of the time I worked a crazy schedule, I was single, had a small apartment with low upkeep, and one very hardy plant to take care of. No kids, no pets, my parents were healthy and lived out of state, I didn’t have to mow the lawn or shovel the drive. Another thing that prompted me to get out of the job with the crazy hours was when I realized every male coworker at my level or above had a stay at home wife (the women were either single or operated at a heroic level I could not do). Having a supportive partner is invaluable.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Part of how I got burnt out is that I was working 60-70 hours year round with no slow period.

      This was me at Evil Law Firm except I was a long-term temp before they hired me on permanently, so I had no vacation time for the first year-and-a-half that I worked there with mandatory OT requirements.

  44. kestrafalaria*

    If you are constantly working those long hours, you may burn out and be unable to do anything else. The stress that causes has to be one of your top considerations. But if you have some periods where you’re working more like 40-50 hour weeks it can be balanced out. Having a end date in mind makes it easier to go through those weeks of really long hours.

    Another thing that might help is to work at home if you can, or set a schedule where you do work and then do your life. I have a coworker who works 6-2 PM, goes home to kids and spouse, does dinner/after school activities, etc., and logs back in after the kids go to bed at 8 for another 2-3 hours.

  45. Emi*

    I never had 80 hour weeks, but 50-60 was my normal for 5+ years. Once I totally burned out and quit with no new job in sight, I wondered why I had taken that long to prioritize my health over my employer’s profit. Maybe if I had been paid better, it might have made a difference, but it’s difficult to say because measuring physical and mental health in dollars is crazy-making. In the end the system can grind a person down to a pulp, and no one else really feels bad about it, they just hire more grist for the mill.

    But, if there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and this is something that will pay dividends later, and move you toward your larger goals, perhaps it will be worth it for you. My situation was not like that, it was just a treadmill, which I do not recommend.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Exactly. I worked in a job where I did more than one 24-hour straight stretch at work – and then was belitted for needing to leave when I was literally hallucinating from exhaustion. That place was (obviously) dysfunctional but the truth is most employers don’t care.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This sounds too familiar. A friend was working for a company where 24/7 availability was the norm.
        He got home at 5 am from his work day. He slept for an hour which made him late for his current work day. He got a reprimand from the boss. When my friend explained the boss said “That is not a reason.”
        Around that same time, a cohort worked two days straight. About Hour 32 he no longer trusted his judgement to drive. His partner drove him around so he could continue working.

        It’s interesting to me that no one seems to want to figure out how much this BS drives up health care costs.

  46. LLG612*

    I’ve been working those hours since I started my career after grad school 15 years ago. In the nonprofit world, where the pay is not great, even at executive levels. However, I’ve brought 4 nonprofits from grassroots to +$1MM annual revenue organizations and have made a name for myself. I’m now in a position where I have started to scale back at my full time job (to “normal” hours) and have slowly started building up a nonprofit consulting company which is only possible because of my track record of success. This coincides with my partner and I trying for a child and his being in a stable, high paying position. I’ve had periods of severe burnout and don’t know if it was always healthy for me, but coming out the other side, having paid down most of my debt and knowing I’ll be my own boss soon, I think I’d say it’s worth it. That said, I think if you don’t have a very clear way to make a good name for yourself in this role that would lead to your getting your role of choice in a few years, I’d be wary to stay. I experienced a period of intense regret at my life path when I had a brain tumor 4 years ago (wishing I’d made more life/balance) but I’m now glad I can write my own ticket to doing only work I want to do and have time to spend time with a (hopeful) baby in then near future.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      It’s funny you say that, I came out of college just assuming that my career in nonprofit would eventually lead to me being senior level, but in the ten years since I’ve really re-thought this assumption. The pay *can* be good but it’s rarely great, and at the highest level you’re doing more management and fundraising, which doesn’t always pay the same emotional rewards – but you’re still on the “senior” treadmill where you’re probably working tons of hours and prioritizing your organization over your life. It’s kind of the worst of all worlds. Now I kind of hope to be a well paid individual contributor until I can retire.

      1. LLG612*

        Yup, it’s pretty much exactly that! But by setting myself up to be a contractor I think I’ll get that fulfillment and the possibility of working on a bunch of interesting projects while making more money and having more free time. Being executive director comes with great learning experiences and feeling of fulfillment but I can’t do it long term and I’m glad I realized that. I think for me honestly there was a pretty heavy ego component for me too in my younger years—I really wanted to be the best in my field. Now I’ve reprioritized and realize I can be great but in a more fulfilling way than just being “at the top”.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah it’s all ego, like of *course* whatever the top position is, that’s the one I want, regardless of my skillset or desires. But watching some really miserable EDs turned me around.

          1. LLG612*

            Exactly. For me, I actually love building businesses from the ground up (like, passionately), but I sincerely hate managing people. Just writing that down was liberating, actually. Luckily my staff has no idea, as was recently confirmed in a 360 review and much positive feedback, but man, I don’t love it. What’s crazy is I started my career in clinical social work and I actually do love mentoring people, but being a boss is a different matter, especially when you inherit tough staff and a tough board.

            Yeah this post has me fast-tracking my consulting work!

  47. Accounting can be fun*

    It sounds like you are working in public accounting at a CPA firm. Know that the first year is the hardest, and it does get easier! I loved public accounting, and actually enjoyed the long hours. Don’t give up-you will know after another year whether or not public accounting is for you.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      “actually enjoyed the long hours” – can you talk a little more about that? Was it that you felt like part of a closeknit team, was it that you loved being absorbed in a task that long, was it that you felt very productive? I can’t really even picture it and it sounds very relevant to OP.

      1. De Minimis*

        I think the work itself gets easier for people, and it becomes less frustrating because you know what you’re doing. When people are on a team where everyone works well together, that helps a lot too. You get the sense of “hey, we’re all in this together.”

        If you don’t have those things, it becomes really rough. My brief period in Big 4 is still probably the most miserable experience of my working life.

  48. NoodleMara*

    I work in agriculture, where there are long hours and it is physically demanding generally. My previous job, I interned for two years (hourly with overtime, good pay) and then was hired on full time after graduating and I stayed for three years. In the summer, I worked minimum 60 hour weeks.
    Keys for handling this:
    Sleep – make sure to go to sleep and get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, no matter what.
    Eat – for physical jobs, all food is good but food that isn’t from a gas station tastes best and didnt make me nauseous. I made a lot of my own food during the winter and froze it for easy reheating in the summer. But I also made my lunches and got lots of fruit.
    Drink – I kept a 24 pack of water bottles in my truck. But you need to stay hydrated.
    Rest – don’t do much on your time away from work. I am a homebody, so it was fine. I did not cook in the evenings (I usually make one big meal on the weekend and eat it all week) or just made rice to go with food, I sat out on the porch with my dog, quiet, short walks. Read books, watch shows, etc. No running errands except on my weekends.
    I also had to work some Saturdays and I treat them like a full work day, get up, dressed, etc like normal. Sundays were sacred and I only once had to work a sunday and I made sure my boss knew I wasn’t happy about it. Sundays were for doing some minor cleaning and making food and relaxing
    In these kinds of situations, I didn’t go out, do fun events or volunteer until the busy time was over. If I wasn’t working, I was recharging. Some people wouldn’t be happy with it but I’m the kind of person that likes to be busy all the time.
    I did burn out but that was because of a project that was above my level that I was in charge of and the people I worked with. I have a job with more normal hours now but I just fill the extra hours with lots of other stuff.

  49. WonderWoman*

    It * may * be worth it if you are highly paid and have good benefits.

    The money matters because you can create a lifestyle that makes it easier to work long hours, such as living close to your office and ordering in all your meals. The benefits are important because working long hours does take a physical and mental toll, and you’ll want to have access to quality healthcare and generous vacation time to rest and recharge.

  50. De Minimis*

    The time does tend to go fast. I made a job change to an industry that had similar demands [accounting, which may be the same industry as the OP] and generally the people who do it are younger people who don’t tend to have as many outside obligations/interests. I was older so I decided right away it wasn’t for me and I ended up in a sector that tends to have regular hours. The trade off though is I had a different career path than I would have had I been able to stick it out, but I’m okay with that.

    If the OP is in public accounting my advice would be to stick it out for the bare minimum of time that it takes to meet the CPA experience requirement [usually a year], then leave.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I can certainly imagine a career path where you work the hardest when you’re right out of college, hopefully before you have a lot of external obligations, and then by the time you hit mid-career you’re pretty comfy. I also had more energy when I was 22-23, and I was used to working round the clock anyway from the school-and-job-combinations. I started wanting a more well rounded life as I got older. But this still isn’t going to be possible for everyone, and it would have to be of very short duration to be bearable IMO.

  51. Kiki*

    I don’t know if you’re talking about big four accounting, but I know that is a similar situation. I’m not in that field (just not cut out for it– I know I need balance year-round), but I have a lot of friends who were. My friends have all left the field (after the requisite 2-3 years). From what they’ve told me, this is how they got through it:
    1) Be very upfront with friends and family that you’re going to be MIA for four months. It may seem blunt and kind of rude to proactively say you’re putting people on the back-burner, but it’s better than having to deal with disappointed friends in the midst of an 80-hour work week.
    2) Make sure you’re being compensated extremely well. You’ll want to outsource a lot of domestic responsibilities for four months. Being able to come home to a clean apartment and not have to deal with laundry will be a huge help. Additionally, figuring out some way to get regular, healthy meals (rather than fast food, pizza, standard delivery fare, etc.) without expending much mental effort is huge. Look into meal-prep services or (I know this sounds extremely bougie) private chefs– if you are able to split with a roommate, it’s less egregious cost-wise than you’d expect.
    3) Prioritize sleep. Get 8 hours (or however much you need) at all costs. It may feel lame to not be out in the nightlife in your 20s, but your body will thank you.
    4) Be extremely off in your off-season. Plan big trips to look forward to. Most of my friends in big four accounting were given a lot of time off for the off-season– more than most people get at jobs with more standard hours. Put that time to good use.

    My friends who worked in the big four sometimes regret not being able to live “normal” lives for a few months each year, but the ones who took advantage of the perks (lots of PTO, sabbaticals, etc.) don’t regret it overall. One friend was able to spend 2 months exploring East and Southeast Asia while having a job and being paid– not something most people can do!

  52. The Original K.*

    The folks I knew who did this did it for a finite amount of time, usually “until my student loans are paid off, or at least paid down substantially.” (In most cases the jobs were BigLaw jobs and the debt burdens from law school were huge.) They saw it as a means to an end and they got out as soon as they could. None of them would say it was worth it, however.

    I don’t generally think it’s worth it unless you really, truly love the work or unless you’re stacking your coins with an end in mind – and even then, some moderation is essential for one’s health, if for no other reason. I know two people who had stress-induced heart attacks (one survived, one did not). Stress can actually, literally kill you.

  53. CoffeeforLife*

    Burn out hits hard and can be really difficult to come back from. I spent my 20/30s thinking I had to work until work was done- it’s never done. I regularly pulled all-nighters and worked straight through to the next day. That’s what I was supposed to do; show dedication, commitment blah blah blah. I missed out on a lot (marriage, family, vacations, general happiness) for what ultimately didn’t matter as I left that industry.

    1. Kaitlyn*

      This. Early-stage career is also often early-stage adult life. Committing to a heavy job means that other things get pushed to the side—friendships, romantic relationships, self-actualization work, relationships with parents and children. It means missing milestones. And if it’s truly a “pay your dues” situation, where you know you’ll be out of the forest in a year or four, where there’s a clear path and you’re on it, then you can do it. But if that next step is vaguer or less defined (switch companies! switch jobs!) or only mild relief from the heaviest pressure (seniority!), then consider that your job is your lifestyle is your life, and there won’t be space in it for much else.

  54. InfoGeek*

    If the heavy work is seasonal, then block those months out on your calendar and consider that you have “your life” in the rest of the year.

    Do all you can before the heavy work starts so that you don’t have to worry about every day things during those 4 months. Set bills up on auto pay. Put some meals in the freezer. Create menus/meal plans for the entire 4 months. Rest up so you don’t start the season tired. You may even consider setting up a plan for what you will wear so you will have fewer decisions.

    Plan a vacation for some time soon after the season has ended.

    During the season, try to determine what your minimum schedule is for the week. What’s the minimum you can do outside of work and survive the season? Plan any laundry, grocery shopping, house cleaning, etc. Buy any birthday presents or cards ahead of time.

    You say work is 6 days a week, so try to give yourself at least some of that 7th day for no chores at all. At least once a month try to take the entire 7th day off (whatever that means for you — spa day, bingeing a show, going to a game, etc).

    1. The Original K.*

      If the heavy work is seasonal, then block those months out on your calendar and consider that you have “your life” in the rest of the year.
      This is what my accountant does (he did some time at a Big 3 firm and now owns his own small firm). He takes a lot of vacations the rest of the year, and one is always right after the end of the season. He also keeps up his fitness hobbies even during the busy season (we make small talk about that because I have fitness hobbies too).

  55. Jennifer*

    If it’s a short period of time when your first starting out and then things will slow down – yes, it can be worth it IF you think you can get through those two years with your mental health intact. That would be a lot for some people.

    If there’s no end in sight, I say run. Many people I know have ended up having to go on anxiety meds because they were having panic attacks due to the stress of their jobs, not to mention the failed relationships, missed weddings and vacations, estranged friendships. It’s not worth it.

  56. Alexaplay*

    I think it is important to be really honest with yourself about what you need and want. I want to be really clear that I believe work/life balance is reasonable and necessary. Unfortunately, I think a lot of emphasis is put on what that work/life balance has to look like. To me, work/life balance was putting in the time while I had it in my life (e.g., single and no pets so available to travel, married with pets but no kids) to work the insane hours to learn the confidence in my abilities and experience to know when and how to ask for the balance when I needed it. I saw it as an investment in my future to go all in when I could and lean back when I needed to. Now that I have kids, while I still struggle with boundaries at times, I have very concrete non-negotiables that I feel confident asking for because I have proven myself and my abilities. I do not feel like I am “demanding” unreasonable balance or asking my managers to “just trust me” that I am going to exceed expectations on my job without putting in the insane hours of past. Notice that I said “I feel…” because I think a lot of times the pressure to NOT have a work/life balance is self-imposed. Some places and industries are inflexible but I think we make a lot of assumptions because we are afraid to ask. As for practical steps to put in place for now, start slow. Sign up for an exercise class at the start or end of your day once a week. Put it in your calendar and do it. I find paying someone/taking an available slot somewhere that people will see me holds me accountable. Exercise is great for getting out a lot of that tension that you may hold. And once a week at the start/end of the day is less disruptive to your own workflow and can help get you in a more balanced mindset. Add days as you feel comfortable doing so. Schedule your life commitments like you would meetings for work. If they are on your calendar they should hold the same weight as a work meeting. Open time translates to “free time” and sometimes people just take that free time to put in work stuff. Lastly, be honest with yourself. Part of this career is sacrificing time for 3-4 months. Instead of fighting the entire industry, be honest about whether that is something you CAN do. If you can’t, the time is now to look for something else before you get to deep.

  57. Phillip*

    I did about 80/wk in my 20s for about 6 months. It was honestly pretty surreal and my main memories of it are all at night (since I hardly saw daylight). Maybe I’m being a bit precious but I can’t imagine doing it for years.

  58. Rockin Takin*

    My first industry job I would sometimes work up to 18 hrs a day in manufacturing. It was worth it on one level because I learned a LOT and did very well. But we had to gown into clean rooms, which means no food/drink and few bathroom breaks. I was constantly dehydrated and felt ill.

    Eventually, I made it up to supervisor, and the hours were still long. It took such a toll on my physical and mental health that I was forced to find new work. Same industry, but less stressful/less hours.

    I’ve watched so many of my family members work themselves to death. Like they feel they have to put in long hours and work hard all the time. But it comes at a cost. We only get one life, and if you never get to live it then what’s the point?

  59. auburn*

    If it is in short bursts I am fine with long hours. Like, if your typical week is 40ish hours with lots of flexibility so you can take time between big deadlines to regroup and then you have sprints where for a month or two you go super hard and work crazy hours I never minded that. I actually kind of enjoy the big pushes a bit as long as we have the resources to actually do what’s being asked. When I was young at least. Now I have older middle school-age kids and it’s different. I need to be home in the evenings and on a more regular schedule and since I’m further along in my career my jobs don’t demand it as much. I only do the insane hours for very short bursts, like a week or two right before a deadline. But I think sustained long hours and stress is terrible for your health. My husband did it for years and it took a toll mentally and physically. He left for less pay but less stress and it was 100% worth the trade-off.

  60. Czhorat*

    Short term you can survive almost anything. Long term? After a certain point one needs slow down, if for no other reason than work/life balance.

    Fifteen or so years ago I had a somewhat physical job (CATV installer) and was working 10+ hours/day 6 days/week. It certainly took a toll not only on my body but on the rest of my life; it is exceedingly easy for long hours like that to render you unidimensional.

    Now I have a more traditional 8 hour day, but a long commute (90 minutes plus each way!). This has the same problem of too much time away from home; one way I deal with that is taking personal things (writing, ukulele practice, the gym) in the very early AM, from 4 until I leave the house at a quarter of 7. This means I get a little “me time” and have the evening to focus on family.

    The point is that it’s important to find the things you like to do, see if you can find time for them. If you can’t, the job might not be for you.

  61. Ali A*

    It’s hard to say without knowing the industry (there are some that truly pay off after one “pays their dues”) but at face value, I would say no. Especially if it already seems daunting to you. Other people have mentioned this, but perhaps if it’s seasonal or you are getting *mad* pay/benefits to compensate it could be easier to tolerate?

    Take care of yourself though, you’re the only you that you have.

  62. anonymous for this*

    I worked in public accounting (Big 4) for 6 years. The hours weren’t great, and there was a lot I disliked about it. But I honestly learned a ton. I used the time to get my CPA license, and that combined with Big 4 experience has been a gold mine for my future career. I reached 6 figures before turning 30, and it’s gone up ever since. I’m a controller now with a much more flexible schedule. A few other thoughts: I worked even more hours in the job I left public accounting for (so beware!) and there’s no way to have a family with those kinds of hours. I have small kids now, but it would have been impossible then. I mean, they go to bed by 7pm. In the old days, I wasn’t even home by then!

  63. Lora*

    For me, it depends very much on the projects I’m working on.

    If I’m working on a project that either I am very VERY interested in (and I have pretty broad interests, so this isn’t actually hard) or a project that will look AMAZING on my CV, then I can put in the hours and just deal with it. If it’s just A Job, forget it – I’d rather string together a couple of less-demanding jobs that are wildly different for the money, because at least doing wildly different things can hold my interest for 30 hours / week each. It’s really critical for me that it’s a project I care about in some way.

    -I end up living out of my car and my desk, so car + desk are both well stocked with snacks, lunches, toiletries and spare clothing and photos and whatnot to look at.
    -When I’m off work I really 100% decompress. No phone calls, no emails, nothing. My colleagues are capable human beings and mostly competent individuals, they can deal with it on their shift if it’s really an emergency. I walk and feed the pets and that is ALL. I pay someone else to clean, groceries are set up on automatic delivery, I’m going to read a book by the fireplace or go swimming at the beach or whatever.
    -Partner, when I had one, had to be on board with this because let me tell you, coming home after an 80-hour week to a stupid argument where you either give in because you’re too tired to argue (and then get resentful) or you win because you are ALL THE EFF OUT of patience for the day and start yelling is NOT good for a relationship.
    -Company credit card that I can use to buy food for my group/department when we’re all working late or whatever. No arguments. The other frou-frou perks of free lunch and Bagel Friday are nice, but I need to be able to order my crew a real dinner when I’m asking them to do a 15+ hour day.
    -The slog cannot last more than about two years. Then I get to sit on my butt and do slightly less than 40 hours for a while. That is my absolute maximum.
    -It has to be a project where the thinking part is sort of done in advance (e.g. planning a facility build, then two years of hard work to do the actual construction – but the planning part was already done). You cannot actually THINK more than about 6-7 hours / day; neurobiology studies have been done to conclude that after so many hours, your brain only THINKS it’s thinking when in real life it’s making a lot of mistakes. There truly are not any exceptions, I’ve seen many MIT/Harvard type dudes claim that they totally can think 110% on all 20 cylinders or whatever 24/7 because they are just magical, but in real life they fall asleep in meetings and half-@ss it. You end up spending hours the next day fixing all the mistakes…and the longer you’re putting in long hours, the more mistakes you accumulate. So, a large part of the project has to be sort of mindlessly following the plan that was already made.

    That’s how I got through such things anyway. My industry is largely project-based though – when I was just piecing together a bunch of part time things that totaled >80 hours/ week, I got through it by having them all be hugely different: working in a newspaper’s printing press room, clerking in a video rental store, waiting tables.

  64. CommanderBanana*

    I don’t think it’s worth it.

    There are some industries, especially ones with deadline-driven deliverables, that require long work hours. I work in meeting planning and know that I will work long hours in the weeks leading up to and during an event – but I also can plan for that and I know it’s not forever. Those two factors make a huge difference.

    If it’s not finite – as in, the long hours aren’t driven by a deadline – and you can’t realistically foresee when you’ll be working long hours, no, I don’t think it’s worth it. I’ve never worked anywhere that actually recognized or rewarded working long hours in a tangible way. In fact, I was laid off from a workplace where I had pulled more than one straight 24-hour stretch at the office finishing proposals.

    It’s not worth it. The only time I would say that these hours are reasonable is when you are literally saving lives, but unless you’re in disaster search and rescue or actual emergency surgery, no. In the long run it doesn’t seem to pay off the way we’re told it should.

    1. De Minimis*

      This is the conclusion I’ve come to as well. Other than those fields, most of the jobs I’ve seen with long hours only have them due to inefficiency or just not valuing people.

  65. Nicole*

    I haven’t worked a job with such high hours, but I did have a position that was incredibly high stress, always had to be on-call, and at the time I was single so I was essentially married to the job. My boss treated my free time as his because I didn’t have any kids or spouse. And while I was there I developed a stomach ulcer and then later gastritis. I was only in my mid-late 20’s at the time.
    It sucks now because even though my brain still feels like it can handle the stress, my body doesn’t. I get antsy during slow moments because I’m used to having to be “on” all the time and I feel guilty when I have nothing to do. At the same time I have such bad stomach issues now that eating something I disagree with makes me sick for days.
    I think the best thing is to know your boundaries, listen to your body if you’re getting burned out (do not ignore it), and know that if it’s too much for you that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Not everybody is equipped to work that much. No person *should* work that much in my opinion, but the world doesn’t work that way. Don’t force yourself to stay if you can’t handle it because if you do, the damage the job causes will follow you long after you’ve left.

  66. HoneyBadger*

    As an answer to your question:

    “The radical relationship-based orientation of all my subjects caught me by surprise. As someone entering the height of my career, I expend much more energy on work than on relationships. And when I imagine my future, I envision what I will have accomplished rather than the quality of my interactions with those who are most important to me. These 90-something-year-olds emphasize the opposite when they look back on their lives. Their joys and regrets have nothing to do with their careers, but with their parents, children, spouses, and friends. Put simply, when I asked one person, “Do you wish you accomplished more?” He responded, “No, I wished I loved more.”

    The quote comes from this wonderful article: https://humanparts.medium.com/what-its-like-to-be-90-something-368780082573

  67. Tequila Mockingbird*

    I worked on a project like this for 1.5 years. 12 hour days, sometimes up to 80 hours/week. They were paying well and provided food and other benefits, so I couldn’t complain at the time, but I was a wreck. I gained 20 lbs and had no social or romantic life for a year. Luckily, I saved ALL of the money (easy to do when I had no life outside the office!!) and took several months off after that project ended.

    To answer OP’s question, no, I don’t look back with regret! I’m grateful for that job – it was good experience, provided me several good networking connections that helped me years later, padded my savings & 401k, etc. If you are single and childless, it’s not as big a personal sacrifice than it might be a decade or two from now. But these types of jobs are sustainable only in the short term – a few months, maybe. You simply can’t do such a thing permanently without taking a toll on your physical and mental well-being. My two cents.

  68. Frankie*

    I took a previous job without knowing the expectation was 50-60/hr weeks, minimum. I lasted just over a year.

    BUT here’s what made it bad for me personally:
    1) The extra work often came from artificial need, based mainly on leadership ambition (wanting large, showy stuff) rather than what was really good for our customer base or what really needed to be done.
    2) For about half the office, that time on the laptop at home was to make up for terribly inefficient use of time at work. I valued efficiency at work and felt my higher volume of work was not recognized.
    3) We were expected to drop everything and firefight 24/7, when my job required uninterrupted time for me to be effective. This made the actual hours worked far more stressful because at any moment you could get a call or text or have someone come in your office literally demanding you help with a low-priority task RIGHT NOW, and you were expected to do so.
    4) Many of the hours spent were on tasks that were in no way related to the job I accepted, and which actively interfered with my getting my actual work done well.
    5) There was no way to go “above and beyond” and get recognized for it because you were already grinding through a crushing amount of work, and this was seen as middle-of-the-road for your employment. Long-term, I was concerned about the visibility of my work and whether I’d be seen as anything other than a workhorse.
    6) The conversation about workload with leadership literally never went anywhere. The answer was always just to do more time, because that’s how it works. This was made worse by the fact that our director saw workload discussions as hardball negotiations, so they’d intentionally start with unmanageable expectations knowing you’d counter with a timeline you were uncomfortable with.

    I can see myself making different decisions, or maybe staying longer, if some of the above were different. But at the end of the day, I’m someone who needs time away from work to reflect and recharge, and to do well at my job. I’m willing to put in more time when the work requires it, or when the work is so interesting I get sucked in and just want to make more headway on it, but the default expectation that you’ll be online every night and every weekend is something I’m no longer willing to do.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      So, so much this. I worked at a place that sounds similar, especially your #6. It sucked. At first it seemed great because I enjoyed the overall work, but when I realized the day-to-day was a disaster, it completely upped the stress level. I lasted just over a year and left without anything lined up, and when the panic subsided I realized that I had very little community and had basically done nothing but work for that year.

      1. Frankie*

        Yeah. Most of my free time was spent vegging on mindless activities because I couldn’t handle anything meaningful outside of work.

    2. BellsaPoppin*

      Well, crud – this hit a little too close to home. Thank you for providing me with words that describe what I’ve found myself in, even it if has framed an uncomfortable truth for me.

  69. mskyle*

    I’ve never worked 60-80 hours at a single job, but I did work 6 8-hour days a week plus half-time grad school for a few years. Fortunately I had some down time during my working hours, so I was able to do some of my school work then, and I was able to do things like plan my meals and grocery list for the week so that I could streamline my outside-of-work time. I also had a great commute during those years (mostly walking), which helped a lot. But I basically went without a social life during those years. Fortunately one of my jobs was genuinely fun, and I’m still friends with the people I worked with there, years later.

    All in all, for me it was not worth it.

  70. Jake*

    I worked a job with this 12 month cycle

    1. 2 months of light work load, 40 hour weeks
    2. 6 months of heavy work load, 60 hour weeks switching from days to nights every few weeks.
    3. 4 months of 6 or 7 days a week 12 hours a day minimum. Usually 3 or 4 days off during this entire period.

    I did it for 3 years. The work itself was super interesting and fun, so that’s what I focused on to push through it. I also was getting a super unique experience on a very prestigious project that was known widely in the industry.

    It was definitely worth it. I had no life outside of work for those 3 years though.

  71. Health Matters*

    I think I did permanent damage to my body working so much. I worked 12 hour shifts, night shift, 12 on 2 off, for 2.5 years in a demanding/chaotic (manufacturing supervisor) role. This was after getting an engineering degree, so its not like I was a total stranger to long stressful hours, but it was on another level.

    Despite my absolute best efforts to eat well (seriously, I mostly ate salad and yogurt, I was NOT eating takeout more than once a week) and sleep well (6-7 hours a night, although sometimes split into 2 sessions), I gained 50lbs, developed prediabetes, PCOS, anxiety, migraines. My doctor ran blood tests and they were horrible. Off-the-charts C reactive protein (inflammation), cortisol, and cholesterol. Plus funky thyroid. All of my labs were perfect before I started the job. We tried a variety of things but the obvious answer was to quit my job.

    I’m now 3 years out of the job, and am finally just now starting to get back to normal. That includes a year and a half of following an extremely strict ketogenic diet (supervised by an endocrinologist) to repair the damage I had done to my endocrine system and reverse the insulin resistance.
    And in that time after bad-job, I really was not a good employee at new job. It took me a year just to catch up on sleep and recover from burn-out.

    Now, obviously, working night shift adds an extra element. And not everyone responds to stress as poorly as my body did. But I also want to say that 1) you aren’t crazy if you think you’re feeling burned out, there can be very real medical impacts and 2) these choices impact health for a really, really long time after you cease the activity. Its not like the day you quit your job, you’ll be back to perfect.

    After reading “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker (he also has a 3 part interview on the Peter Attia Drive Podcast, if thats more your medium) I have a much better understanding of why my body reacted the way it did and why its taken so long to fix. And, yes, I really regret my choice to put my career ahead of my health. Long term, it just wasn’t worth it.

    1. The Original K.*

      Walker has a TED talk too. I’ve been meaning to read that book but haven’t yet, but I have heard his TED talk. It’s excellent, if scary!

      1. Health Matters*

        Honestly, the whole thing has given me a lot of anxiety lol. Now, 2 hours before bed, I start to panic about getting enough sleep. But luckily the changes I’ve implemented to address my sleep (a cooler comforter, ‘phone fast’ for 12 hours a night, blue light blocker glasses, earlier dinner time) are starting to work and with that I feel better and my sleep-anxiety is getting better. But it was a rocky month, lol.

  72. ellis55*

    Okay, I’ll get to the practical stuff in a minute but first – I was in an industry where I was constantly told this was how things are and then when I did move on laterally I found that while all the jobs are demanding, the one that I was in was MORE demanding and my supervisors weren’t being entirely honest when they said this was just “an industry thing.” So, first and foremost, I would make sure to look at a lot of different companies and see if some are better on the margins – more time off, flexible hours, other benefits that may be meaningful to you. Remember, it’s not in your boss’s interest to tell you you’re being overworked or underpaid so talk to others who are now where you want to be and see what their experiences were like.

    Now, the practical stuff. General principle – take care of your body and it’ll take care of you! And plan ahead:

    1. You’re going to need breaks during the day to get up and about. If you’re not familiar with the pomodoro system, a lot of folks with jobs that require intense focus like it because it gives them the ability to divide the work into manageable chunks. The tomato-timer is a great tool! Use your breaks, even 5 min ones to get up and stretch, grab some water, check your phone.

    2. Find an exercise practice that you can do anywhere, like running or yoga. Get some free weights for your office, etc. It may seem like “who has time?” but the worse your body feels and the more out of shape you are, the more of a toll those hours will take.

    3. Figure out simple meal prep – if you start living on takeout and gas station food, you’re gonna pay for that, too. Become best friends with a slow cooker and find a few simple, 5-ingredient-or-less recipes that you like and make good leftovers. Make it a practice to freeze leftovers you don’t eat for those days you can’t imagine cooking. Keep a mini-fridge in your office stocked with healthy snacks and drinks.

    4. Tackle your hardest, most unpleasant tasks when you feel the freshest – are you a morning or a night person? When do you have the most energy? Plan low-energy tasks for low-energy times and vice versa.

    5. Spend a few hours each week getting organized. Make a list of everything you need to do, break it down into priority order, clean your workspace (you can’t focus if you’ve created a gross nest of coffee cups with varying fullnesses), and then PUT EACH TASK into your calendar so it has a home in time and space. That way, you won’t stress about everything you have to do because you’ll see visually exactly when you’re going to get to it.

    6. Try to have something small every day that you look forward to and then make sure you do it – your favorite show with a glass of wine, a podcast, an audiobook, a yoga class, a phone call with a friend. Also give yourself one big thing per month or so that you look forward to – a festival, a favorite restaurant, etc. Figure out what motivates you and reward yourself.

    7. Be matter-of-fact about your boundaries and don’t spend too much time explaining or apologizing for them. Try “I’m not available” or “That won’t be possible with my current bandwidth, but how about [x].” Don’t apologize for things like: eating lunch, leaving the office, sleeping, etc. Don’t feel guilty about them, either. The more you act like you SHOULD be sorry, the more you’ll feel like you are doing something wrong and others will, too.

    8. Check your messages a few times a day, but don’t spend all day responding to everything as soon as you get it. You’ll never catch up and you won’t get anything done.

    9. Keep up with your regular doctor’s and dentist appointments! You’ll be better off biting the bullet and going.

    10. Keep a lean wardrobe of basics that you like and feel good in and work well together. If you’re in ill-fitting or uncomfortable clothes or in a constant cycle of searching for what to wear, your mornings will be horrible.

    GOOD LUCK!

    1. Health Matters*

      I really like all of this advice! Super practical!
      I will add with exercise though, definitely watch out for adrenal fatigue. Thats what ultimately brought me down when I was working long hours. Its important to find a balance between doing all the things, and just adding stress to an already stressed out body. I loveee HIIT exercise, but as a general rule avoid it during high stress work times because of the cortisol it triggers. Instead I focus on an easy zone-2-HR jog or yoga or something.
      (also, B vitamins are major key for fighting off adrenal fatigue, so I’d definitely recommend taking some of those)

  73. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    There’s one issue that I hadn’t seen addressed in the comments yet, and am curious myself to know how people deal with it. It is when life events interfere with your work schedule (very likely when every waking hour of your life is part of your work schedule).

    I know this isn’t a very extreme example, but a story from my own experience was, I had a job that had 24/7 on-call support and three people on rotation. Basically, during your on-call week, you had no life. The week leading up to the on-call one and the one when you were coming off on-call were also iffy, because for the former, any weekend plans had to account for you being on call starting 8AM Monday, and for the latter, your weekend calls could bleed into the Monday after. And of course, sometimes teammates needed coverage, or for you to switch with them. Or someone plain and simple did not answer their call and it went to you as the next person on rotation. A friend group of 10-15 couples with children scheduled a camping weekend *around my on-call schedule*. Then a friend from another group died of a heart attack at age 42, and the funeral was scheduled for that same weekend. I felt that I had to go to the wake and the funeral, and also felt that I couldn’t cancel on a trip that 30 people had scheduled around one person’s (my) work hours. What my husband and I ended up doing was, we went on the trip, ducked out of it on the day of the funeral (leaving our children at the campground with our friends), drove home, changed, went to the wake, could not stay for the funeral because the campground had a gate that locked at dusk, drove back to the campground. I did not like the experience at all, and the next time a recruiter called about a job opportunity, I interviewed, got an offer, accepted, and left.

    I missed a lot of things because of being on call. Had to say no to a lot of requests from my children to spend time together, and to a lot of invites from friends and family (and you know there is always something, maybe not as drastic as someone dying, but people get married, have kids etc). My whole family planned their lives around my schedule the entire time I worked there. I get taking breaks and making sure to exercise, but how did everyone on here who had to work long hours deal with having to miss out on loved ones’ life events?

    1. Former clinician*

      I missed many holidays, events, trips, etc because I was on call. Before kids, it just sucked and I dealt with it – found little ways to connect with people when I was on-call but had five minutes of downtime, to let them know they were important to me, prioritized my family on my off-call time, etc. After I became a parent, I felt like my kids had to come first, so I quit and found a job with no on-call components. I have lots of colleagues who chose instead to have their jobs come first and kids second, and they’ve found ways to make their kids feel special and valued even when they’re on. I have one friend who calls her kids from the on-call room at bedtime every shift, unless she’s actively working on a patient. It just becomes “the new normal,” and you accept that you’re going to miss a lot of stuff, your kids’ other caregiver is going to pick up the slack, and you just feel sad about it.

    2. Health Matters*

      I wasn’t on call, but worked every other weekend. I think the fact of the matter is that, plain and simple, you are going to miss ‘normal human’ events because ‘normal humans’ plan events for the weekends. I’ve found its kind of as big a deal as you make it. A matter of fact, “I have worth then so I can’t make it” in the same way that someone with a 9-5 would respond to an invite to drink mimosas at 10am on a Tuesday can help make it feel more normal and acceptable. You can also find ways to carve out special time other days. For instance mom would take a vacation day every other month and we’d spend all day together on a weekday, enjoying being totally free of crowds.
      The kids will also pretty much be ok. In your example, you probably would have missed seeing your kids and friends camping than they would have missed you. As long as you make and withhold bonding routines that work for your own family, they will adapt. My mom had a crazy-hours job when we were little, but all I remember of the time is that once in a while my mom would surprise pull me out of school for a day and we’d go to a hotel for an overnight stay and I’d get to spend all day in the pool playing with her. Or sometimes we would go out to a grown up restaurant together. Basically, she made an effort of scheduling extra-special time with me once a month that made me feel very loved… and when she wasn’t there to see plays or whatever, I didn’t really notice because it wasn’t normal for me. I suspect SHE missed me during those events much more than I missed her.
      Would I choose to work crazy hours instead of spend time with my family if I had kids? I don’t know. I kind of feel like, whats the point of having kids if you don’t want to spend time with them? But if its a temporary thing or you are able to find quality time in unusual ways, I think it can work.

    3. Fortitude Jones*

      I just did it – it was either work, or be homeless (moving back in with my mother was not an option unless I wanted to eventually be arrested for matricide). People around me understood and never gave me a hard time about it.

  74. MrsSwimmer*

    “those who have worked long hours look back with regret for the time they spent working, or feel that their hard work was worthwhile.”

    I am 51 and have done a 50-60 hr a week thing for about 17 years. It is adamantly not worth it. I have a nice title and I have earned a lot of money.

    I also have:
    Chronic worry I will be let go in a recession layoff round now that I am older and consequently more expensive.
    Migraines
    Insomnia
    Pre-diabetes (which will become diabetes if I don’t change my lifestyle to be more active/eat better)
    Almost an inability to do anything BUT work – i barely even read or watch tv anymore
    Very few friends honestly – I knew so many people from work but so many have left by now

    We have a saying where I work that everyone who leaves suddenly looks 10 years younger: the stress is off, they sleep better, etc… I can’t wait for that for me. Only 3 years, 10 months and one week away.

    Don’t do it.

  75. MOAS*

    Hello! (Former) tax accountant here!

    55-60 hours a week during the tax season (and extension “season”) are mandatory/the norm in my job. Managers work longer (so it’s not like you’re slaving away while your boss gets off easy and skips out early and coasts). I’ve been doing taxes since 2011 and was a seasonal employee at various places for about 5 seasons. So I got through the long hours by knowing there was an end date. However, at that time I desperately wanted a full time job, so I worked extra long hours thinking it would help my chances. It did not.

    I started at my current job in Dec 2014, worked through the season and was made full time employee after tax season. Again, it was that hope and desire to be FT that motivated me to work hard. Most of what I will relay will be related to how I got through each tax seasons 2015-2019. Season 1-3 (2015-2017), I went from crying daily to weekly lol. There were things, but the sleep deprivation made me extra sensitive. As I went through each season, it got easier to manage, knowing what to expect, how to manage things–it got easier. We also receive ample PTO to be taken after April 15th and the company throws a party which is a lot of fun (I know the attitudes about it here so I’ wn’t argue that but most of us here enjoy them). Literally all the managers motivated us by saying “it will end soon, the more you get done now, the easier the summer will be.” and it’s true.

    Last year, my father died in January and I had to fly across the world for the funeral and to take care of stuff. Then I had a multitude of not life threatening but stil annoying illnesses — panic attacks, rib pain, chest pain, leg pain, wisdom tooth removal that took a month to recover from. I literally was crying every day but had I not been working, I would have been an even bigger mess. Work was a godsend for me b/c it allowed me to stay preoccupied.

    This season — I was a supervisor and worked closely with my boss. I can honestly say, that this was the least stressful season I’ve ever had. Talking to angry clients, dealing with terrible team members that were dumped on us, etc. I got promoted to another team after the end of tax season and I dont’ do taxes anymore hence the “former tax accountant.”

    One thing that I think my company did that made it easy — even though we have to put in extra hours, we’re allowed the flexibility to decide when to make up the remaining hours–come in early, stay late, both weekend days, 1 weekend day, etc. From what I’ve been told at other companies, hours are mandated by upper mgmt.

    Honestly,

    What I regret:

    Probably doesn’t answer your question b/c this is more dependent on the workplace itself rather htan the industry — letting things slide for the sake of “it’s tax season, there’s other things to work on!”. I don’t mean letting work slide but things like…oh a peer called me a bitch? I won’t bother my boss with it b/c it’s tax season. My report yelled at us and called us names? It’s tax season, let’s just get through these next few weeks/days. (eventually they were both let go though). To be fair though, while I can’t point to any specific example, it’s the general culture here that made me feel like I couldn’t bring things up at that time.

    I also regret that b/c of the extra hours, I/we/ (all of us really) tend to let our diets slide. Any waking hour I had was for work. It’s the nature of tax season that literally every hour counts.

    IHello! (Former) tax accountant here!

    55-60 hours a week during the tax season (and extension “season”) are mandatory/the norm in my job. Managers work longer (so it’s not like you’re slaving away while your boss gets off easy and skips out early and coasts). I’ve been doing taxes since 2011 and was a seasonal employee at various places for about 5 seasons. So I got through the long hours by knowing there was an end date. However, at that time I desperately wanted a full time job, so I worked extra long hours thinking it would help my chances. It did not.

    I started at my current job in Dec 2014, worked through the season and was made full time employee after tax season. Again, it was that hope and desire to be FT that motivated me to work hard. Most of what I will relay will be related to how I got through each tax seasons 2015-2019. Season 1-3 (2015-2017), I went from crying daily to weekly lol. There were things, but the sleep deprivation made me extra sensitive.

    Last year, my father died in January and I had to fly across the world for the funeral and to take care of stuff. Then I had a multitude of not life threatening but stil annoying illnesses — panic attacks, rib pain, chest pain, leg pain, wisdom tooth removal that took a month to recover from. I literally was crying every day but had I not been working, I would have been an even bigger mess (and trust me I fell apart afterwards anyway). Work was a godsend for me b/c it allowed me to stay preoccupied.

    This season — I was a supervisor and worked closely with my boss. I can honestly say, that this was the least stressful season I’ve ever had. Talking to angry clients, dealing with terrible team members that were dumped on us, etc.

    This is what helped me get through each tax season–

    1. One thing that I think my company did that made it easy — even though we have to put in extra hours, we’re allowed the flexibility to decide when to make up the remaining hours–come in early, stay late, both weekend days, 1 weekend day, etc. From what I’ve been told at other companies, hours are mandated by upper mgmt.

    2. I’m married, and my husband and I don’t have kids. Up until early last year, my parents went back and forth and lived with us. When my parents were staying with us, my mom did most of the cooking and cleaning. My husband is pretty low key and can take care of himself in terms of cooking, cleaning, etc.

    3. As I went through each season, it got easier to manage, knowing what to expect, how to manage things–it got easier. We also receive ample PTO to be taken after April 15th and the company throws a party which is a lot of fun (I know the attitudes about it here so I’ wn’t argue that but most of us here enjoy them). Literally all the managers motivated us by saying “it will end soon, the more you get done now, the easier the summer will be.” and honestly, we can be a pretty social bunch and joke around a lot. Having funny, silly conversations really help in keep their sanity (for example, my “neighbor” has a big plush cat on his desk taht we’ve all kidnapped at one ponit or another).

    I plan on staying in taxes/this job until I have kids. Will it work for me if and when I ever have kids? I don’t know to be honest. Historically–we’ve had 2 managers go on maternity leave. One quit and the other works from home occasionally. One went on maternity leave and extra 2 months off, but when she came back, she didn’t work a full week for 3 months. She ended up quitting for a job with more flexibility. Everyone has different circumstances, so I am just relaying what has happened, not passing judgment at all. My boss who has 2 young kids has a wife who works PT from home and in laws to help with child care. I don’t think I will hae hte I figure if I can put in the hard work now, it’ll help me in the long run–either flexibility at my current job or just having the work experience.

    What I regret:

    Probably doesn’t answer your question b/c this is more dependent on the workplace itself rather than the industry — letting things slide for the sake of “it’s tax season, there’s other things to work on!”. I don’t mean letting work slide but things like…oh a peer called me a bitch? I won’t bother my boss with it b/c it’s tax season. My report yelled at us and called us names? It’s tax season, let’s just get through these next few weeks/days. (eventually they were both let go though). To be fair though, while I can’t point to any specific example, it’s the general culture here that made me feel like I couldn’t bring things up at that time.

    I also regret that b/c of the extra hours, I/we/ (alot of us here really) tend to let our diets slide. Any waking hour I had was for work. It’s the nature of tax season that literally every hour counts. It’s a joke around the office now that we spend May-December shedding the tax season weight. I’m diabetic so I have to be extra careful about my weight and diet, but honestly when you’re sleep deprived I tend to not care.

    What I don’t regret:
    Getting in to this field. Doing the work I do. Putting in the extra hours and working hard. Making the relationships I’ve made.

  76. JessicaR*

    The only industry where these types of long hours seem acceptable to me is medical training – but in that case, it’s simply known that it’s your LIFE for 3-7 years, not just your job. The long hours in medical training are needed in part for continuity of care, and for gaining enough experience when you’re about to have life-or-death influence over people.

    If we’re just talking PR, law, Hill jobs, etc. – I can’t understand why insanely long hours are needed.

    1. Koala dreams*

      That’s interesting, I feel the opposite — it feels extra cruel to expect people in medical training to work these types of long hours, when you know the health consequences of that. What’s the point of treating patients, when you sacrifice the workers health in the process? I thought the point of medicine was to cure people, not make people sick. It’s easier to forgive this kind of thing in an industry unrelated to health.

    2. cwhfstl*

      Honestly for a lot of people in medicine, it doesn’t stop with training. Trainees (residents) actually have work hour restrictions. For faculty particularly at academic institutions, we have to take up that slack and there are no work hour restrictions for us because we are the ultimate safety net. I work less hours than residency (I was in the prework hour restriction era and would easily hit 80-90 hours/wk every week), but I a low week (very rare) is 50-60 hours and most are closer to 70-80. Fortunately I love what I do.

  77. in the file room*

    Coming from a slightly different perspective – I spent time in the film industry, where a 15-hour day was the standard. I wasn’t in it for the long term, which probably coloured my perspective, but it was utterly gruelling and exhausting. I could barely deal with it for as long as I did. With that in mind, some practical tips:

    You probably won’t feel this to the same extent in a professional environment, since film set work involves a lot more physical exertion, but it’s hard to overstate how hard this schedule is on your body. Consider how much sleep you’re getting – I hardly had time to shower between the actual work, the commute, and crashing into bed for a few hours. Prolonged lack of sleep will make you slower and more prone to mistakes, and you will feel more tempted to rely on substances to get through the day (caffeine, nicotine, other less legal things). People in film are frequently advised to quit smoking before starting because the amount of work makes you crave it more and the urge to take a break fries the longer you with at a stretch.

    Try to eat healthy – this is easy to say, of course. Your body will be hungry because of the long hours of work and because you’re getting less sleep, and you’ll be tempted to just grab the easiest thing (chips, candy, etc). Don’t beat yourself up if you do choose those things – just try to remember to get some protein and vegetables in there to feed all that hard work your brain is doing. Batch cooking / the meal planning method where you only cook on weekends can be helpful.

    Consider commuting options. If you drive, see if there are transit methods to get home if you find yourself too tired to drive home safely at some point. (On the bright side – when you work these hours, there’s rarely traffic!) If you use transit, remember that you can use some of that time to relax with a book or compact hobby, which is hard to do while driving.

    Try to see your friends and family. You will not want to do anything on Saturday morning, so try to plan ahead for other parts of the weekend. It’s ok if you stay in all weekend too. Sometimes you need to take a break from EVERYONE to keep mentally healthy.

    Working like this sucks, but maybe that will help it suck less.

  78. (Former) HR Expat*

    I think a lot of it depends on your circumstances. I worked 60-80 hours a week consistently for about 8 years. But I was also moving around a lot and didn’t have much of a social life. Work filled in the time, so I didn’t mind. All of the work helped to develop my expertise in challenging areas, which then led to promotional opportunities. Now that I’m in another role back home, I have more of a social life and found a role that gives me more work life balance.

    For me, the keys were:
    *Find ways to treat yourself/destress when you are off. That could be a massage, mani/pedi, glass of wine/beer/attend a sporting event/whatever floats your boat.
    *Disconnect as completely as possible when it’s your time off. If you’re taking PTO/vacation, don’t check emails if at all possible
    *Try and get enough sleep during the week. This was the hardest for me.
    *Disconnect during meal times/take a break. Sometimes this is parking your car somewhere and reading a book. Sometimes it’s going to get food. But not answering emails.

  79. automaticdoor*

    So, I’m guessing you’re a public accountant based on the cyclical nature of your work. I’m the wife of someone in public accounting, he’s a director, and we’ve been together since he was a first-year senior associate, and I can tell you he was miserable for the first few years and then the workload sort of magically shifted. They work the associates and seniors to death, but by the time he made manager (5-ish years in) he was working a 50 hour week even in busy season, and now as a director he’s definitely working only 40-50 hour weeks. (I say “only” because honestly, most professional jobs are going to require that these days.) If you can manage it for a few years, you might even stick around, honestly, because it really does get better.

    I have to tell you though, if you have any sort of health condition that requires regular sleep, you may not be able to manage it, and that’s okay! My sister was also in public accounting and quit as a senior and is very happy (but she still works 60 hour weeks in busy season as a corporate accountant… honestly, it’s part of the field.) Also, I personally have a law degree and haven’t ever practiced because I enjoy more steady hours as a consultant/lobbyist — I have bipolar disorder and between the meds and my moods, I absolutely need the sleep.

    As for surviving now, part of it really depends on your boss. My husband as a director lets his associates and seniors have a little time off in the evening in busy season for a couple of hours to go to the gym or eat dinner or whatever. He honestly doesn’t care as much when they work as long as it gets done. One of his seniors is working on her masters degree and even in busy season, he makes sure she has time to go to class and do her homework. BUT, if your boss isn’t super into work-life balance, this isn’t going to happen. See if you can shift onto projects where you have a compassionate boss. Also, HIRE A CLEANING SERVICE. Don’t expect your partner/spouse to pick up all the housework. (Ask me about that…)

  80. FormerExpat*

    You’re probably at the phase of life where the long hours are most feasible. If this gig is something that you want on your resume, power through it now. It will most likely be harder, not easier, in the future. I don’t know the details of your life, now is probably the time to work the long hours if that is what it takes. My years in consulting were very valuable to me, and it didn’t bother me to meet up with my friends for drinks at 9pm, instead of going to happy hour at 5:30. Now, if anyone wanted to make plans to meet at 9pm, I’d have to politely decline since I am already in my jammies.

  81. Trinity Beeper*

    The commentariat is giving some great advice on evaluating whether this is even a path that you want to go down, so I won’t add to that. However, I’m noticing some comments here are assuming that you’re getting paid well for these hours, but that’s not necessarily the case. I’ve worked 80-hour weeks on political campaigns as an organizer, which are notorious for paying poorly.

    Here are a few tips that I’ve found really important to cope:
    1. SLEEP. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. It’s so easy to be burned out in a job with looong hours, but you will get much more burned out if you’re not rested.
    2. View this as a time where you’re investing in your future. Both for your future career, but if you’re so busy that you’re not able to have a social life, you’re going to be saving money, too. Despite my poor FO pay, I was still able to put away a fair amount of money.
    3. Claim some time for yourself in the workday. There’s likely something you can do to carve out a few minutes. One thing I did on a campaign was do a small drawing every single day. By the end, I had a sizable gallery wall of drawings that I could look at to remind myself that there is more to my life than just work.
    4. Exercise, even if it’s just walking to/from work, or walking to get lunch.

    Good luck. Your time is precious. I hope you’re able to make a decision on how to spend it that you feel good about.

    1. vlookup*

      There are definitely some additional challenges when you’re working ridiculous hours and not making any money! Having the cheapest possible apartment with the shortest possible commute was essential for me as an organizer. Instead of outsourcing cleaning and other domestic tasks, I essentially just didn’t do them.

  82. Goldfinch*

    You should also ask this over on Corporette. Lot of ladies in Big Law over there, with the long hours to match. They are pros at navigating this.

  83. SheLooksFamiliar*

    When I was in my 20s and 30s, 70+ hour work weeks were easy to manage. I had energy to burn, why not do it in service of my career? I agreed to any and everything my bosses suggested and was able to advance in ways that still pay off, 30 years later. But in my 40s, things changed. I just couldn’t keep up the same pace, and I didn’t want to, either.

    As many others have said already, working out and self-care made a difference early on. If I didn’t begin my day in the gym, I felt ‘off’ the rest of the day. I found a few minutes every day to indulge myself, too. A quiet cup of coffee, a 10 minute walk to nowhere, a call to friend – little things to rebalance. Also, I reminded myself that I made my career choices for my own reasons, they weren’t forced on me. I appreciated the long-term benefits, like financial rewards and visibility in my field.

    But I won’t lie, working so many hours for so long came at a personal cost. I missed some important family moments that still bother me, and lost some friends because I was never available for them. Also, as I got older I couldn’t keep up that kind of pace and have a semblance of a life. So I slowed down to a more typical work week…and I had a hard time adjusting to *that*. I felt like I was slacking off, just for leaving the office at 6 pm, and had a hard time with so many free hours to fill on the weekends.

    Eventually I made peace with what I call my new normal: I put in 60+ hour weeks when I need or want to, because I really do love what I do. I’ve got a life again outside of work. But I don’t know if I’d have the same kind of life if I hadn’t busted my tail for so many years…

  84. CupcakeCounter*

    This sounds a lot like my field (accounting). Due to my place in life when I graduated school, I went straight into corporate accounting and skipped the CPA and public accounting lane. It is very normal to have a busy season of 60-80+ hour weeks for 3-4 months. The trade off is significantly higher pay (around $15k/year in my area for new grads, more if you are willing to move to certain areas…when I graduated you got a sign on bonus of $5k, free housing for 6 months, and certain other perks for agreeing to work 2 years in Detroit), partial hours in summer/non-busy season, and much higher earning potential when you do leave.
    A classmate and I ended up at the same company several years after graduation. She had done her 2-3 years in public accounting (tax) and even though I had nearly 5 years at the company at this time, she came in with a significantly higher title and pay. The chances of me ever matching her earning level is about zero.

    As for how to survive it…
    In accounting, there is a long history of assurance that there is an end to it so many people focus on that. My friend used some of the higher salary she earned to pay for some conveniences. She utilized the on site dry cleaning so laundry wasn’t a huge issue. Paid one of her sisters to be a sort of “housekeeper” and she did some cooking/meal prep, cleaning, and grocery shopping. She also kept a suitcase in her truck with a couple changes of work clothes in case of bad weather as the company would offer to pay for a hotel near the office. Her work set it up in a way that the office would close for a couple of days immediately following the deadlines and no one was charged PTO. The next week they only had to work 1/2 days then back to a normal 40 hour week dealing with questions, extensions, etc… Starting the week of Memorial Day through Labor Day, the office was closed on Fridays and Wednesdays were partial days (leave at 3 or something). Office was closed between Christmas and New Years so a guaranteed week off before hell started again. She also did almost nothing on those days she did have off. Netflix in bed was essentially her Sunday.
    She did notice that people who graduated in December usually have a harder time since they are already so wiped out from completing their course work, finals, moving, etc…

    It comes down to knowing your field. If there is a busy season and everyone has to deal – not much you can do to get it changed so you need to figure out A) what coping strategies work best for you or B) if this is a field you can stay in for the time frame you mentioned. If your company says its their busy season but other employers in your field are working normal hours…its probably the company and you might be able to push back a little.

  85. MistOrMister*

    I had a job where I was working probably 12 hour days (but not weekends) and looking back I don’t think it was worth it at all. Those hours were not expected of everyone and many people workd only their regular 8 hours but I was trying to be helpful. We were encouraged to work OT and you would be dinged on reviews or not given promotions for not working it, but even so, it wasn’t always appreciated. I cut back on my hours when I noted that other people did a lot less and were treated better. I do very much regret the hours I put in at that place.

    Current office but different position, I was working an extra 2 hours a day for 3-6 months. I did that mainly for monetary reasons. I don’t regret that time as it was my decision to take more hours and I knew I could pare back whenever I wanted. The position I have now is busy enough that I generally work OT but only about one extra hour a day (I work through lunch). I do miss being able to regularly take lunch breaks, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay in order to not have to come in early, stay late, work from home after hours or come in on weekends. When I was working the 2 extra hours a day I would get in 2 hours early and still take a lunch. That did a lot to help me keep sane.

    If you’re only 4 months into this position and are already burning out, I can’t imagine that it would be worth it to try to stick around for another 2-3 years. In one position I’ve had, a few times a year things get so busy that we’re working 12-16 hour days plus weekends. I would find myself at home mentally organizing the work I needed to get through the next day and it was exhausting. I could deal with it because it only lasts 2 weeks and happens 2 or 3 times a year. It sounds like you are in a similar situation and it just doesn’t seem sustainable. I think the people who work those kinds of schedules without falling to pieces are ones that have a mindset/energy level where that kind of thing is enjoyable. Or at least not abhorrent. It doesn’t seem,to me like it’s something one can easily teach themselves to live with. Hopefully you will find a work/life balance or a position with hours that are better suited to your needs!

  86. G&T*

    I have some… feelings about this.

    I work in an industry that is notorious for what we euphemistically call “unsocial hours”. We are expected to pay our dues and don’t become valuable until we have put in ten to fifteen YEARS of 80+ hour weeks. Salaries are low to middle. We get paid in amorphous “prestige” (like exposure, it doesn’t put food on the table or the kids through college).

    Twelve years in, my cohort and I are finally starting to see the payoff from our hard work. At the same time, we’re also starting to see the consequences. Almost all of us have high blood pressure, almost all of are suffering from a combination of burnout, anxiety and/or depression, and we’re almost all single or in the midst of divorces (not that I think my marriage would have been saved if I was home more, but that’s a story for another day). Our individual and collective alcohol consumption is through the roof.

    Is it worth it? On the aggregate, YES. The world needs people who do what we do (diplomacy and humanitarian aid). On the individual level, I don’t think so. I often feel like we live in a world like in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, where most people have outsourced the long hours and terrible emotional load on to a few.

    How do we make it through?

    -It helps if you like your coworkers. One bad apple can suck the life out of a workplace faster than you can say “pass the whiskey”.

    -do try and carve out some time to exercise. It sounds laughable when you have hours like we do, but it does help with diffusing the pent up anger and anxiety and frustration at the state of the world.

    -know why you’re there. You have to be able to know why you are hauling your butt out of bed every morning.

    -try to have friendships outside your work circle. Easier said than done, but no one can ever really cut loose when they do have time off if they are hanging around with coworkers and rehashing the usual.

    -spend time figuring out who you can trust and who you can’t. Many a career has been derailed by a misjudgement in this area, and you want the time to have been worth it.

  87. Goodbye Toby*

    I’ve worked in law for several years and the first year was awful. I felt like I was completely unqualified and overwhelmed, so it does get better. I don’t know if it’s really worth it. My biggest piece of advice is to have a variety of friends. Your friends in your field will be amble to sympathize and understand what you’re going through (and maybe help more substantively as well). Your friends outside of the industry will give you perspective on when you need to pull back or aren’t acting like yourself. Good luck!

  88. Ms Chanadalar Bong*

    I worked two of these jobs back to back when I first started working. A few tips from my time:

    1. Make use of resources/compensation that is available to you, including PTO, any kind of EAP/mental health resources, vacation days. You will need them.
    2. Know when it’s time to throw in the towel. Mine was when my hair started falling out.
    3. Take away the right lessons: it took a while, but I know now what I learned (what I’m worth, what my values are as a manager, that crisis management is not the right role for me, etc). If you don’t use this as a learning experience, you will burn out with nothing to show for it.
    4. The most important: do not lose the people who care about you. Even if all you can manage with your schedule is checking in with text/calling and asking about them, do it. They will keep you grounded, and you’ll want them there when you move on.

  89. Sualah*

    Figure out food. Pay someone to make it, do monthly or weekly food prep yourself, get Blue Apron, whatever you need to do. When I had a year of at least 50 hour weeks, I ate so badly. So much fast food. Because I was never in a place where I wanted to spend a lot of time figuring out food. I was tired at night, tired in the morning. Easier to grab something on the go, always.

    If I had to do it again (I would not do it again), I would spend the money to make that easier and healthier. I had one day where all three of my meals were McDonald’s and I felt like the Supersize Me guy and it was just awful. (I didn’t get to start eating better until the job slowed down, but I at least made sure it wasn’t all three McDonald’s again.)

  90. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    I think it depends on your passion for the work and how well you mesh with the organization.

    Even within my current field, I’ve had companies that I gladly put in 80 hours in a week, and I’ve had companies that putting in 25 hours feels like too much. If you’re being supported properly, you retain the flexibility to meet your personal needs, and it’s not an always on-going situation then I think you can be successful in that type of role.

  91. Noah*

    I used to do this — 60-80 hours per week all year round. There wasn’t really a “how” for me. I just did it. It sucked a lot of the time. You may get used to it to some extent, which allows you to plow through longer. But that will either happen or it won’t; I don’t think you can control it much. The more you do get used to it, the longer you’ll be able to tough it out. If you like or love the work, that helps, too.

    But getting used to it can also turn into getting addicted to it (especially if it comes with good pay). You may forget that you don’t have to be doing what you’re doing. Never forget you *can* leave (not that you necessarily should, but don’t forget you can).

  92. EngineerMom*

    This is a really personal thing. I work in a field where some folks work very long hours (60-80 hour weeks for years, sometimes decades), and others don’t. Whether you “get ahead” isn’t determined by your hours, but by the quality of the work you do and your interpersonal skills (yes, engineers have interpersonal skills!).

    I personally can’t tolerate the long hours. So I don’t put them in unless there’s a true emergency. And I follow my dad’s favorite quote:

    “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

  93. Don't Blame the Ozone Layer*

    The amount of money they’d have to pay me to go back to that is at least Walton Family level, if not Bezos level. So at some point, yeah it’s worth it.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      LOL, right! If I made Jeff Bezos money, I’d work those hours again with no complaints. But for $70k (my current base salary not including my quarterly bonuses)? Hells nah. You get 40 hours, 42 if I’m feeling generous, and that’s it.

  94. GoMonkey*

    How’s the money? I did insane hours in the arts/event production when I was young for peanuts because I was supposed to earn my stripes and just be grateful to be there. I’m bitter about it now, but I’d probably be less bitter if I’d come out the other end with a healthy savings account and not a couchsurfer [read: your friends are too polite to call you homeless].

    If you love what you do, you can make it work for awhile. It will consume 100% of your time, energy, emotions. Your only friends will be coworkers. Your only down time will be hanging out with coworkers, talking about work, probably while drinking heavily. Watch out for weight gain/loss, substance abuse problems, and the general inability to assert normal boundaries/adjust yourself to more balanced workplace norms when you do move on. I still struggle to justify sleeping over 4 hours when I “should” be working on my favorite side gig. It will make you feel anxious and guilty about not working any time you could theoretically be doing work, for years afterwards. Plan for a long recovery.

    I don’t necessarily *regret* the choices I made, but I do loudly and repeatedly share my experiences and opinions about labor exploitation with anyone younger than me looking into my fields as a career track. Take that for what you will.

    An industry norm requiring so much work is only sustained by mutual consent of all parties. That consent is usually coerced from workers. I support and assist all workers who are organizing to change those norms to more human-friendly ones.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      It will make you feel anxious and guilty about not working any time you could theoretically be doing work, for years afterwards.

      Yes. Six years after leaving Evil Law Firm, I still can’t function with downtime in my jobs – it’s brutal to sit there with nothing to do.

  95. chickia*

    I worked (and still do) in the entertainment industry, which is known for completely INSANE hours. As in, my personal record was 125 hours in 1 work week week. It was typically 60 hours, during tech week was 90+ or more. . . during run of show could be far far fewer. The way you get through that is (1) you work IS your life. Pretty much all your social interaction happens there (2) you are very young and think this is normal (3) you actually love being in the theatre — this is pretty important because also the pay is total crap so if you don’t love it there’s no way anyone would actually do it (4) during your off hours, you pretty much don’t do anything except sleep and eat and occasional laundry (5) laundry is not as big an issue as you’d think because all your clothes are black t shirts and jeans anyway and you own like 20 of them.

    That said, I am now on the sales/installation side of the industry and have much better work life balance. I don’t actually regret the time I spent doing live entertainment – I was young, I loved what I was doing, it was fun, and I got to do a whole lot of cool stuff (and travel, eventually). It was also pretty active, so not like sitting at the desk all the time. And the pay did get better. But making a family work? not even remotely possible until switching to the sales/support side.

  96. Rose's angel*

    I have always had 2 jobs and there was a time where as a result 60-80 hour weeks were normal. I burned out quickly. At the time I had no choice I had to pay my rent but I also gained weight. A lot of weight. If this is something you have to do then schedule mental health days. And go dark those days. Veg in front of the TV, go for a long walk (or several short ones) but completely disconnect. If you cant schedule days then you should completely disconnect when you get home. Schedule me time if you have to and give yourself something to look forward to do during me time (glass of wine, ice cream or exercise if thats your fancy) but disconnecting is key. Of course if you can avoid working constant and long stretches of long hours and long days I would highly recommend it. I dont regret doing what I needed to do to pay the rent but I am still carrying the phsyical weight (and for a long time the emotional weight) of all those long hours. I lost many friendships and relationships because I had zero energy or desire to do anything. Good luck OP.

  97. Former clinician*

    I was a clinician working in a high-volume on-call specialty. 50-80 hour weeks were the norm. I’m now a community health program manager. Working that much worked well for me at the stage in my life I was in, but once I had kids, it became unsustainable and I switched jobs. So it’s not for everyone, and it’s not for everyone in every phase of their life. With that being said, when it worked, here’s how I made it work:

    1. I outsourced or eliminated the “nice-to-haves.” Someone else cleaned my house, I didn’t go to the gym (a nice-to-have for me, but not for everyone), I didn’t do any volunteering or community engagement stuff.

    2. I invested heavily in my time off. I took an uninterrupted month off every summer and protected my off-call weekends fiercely.

    3. I figured out what I need to do every day to stay sane, and made sure I always did it. My list was sleep>food>shower>talk to someone I love>total brain shutoff downtime like TV or knitting.

    Lastly, what really kept me going was that I loved, loved, loved the work. I was physically tired but emotionally and mentally energized at the end of a 24-hour work day because the work was truly my passion. I don’t think I could have made it through as many years as I did otherwise. I personally wouldn’t work 60-80 hour weeks at a job that I didn’t really love, no matter how well it paid.

  98. Becklespinax*

    Burnout is relative, and it’s avoiding it is all about setting your boundaries and knowing your limits. You don’t have to martyr yourself just because others do!

    I have been struggling this year with burnout even in a job I love because although my hours aren’t too long, my job is 80% travel. Pushing back and setting expectations by saying things like I’ll be at a site two hours away for 10am rather than 9am has made a huge difference: I love my job but it feels more sustainable.

  99. Bonky*

    I did it for about three years. It worked well for me, but the circumstances were very specific.

    My husband and I were among the founders of a start-up; we were the only founding members who actually worked at the organisation. I worked 70-80-hour weeks for the first three years, at which point we scaled successfully; we’re now nine years in and I have a much saner work life. The company’s been very successful, we’re very happy in that and in our marriage, and we’ve been very fortunate overall.

    Would I have worked those hours if the company hadn’t been “my baby”? Probably not; although the early culture really encouraged long hours, and many people were happy to pitch in both because they really believed in the mission and because they scented an opportunity to do very well if the company did as well as we believed it might. I did a lot of exec ed especially aimed at scaling companies, and worked very hard at building a team I would eventually be able to delegate to.

    I had a kid a couple of years ago, and after maternity leave came back part-time: two days in the office, 9-5, and one working from home. I also work in any downtime (ha) I get, so it actually adds up to more than three days a week. I have a fantastic work/life balance, and I really feel the few years of crazy hours have enabled that: without those years we wouldn’t have been able to build something strong enough to allow me to be as flexible as I can be now.

  100. noahwynn*

    My first career out of college I was on-call 24/7. I routinely worked 60 hour weeks and because I managed a 24/ operation would occasionally have to cover overnight shifts when someone called out. I had to always have my cell phone within arms reach, and multiple times had to jump out of the shower to answer the phone. The thing was I loved the company and the job, I stayed there 10 years.

    Because of the always on nature of the role, my boss was super protective of our vacation time. Although we were expected to plan for the time away and ensure coverage, we were explicitly told to stay away from anything work-related. I enjoyed my 4 weeks of vacation every year very much.

    During the rest of the year I made sure to not spend every waking hour at the office, and actually schedule time for things I enjoyed. I had an hour blocked on my calendar every morning for a run. Sure, I had to take my cell phone with me, but it was still time I didn’t usually have to think about work. Also made sure to actually go out with friends, even if it was just lunch or dinner. Basically find things outside of work to do besides sleep.

    The company I moved to started more in the normal 40 hour workweek range, but over time it crept up. It was also a bit smaller company and although we had “unlimited PTO” it really meant we never got a vacation. I remember spending 3-4 hours per day on a cruise ship trying to keep up with my work. I hated it and ended up burning out. I now work in a more normal office environment where 40-50 hours per week is normal. I think I’ve been called on a Saturday once in the 9 months I’ve been here.

  101. cactus lady*

    I absolutely 100% REGRET spending several years working long hours at a job that burned me out. DON’T DO IT. There is no amount of money or prestige that could have made that worthwhile. It’s not just that you work long hours, you lose so many things: your health, your life outside of work, your most important close relationships. I was single during that period of time and couldn’t date anyone seriously because of my job. I tried, and failed. I was really successful in that job, but I felt like I was failing at everything outside of work. I was sick, anxious, I dreamed about work, I didn’t feel like I had any self-worth outside of my job – and that’s how I learned that being successful career-wise did not equate feeling successful in my own life.

    The thing that made me realize all this was when I took a big promotion 2 years ago. It was the position I’d been dreaming of when I was putting in all those hours, with the salary I wanted to make, and I thought it was going to be everything I wanted. Well, it turned out, it sucked. The first year I continued to burn myself out and realized that I didn’t want to do that anymore, so at the beginning of this year I decided to make my life outside of work my priority. I can’t pretend like my boss has been super happy about that and I’m probably going to be leaving this job within the next year – once I would have seen this as failing, but that’s because so much of my identity was tied to my career.

    Jobs come and go and careers can change. Your health, wellbeing, and happiness should always come first. Don’t listen to anyone who tells your otherwise.

  102. Sarah Leigh*

    Tread carefully, young padawan! I worked 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week for years. I worked in financial services and it only became worse once I was promoted to a supervisor position. My physical health declined. I was on medication for high blood pressure at age 28, and had emergency gall bladder removal because I ate once a day (and not healthy food at that) and I destroyed my gallbladder. I’m not trying to terrify you, but please pay close attention to your body & take care of yourself. I left my job after 7 years of hell. If this job gives you the experience and skills that you need for your next job, that’s great! But please don’t spend the entirety of your 20’s working to the point where you’re not actually living. I’m 34 and look back on my 20’s wistfully. It was a blur of constant work stress, damaged relationships due to that stress, and medical problem that I never dreamed I’d be facing in my 20’s. Good luck!

  103. Murphy*

    I’m an emergency dispatcher near New York City. We work pittman schedule so we have four squads on 12 hour shifts. We each work one week that’s 60 and another that’s 24 hours. I frequently accept overtime, whether that is coming in early or staying late by four hours, making a 12 hour shift a 16 hour shift. I have to say, those short weeks make it significantly easier. On occasion, I come in on a day I am off for overtime, but a three day weekend twice a month really makes the job worthwhile. Plus, as long as you take your vacations during your “short” weeks, you could really get a handful of week long vacations while only using two days each time. This kind of system also allows for more coverage if someone calls out sick as many people are willing to stay for a few hours or come in early. There is however, a four hour gap period that would need to get filled by part timers or someone on their day off. For those that do have jobs that demand constant coverage like mine, consider this kind of schedule and getting co-workers on board to pitch the idea to management. While these hours, especially when adding overtime, can burn someone out, the bi-weekly three day weekend allow for recovery or easy/more frequent vacation scheduling, and offer your employers more coverage.

  104. Powercycle*

    Not worth it in the long run, even if those extra hours are paid.
    I was a sysadmin for almost a decade which included a lot of standby and overtime (all paid). Including a stint of almost 2 years being on standby 24/7 non-stop.
    Remote into work to fix something urgent while on vacation – yep.
    Call into an emergency meeting while at home with a flu – yep.
    Have the phone go crazy while having an evening out because a system went down – yep.
    Getting called to look into something while I’m drunk & half asleep – yep.
    I used alcohol to deal with the stress too, which made things even worse.
    The extra money was nice but I became miserable. Eventually I burned out and got sick.
    I’m no longer a sysadmin. I’ve had opportunities to go back to it but no, I can’t handle that stress anymore.

  105. orangesparkle*

    I find you’re someone who is either ok with these kind of hours, or you’re not.

    Until a few months ago I worked in hospitality (events & event planning) at a hotel, and during busy season (Christmas & wedding, in particular) it isn’t uncommon to work 50 – 65 hours in a week. For those of us on salary we would do our best to take time off in lieu when things slowed down, and for the front line staff that was hourly they were compensated accordingly so they complained less about the long hours (and indeed many of them welcomed it, making all that extra cash). Working overnights, starting at 5:00 am, no lunch, dinner at 10:30 pm, these were all things that were part of the job and you either thrived in it or you didn’t. No shame if you didn’t, there’s lots of other departments for you if that’s the case. I spent almost 10 years working like this, off of the adrenaline and the rush of a job well done and the immediate satisfaction of a beautiful looking & well run event.

    With that being said, you do get tired. I’m in my mid (late?) 30s now and I find I just don’t have the stamina for it like I did 10 years ago which is why I made a job change (I’m still in hospitality, just in a different capacity – I’m no longer working at a hotel). I don’t know how to explain how I was ok with the long hours, I was just personally amenable to it and knew it was part of my industry. I won’t lie, it helped that I didn’t have any children and was unmarried. Working all weekend every weekend is a tough gig when you have kids involved in things, and as such many leaders with children either didn’t see them much (by their own personal choice) or they had to move departments or switch jobs entirely to make their family life work the way that they wanted to.

  106. Lost Oregonian*

    I work in a small boarding school, where we all wear a bunch of different hats and work crazy, long hours. I’ve learned to make it work, but I also see people burn out very quickly. Here is my advice:

    1) Recognize if this work just isn’t for you. In my industry, a lot of teachers think boarding schools won’t be that different from traditional day schools, but they aren’t. I suggest doing some real deep soul searching, is the work worth it? For me, it totally is, even on my hardest days, I love what I do and that makes the challenges worth it, but for a lot of folks, that’s not true, and that’s okay.

    2) Take your time when you can, and make the most of it. Whether it’s a few minutes, hours or days, you have to make the most of your down time. That means you have to really know yourself and what recharges your batteries. Find something, anything you can do at least once a week where you can turn off your phone and focus on you — for me, it’s yoga on Sunday mornings (actually, I go to the gym every morning for this reason, I realized a few years ago that the hour at the gym was more important than the hour of sleep I may miss).

    3) When you go on vacation, if at all possible, completely disconnect – don’t check email, don’t take work calls. Let folks know you’re unplugging (it particularly helps if you can to go somewhere that service is spotty).

    4) Speaking of vacation — USE your PTO. All of it. Use it however works best for you whether that’s two weeks of vacation or a bunch of random days here and there.

    5) Disengage from the office naysayers. In my experience, anywhere where folks are working a lot, there are people grumbling about it. Try to avoid those conversations, I find that if I get sucked into them, I can start feeling overworked, even when I’m actually doing okay.

  107. Harper the Other One*

    My husband is a minister, which from the outside doesn’t seem like an hours-intensive job… until a crisis occurs during a busy season and things go crazy. (I’m thinking in particular of one truly tragic illness/death that happened in the middle of annual meetings, and then was followed by 1-2 funerals a week for a solid few months.) Part of how he maintains his physical/mental health is by having REALLY short weeks during the slow periods. After you’ve gone through your four busy months, even if you can’t completely go one vacation, can you work half days/shortened weeks for a little while to recover? For some people that is enough to refill their cup.

    1. Manders*

      My mother-in-law is a rabbi and she negotiated a yearly mini-sabbatical during the summer. She has very long hours and an unpredictable schedule most of the year, so having that time blocked off allows her to visit family across the country and catch up on personal tasks like writing.

      It doesn’t sound like OP’s job is structured in the same way, and that might be a problem. I do think that jobs that demands extra-long hours should have looooooong vacations or lighter periods built in too, but that’s not how some industries work.

  108. Classroom Diva*

    Most people don’t think of teachers as having long hours. However, to be a *good* teacher, one does spend most of the weekend and many hours every night planning, prepping, and doing all sorts of things for the classroom (Summer too! And, there is no pay for any of that, including no pay in the summer). Over the last two weeks (of school starting), I have not gotten to bed before 2:0o AM but once, and I am exhausted.

    Here’s the thing. Over my life as a teacher, I have developed really bad life habits. Because of the long hours, I long ago forgot to how to have fun. I *never* feel as if I shouldn’t be doing something for school. I always feel behind. I’ve become a classic workaholic, with all the problems of that: diabetes, overweight, chronic fatigue, few friends, irritability (not generally with the students!) and so on.

    Is it really worth it? Well, in my profession, I guess I feel that it sort of is, since it is for kids and for the future. However, in some ways that is an unfortunate thing, because then I feel guilt for finally starting to wonder if I shouldn’t be doing something else or at least becoming willing to settle for less.

    You live. Then you die. As someone once said, no one on their death bed looks back and says, “I wish I’d spent more time working!” They always look back and see all the missed opportunities for love, friendship, sharing, volunteering, and having a LIFE. You need enough money to not feel fearful. Beyond that? I’m not sure it is worth it, especially if you’re not in a profession where you feel that you are somehow helping the world to be a better place.

    1. Manders*

      Burnout among teachers is definitely a thing! I don’t think it gets talked about enough because there’s a perception that summer = time off.

      I’m not a teacher, but in my experience living with one, I’ve seen that the amount of administrative support teachers get can make a huge different. My husband isn’t particularly bothered by the hours in the classroom or the time spent grading. Other tasks like department and team meetings, a certain style of written evaluation the school requires, and a poorly structured department that assigns him last-minute tasks and doesn’t let him set his own syllabus or schedule seem to be the main contributors to his burnout.

      1. Classroom Diva*

        While summer is more of a “leave without pay” then a vacation, summer is also the ONLY reason I have been able to remain a teacher so long (over 20 years). *Everything* in my life gets put off until the summer: house, kids, family, pets, repairs, professional development, and so on. And, it isn’t the 3 months everyone thinks it is. It is only about 6 weeks once you take into account closing down the room and then reopening It (plus the meetings) before school starts.

        However, having said that, again, the ONLY reason that I stay sane is because of summer. :-) If I had the same stressful job year round, I long since would have quit (despite having a true love/hate relationship with it. I really do love my job…except when I hate it! LOL)

  109. mindovermoneychick*

    I worked in an industry where we would do 3-4 month of 60-80 hours and then get a couple of months where it was more like 30-40. for me it was doable because basically I would just let chores and social life slide during the busy season and pick back up when it was slow. I’m married with no kids so that made it easier. I worked with lots of mom’s though including our owners who worked even more hours. Not at all sure how they did it.

    Then we went through a big growth spurt and 60-80 hours became a consistent norm. I started tracking my hours and my productivity. Basically as long I was getting enough sleep and 20 min of exercise a day (this was HUGE in managing the stress) I could do a long run of 60 hours weeks. but 80 hours I could only do for 2 weeks before productivity really dropped off. So I made myself always stop after 2 weeks.

    Also I noticed I was ok with 60-80 weeks when that really did keep me on top of my work. when it got to the point in our growth spurt where I was doing that much, but not keeping on top of things, the stress became more overwhelming. I talked to my bosses who told me they basically knew it was impossible and to do the A list items and let the B and sometimes even A- things drop. This was hard because even though I had permission, there where still consequences to clients, staff and budgets to letting those items drop. they caused A list fires.

    So to sum up, I could handle it when it was peaks and valleys and when I was still on top of things in the peak. Eventually we hit a long period of all peak, without being able to stay on top of things and I did eventually have to get out as a result.

    1. BrightLights*

      That is also what my industry is like- sustained spikes of 60-80 weeks and 30-40 for the rest of the year.

      For me, this is doable because:
      – I am paid such that I can do things like maintain my gym membership, buy healthy food, and participate in a sport that keeps me sane. I can take care of my mind and body while working these hours.
      – I put that time on my work calendar and am religious about protecting it so that people can’t block into it with meetings.
      – I arrange time such that I am available for work stuff 7:30-5 (some of that being “on phone only”) and any hours I put in outside of that are “I’m not talking to people, I’m just getting stuff done” so they can be done on my schedule, and not someone else’s.
      – I take a lunch break (even if it’s just 15 minutes not at my computer) and eat food that is good for me.
      – At some point during the day I take a walk. This might be on my lunch break, it might be a walking meeting, I am buying a treadmill desk (I work remotely.) This is the #1 best thing I do for my mental health. Get out. Breathe fresh air. See change of scenery.
      – I am in a state right now where I can lower my time commitment to things in my personal life without decreasing my satisfaction with them. For instance, I have a semi-retired former competition horse. He doesn’t want to spend 8 hours at a horse show on the weekend, he wants to see me for 2 hours and go for a walk. I work hard so my horse can have a better life. :)
      – Please note that doesn’t mean deprioritizing my husband.
      – I am passionate about what I do and I’m in the position to see the hours I put in being of real, immediate, tangible benefit to our product’s consumers (kids.)
      – Importantly: the first time I worked hours like this it was in a crisis point and multiple people within my company told me not to do it. I had the deliberate intention of parlaying that time, commitment, and recognized above and beyond work into a promotion. This worked. My company has shown that it will reward people who do this in tangible and intangible benefits to their careers- promotions, professional development opportunities, raises, bonuses, etc.

      If any of these things weren’t true, I wouldn’t be able to tolerate this kind of spike.

  110. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Two possibilities:

    You are doing it for the short term and whatever the reward is and you set yourself a realistic cut-off and stick to it.

    You are doing it for the love of it. Even people doing it for the love (or compulsion) of it need downtime. Some things are hard to take downtime from, but, it needs to be done.

    In either of these cases, assume you have no life outside of the thing you are doing, be it 90 hour weeks in M&A, or deployed military, or longs shifts as an EMT, or war correspondent.

    Wait until you get out to have everything else that is part of life.

  111. Secret Identity*

    For me, I just think that at the end of my life am I ever going to say, “Wow, I sure do wish I had worked more hours and spent less time on friends, family and myself”? Sure, I suppose there’s an argument to be made that if you work hard and put in insane hours at the beginning of your career, you could have it made, financially speaking, later in your career. But, again for me, I’d rather have a modest salary with an excellent work/life balance than be wealthy and have worked myself into bad health and missed out on all the little moments with my family and friends. I’m never going to be the CEO of any Fortune 500 company and I’m completely okay with that. In fact, I may never progress beyond my current position and I’m also okay with that – I’ve never desired to climb the corporate ladder.
    My former boss is the type of person who works long hours – it was nothing for her to be in the office till 8 or 9pm and she always seemed to disapprove when I would leave at the end of my 8 hours, but I was fully prepared to find another job over it if it came to that. Fortunately, my new boss isn’t like that.

  112. XtinaLyn*

    My SO finally left a tech job that had him working 80-100 hours/week. It was the craziest thing. He worked on a team that had cohorts around the globe, so he was getting emails at all hours of the day and night. 2:30am, he’d get an email from an overseas team that needed an immediate answer, and onto his computer he’d go. After 18 months, he realized he’d missed the last year and a half of his life. He quit, moved halfway across the country and is now working in a 9-5 that he LOVES. We’re doing the long-distance thing for the next few years, but he’s happier than I’ve ever seen him, and it’s worth it.

  113. PugLife*

    Some people can’t do it. It’s okay if you’re one of them.
    It sounds like your industry has periods of crunch and periods of more normal hours. Try and think of the crunch time as limited – it’ll suck for a little while, but after that you can get your feet under you again. Be kind to yourself when in crunch. Prioritize your health. If that means making time to go to the gym, or cook, or see friends at the expense of other life elements, that’s okay. It’s okay to order delivery or eat takeout or frozen meals. It’s okay to drop your laundry off at the cleaner. It’s okay to hire a house cleaner to come once or twice a month, or a dog walker, or whatever services you need to get by. Try and prioritize the things you absolutely have to do for yourself to stay sane and healthy, and outsource as much as you can.

    And remember that it’ll pass. If you know the specific time frame of crunch, put a big wall calendar up and cross off days so you can see the time period ticking down. Do something nice for yourself each week and something big when it’s over – a weekend away, a new outfit, whatever motivates you.

    And also remember that not everyone can handle jobs like that, and it’s okay if you discover that you’re not one of them. “Doing your best” doesn’t mean “working yourself to exhaustion.”

  114. Namelesscommentator*

    I always focused on goals to make it through long hours. I worked 100+ hour weeks all summer through high school and college because I knew that it was the only way to make college happen. In addition to having everything in my life sorted (ate shift food, had laundry in unit) and everytime I had the option to leave an hour early my thought process was “do I want to earn $20 this next hour or do I want to pay interest on an extra $20 ten years from now?”

    Asking myself that question was the only way I got through. But for many of my coworkers working those schedules the answer was “because I have to.” Many people who work these hours aren’t doing it for some future payday or obscene amount of money, they’re doing it because that’s how food gets on their table and clothes on their kid. “Because this is how my family makes it work” is a damn good reason to get to work every morning.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      + a million to your last paragraph. I worked the insane hours I did for nearly three years because, at the time, I had no other choice. When the alternative is homelessness and starvation, you figure it out.

  115. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    The sick truth is that you have to be “cut out” for it in the end. I have seen this in multiple fields, some will be able to handle it and others will crash and burn out of the gates. It’s not a failure if you cannot sustain on these hours, I want to drill that into you right now.

    I handled it for years because I love work and it helps that I have no use for home time, no kids or partner waiting for me, etc. I burned out only when I had to deal with a toxic nonsense boss and little pay in return. I used to work 60hrs a week because I had multiple jobs, so I was always engaged and switching gears, so my brain had no signs of slamming the brakes on me. Only when my mental health was challenged, in the form of bad management and road blocks they tossed out in front me whimsically, then I put the brakes on and changed paths to avoid utter destruction of burnout.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Well “no partner” for the first part of the career I should say. I have one now but we communicate all day through text and they’re also a workaholic. Otherwise we’d never make it either, since this can kill relationships of course.

      1. HR Stoolie*

        It’s much simpler with no partner or a very supportive and understanding partner. Good for you finding a good match.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeah, it seriously takes a special kind of match.

          It’s kind of like that special match when you have a partner in say a touring band or doing a lot of international humanitarian work.

          “How do you survive not seeing each other for months on end?!”

          We’re both from the background of text-communication as well. I honestly can forget I haven’t seen him for awhile because we talk every day, there’s nothing left to “catch up on” usually. I like the physical aspect but it’s not what we’re focused on.

          That’s why divorce rate is awful as well though. Lots of people think they can do it but it shakes out that they really need more in person interactions to keep their fires kindled. It’s okay to be that way but yeah, it is one of those “deal breaker” situations. Just like if one doesn’t want kids and the other one does, maybe they’ll change their mind but really odds are stacked against you.

  116. Jaybeetee*

    I’ve had adjacent experiences to this (not 60-80 hours in one job, but I’ve worked two jobs in the past, and also had a job with “normal hours” but a hellacious commute that basically made my workdays 12 hours long), and I dated a guy for awhile who routinely put in 12-hour days and weekends at one job.

    1) Make sure you like the job. For me the “hellacious commute job” went downhill waaaaay faster than I thought, and I realized too late it wasn’t a job I wanted – I had mostly taken it for the pay and what I perceived to be the advancement opportunities (and desperation – I had been temping). But that job itself? Wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. About a week after starting there, I learned that the advancement was going to be not at all what I had thought it was, and my motivation just crashed. This was still Recession-era, and I was afraid of being stuck there indefinitely. But the job I have today? I enjoy the hell out of it. If I had some crazy commute to get here, I could probably tolerate it a lot better. If you don’t love what you’re doing, if you don’t love your workplace, you’re going to wear out way faster than otherwise.

    2) Try to vary up your tasks. 12 hours doing the same things would probably be some brand of hell. If you have variation to your days, if you’re using different skills or different parts of your brain at different times, it’ll be easier. When I was working 12-hour days at two jobs, the jobs were actually fairly similar to each other – but different *enough* that it didn’t just feel nose-to-the-grindstone all day, I felt like I was doing different activities, which made it easier.

    3) The guy I dated had a long-hours job that paid *very* well (think engineering), and to put it simply, he outsourced as much as he could so that when he was off work, he could just relax. Namely, cleaning service and not cooking much. He also didn’t have kids, so didn’t have those logistics to deal with. He could work 12 hours, hit the gym (I admired his dedication – I wouldn’t have been working out, but I guess he found it relaxing), then he’d order in dinner, then just veg until bedtime. But I think it would have fallen apart if he was married with a family (as opposed to a young single guy dating me fairly casually at the time). He basically had zero demands on his time outside of work.

    4) You sort of have to minimize stress in your personal life. In my own experience, and other people I’ve seen, if they had personal issues of some kind or another, or were unhappy with their lives in general when they accepted such a job, they tended to crash fast. I think most people just don’t have the bandwidth to deal with a very demanding job as well as other personal problems.

    The calculus as to whether it’s all worth it is personal and variable. For me, the “two-jobs” were worth it. The hellacious-commute job was not. For my ex, he would probably say his years in that job were worth it, because it paid well enough that he was able to set himself up very nicely financially once he transitioned into a job with more regular hours. But for a lot of people, the future payoffs wouldn’t make up for putting life on hold in the moment – his life really was mostly about work during that time. OTOH, there are lots of people out there working those kinds of hours because that’s what they have to do to keep their household afloat, or it’s just the norm for their industry, and it’s just how life is. It sucks, but no one will be able to tell you whether it’s “worth it” for you or not. You’re the only one who can answer that question.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Your #2 is spot on. When I was working 10-12 hour days at Evil Law Firm, I would do all of my actual work by 2 or 3pm and then go and volunteer to help other departments who were also behind catch up in their work – that’s ultimately the reason they made me a paralegal when I didn’t have the education or formal training for it. I learned on the job, and I learned quickly, so doing all of these random and unrelated assignments kept me from dying of boredom most days.

      Management was garbage and the pay was crap, so that’s what ultimately ended up driving me out.

  117. Alenyaka*

    I think you’re either built for long hour or you’re not. I’ve been working 50+ hours for almost 10 years now. I love it, and have built my life around it. Then again, my viewpoint on work is not so much work/life balance, but rather that work is a part of my life. I enjoy what I do, and could probably do it 24/7. My employees on the other hand are very different. 3 of them are very particular about working 8 hours, and leaving while the other 2 work various extra hours however they see fit.

    I think it also depends on your life outside of work. I have boundaries set around my time with my husband, family and church life/community. Family is the most important thing to me, but I have learned that even working the 50+ hours each week I can still make them my priority.

  118. fortheloveofspreadsheets*

    Since you say you are doing this for career progression (rather than saving up for a house, etc.) I would just automate everything else in your life. Get someone at task rabbit to make all of your appointments, have your groceries delivered, buy health but pre-done meals, have your laundry picked up and delivered. If it’s something you can literally pay someone to do, just set it up. You can even go so far as skipping a gym membership and getting a treadmill for your house to save travel time. Also you can totally walk on a treadmill and drink wine and watch tv.

    I would also make a list of your three favorite self care things and schedule them in. Love reading and yoga? schedule 10 minutes of yoga in the morning and 10 minutes of reading before bed. It works best for me not to schedule tasks on my day off when I can so that it’s truly restive and I can just do whatever I want.

    The number one thing though, find a therapist and commit to going regularly, no matter what. Everyone needs somewhere to put their stuff, but it’s even worse when you are working twelve hour days it’s mandatory.

  119. notanyuse*

    I deeply, deeply regret my time spent working long hours. After seven years in an industry that typically requires those hours — and cheerily getting by on little sleep, a lot of caffeine, and the thought that vacations, holidays, and free time could wait until later — my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. During the months that he fought cancer, I worked even more, thinking that I was “banking” time, so that when the end neared, I’d be able to take weeks off to spend with him. Of course you’re not actually given explicit notice of the end “nearing” so I missed so much time with my father. It kills me.

    Of course, I still haven’t stopped pounding at the hours. Professional careers are like breastfeeding: You assume it’s really important; you’re flooded with advice about how to start (mostly provided by people whose last first-hand experience of getting started was decades ago), but once you actually get things going, there’s absolute radio silence as to how to stop.

    I haven’t taken a vacation since September of 2010. I’ve taken exactly two days of bereavement leave, two sick days, and twelve weeks of maternity leave. I’m now missing time with my mother, daughter, husband, and inlaws, that I will and do regret.

    1. Shannon*

      I hear this, and I want to give you a huge hug. I did the same thing while my father was sick with cancer. I kept thinking I’d need the time off when he was sicker, and that I’d better take this trip/work late/go in on Saturday now so I could be with him when he really needed me, not realizing he needed me NOW and he’d be gone six weeks after our first trip to the ER. That experience devastated me and simultaneously inspired me to quit, find a flex job, and aside from the guilt I’ll probably never let go, I’m better off.

      All I can say is it’s never too late to reevaluate things, and it’s always appropriate to cut yourself some slack. The day I stopped trying to live up to my own ridiculous idea of what success looked like was a good day.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This touches me and I’m so sorry to hear about your father.

      I worked through my dad’s illness but thankfully he was one of the lucky ones and I was somewhat available to see him, since we were in the same area.

      But on the flipside, my dad’s always encouraged me in my career and the craziness that’s it’s made my life at times. He encouraged me to work through it because he didn’t need me in reality, he loves me and was happy to see me but my mother was there the entire time, so he wasn’t alone by any means. My mom needed me and therefore I had to carve out time to always check in with her more than anything, dad was too sick with the treatments to really be coherent either.

      When another close person was diagnosed with cancer awhile back, I called my dad crying because I was so overwhelmed with my “fight for flight” mechanism going off, telling me to get in the car and go to the person. But everyone around me talked me through it and told me to just focus on my life and do check-ins more than actual “spending time” with someone in that situation. Even my father said “Just redirect your focus to your work and let the doctors do their thing, call them tonight.”

      A lot of times we forget that our loved ones don’t always want let alone need someone there watching them in their deepest struggled times. They just want to be remembered. So as long as you can still check in with people and keep them actively in your mind at times, it’s a lot.

      But it is important to remember that’s why vacations are important. My dad worked our entire childhood and he missed a lot that he regrets but in the end, we have great memories for the times we did see him. He had mandatory vacations thankfully, so we had at least 2 full weeks every year that he used to take us on vacations and adventures.

  120. Duckles*

    I did it for five years and now that I’m out don’t regret it, since I made a lot of money and it opened a lot of doors, but definitely wouldn’t go back.

    -remember it’s temporary and enjoy the perks (eg, shopping/eating out/vaca without worrying about money) knowing they’re temporary too. As others mentioned, outsource everything. I ubered to and from work, had my laundry done, my dry cleaning delivered, my dog walked twice a day, my house cleaned twice a month, and premade meal kits delivered biweekly.

    -don’t be a rock star. Do good enough work that you’re held in good regard but I’d sneak down to the gym for a 45 minute workout at 6pm most days and if I’m unreachable then, they can deal. Likewise, unless it’s a truly urgent matter, don’t respond to emails between 9pm-9am or you’re setting a precedent you don’t want.

    If it’s REALLY bad— to the point you find yourself getting depressed/anxious, and there’s no end in sight or way to scale back, quit. I’d suggest trying to tough it out two to three years because years four and five were better (though not “good”) if you can though.

  121. Zapthrottle*

    I worked two years at a job where 80 hour weeks, for me, was typical. It included travel two times a month (2-3 days per trip), and an avalanche of projects and hourly triage everyone else’s crap. The first year was ok, everything was new, interesting and an adventure. The second year was pure hell because it was the same thing all over again. I felt like Sisyphus. I did it because it was a massive step up in my resume, salary, and established me at an indisputable seniority level in my industry. I coped with it primarily because they paid me a ton of money. That was 99% of the motivation.

    My secondary methods of coping with this….it was being more thoughtful about the things I spend my time on. Because I was losing 20 hours per week, I learned what was truly valuable and what was not. I put time with my kids and husband as the priority and practically eliminated everything else that sucked up time that wasn’t time with my family (and dogs).
    – I dropped Facebook completely, any social media, and web surfing….all gone. That was a massive silver lining!
    – I simplified so many things too….created a “soft” schedule for dinner that my kids helped plan which eliminated time making complicated meals (fyi…everything was grilled, we had asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower up the wazoo, and lots of brown rice)…dinner turned into simple, healthy affairs and then we did one or two splurges a month at a really nice restaurant.
    – I always have a habit to be consistent with my clothes…since my work allowed jeans everyday, I wore jeans, heels, a simple top and blazer to work EVERY DAY. That uniform saved me and now, it’s my thing. I always wear a pseudo uniform. At my new job, they banned jeans, even on Fridays but they allow leggings (weird) so I wear black leggings every day, with a light sweater and blazer. I now have 20 pairs of black leggings, a collection of blazers, light sweaters/shells. My jeans have been retired.
    – On days where I wasn’t needed at the office, I worked from home.
    – I shut off my phone from Friday evening to Monday morning. I only called and texted my family in that time. No work, no checking FB app on my phone, no checking emails, Instagram, nothing. To stay in touch with friends, I joined our group activities once or twice a month … I stayed out of email and text group conversations and spent time, in person, connecting with people. I refused Facebook messenger, What’sApp, Offerup and every other app that sucks time.
    – I started a massage schedule, 1x month or more. I used to run, bike, and play outside which all went away. But I traded as many massages I needed. I gained a bit of weight but, weirdly enough, I felt pampered and spoiled. I work out 5 days a week now but the two years of no hard exercise was strangely liberating.
    – I did the Marie Kondo thing about throwing all your crap away…that was pretty good. I tossed out half of our things and only kept what brought us joy. Surprise, the house is rarely messy because we have nothing. We have tables with nothing on them, out kitchen counter tops are bare, and our closets have empty hangers. I can actually see my clothes and enjoy my the dumb granite counter top that cost me an arm an a leg (worth it…it’s pretty and soothing to look at).
    – I got my iphone, ipad, and apple tv working perfectly and bought some of my favorite tv series so on the rare occasions that I have downtime, I can fire something up and binge watch. I watched a lot of MASH, Frazier and CSI in the bathtub. I probably watched a lot of Game of Thrones while on the toilet.

    Looking back, having to scale my life, eliminate time spend on other things to afford to spend 20 more hours at work trained me to simplify my life. I would never recommend such hours for work….never. Unless you are getting paid extremely well and even then, not for more that a couple of years. You’ll never get that time back and two years is the most to spend putting your career above everything. But my life today and how I do things was changed by those two years working too many hours. I still don’t do social media, AMA is one of three or so content sites I read, I wear a “uniform” to work, I bought a big house with a tiny yard, I bought large trash cans and put them in all the rooms in my house…nothing is kept to clutter the house, I never read email, watch movies only when they come out in iTunes (so I can watch while a roast is cooking) and I bought a Roomba.

    1. Jay*

      Cosign paying for the media you love. I bought the complete set of “Law&Order” DVDs as a present for myself when I returned to full-time work after two years off. I can watch an episode while I’m folding laundry and making the bed and I just love it. Totally worth the money. We also subscribe to multiple streaming services and I watch TV in the bathtub or the shower. My husband thinks I’m nuts, but I enjoy it and it helps turn my mind off.

  122. Shannon*

    Ugh, this conundrum is SO HARD. My experience was this: I put in the time, I worked my way up, and the higher I got, the worse it became. Once I realized the end would never really be in sight, I burned out and quit. I do feel like some of my relationships suffered irreparable damage, I’m slightly traumatized by the experience (which then you’ve got to work to not carry over into the new job), and there are experiences I definitely missed because I was constantly so stressed at work.

    That said, if you’re in an industry where there’s really an end in sight (maybe speak to a few more senior colleagues that you can trust?) and you’re essentially laying a foundation that will help you attain a better work-life balance in the future, it just might be worth it!

    Good luck to you.

  123. Philp*

    Quit. I started my career in sales which included inside/outside aspects, which meant I often worked from 8 to 8 and took calls/emails on Weekends – I even called-in to a sales meeting during a wedding. Was it worth it? No way. If you’re working 80 hours a week, and I’ve been there, you just lose your ability to have any perspective on your situation. You carry stress with you from day-to-day and if you’re like me, the stress/worry/dread started Saturday evening. I could never enjoy my weekends. I couldn’t enjoy my life. You need to find a way out before you burn out and working those hours will do it to you.

  124. M. Albertine*

    You sound like a tax accountant! Here’s how I got through tax season: carve out a time for exercise. I did CrossFit at 5:30 in the morning for 45 minutes, showered at the gym and went straight to work. It was social and my body also thanked me. Meal service: I found one that did 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, had it delivered straight to the office. No meal planning or prepping saved SO MUCH TIME. Sleep: Guard your sleep. Know how much you need and get it. Periodic rewards: April 15th is the light at the end of the tunnel. Counting down the days helped, because you knew you wouldn’t be in this slog forever, and periodic rewards gave me something to look forward to in between.

    This was before I had a family and friends knew they would see me sporadically if ever, during those months (but making time for them WAS one of the periodic rewards). My firm also did Friday afternoons off during the slow summer months, and that was a PRIZED benefit.

    Looking back, it was definitely a benefit to my professional experience to have public accounting as a CPA as a basis for my career. I’d have to say that my auditing experience has been more practical than my tax experience, but that’s just because of the direction my career has gone. I definitely wouldn’t want to go back to it, given I now have little kids, but when I was young and single and at the beginning of my career, it was the time to do it. Plus, the money was good!

  125. Fizzgig87*

    I’m a long time lurker here and I registered just to respond to this. I spent nearly 3 years at a very prestigious institution in an incredibly time consuming position (70 hours a week was the “average”…some weeks were worse, very few were better). Echoing a lot of what the other commentators have said, I would be very very leery of this. While the experience did give a me a leg up professionally (the place I worked is incredibly well known and looks great on a resume) it also took me a legitimate YEAR to recover after leaving. By the time I left I had developed a facial tic, had gotten the flu so badly from being so run down I was nearly hospitalized, and was so exhausted/stressed I didn’t feel like myself.
    What I don’t think I’ve seen people mention yet is how hard it is to leave a position like that because it’s almost impossible to apply/interview when you’re working that much. From my experience places that need that much of a time commitment from their employees don’t give much in the way of flex time. I was only able to jump ship because I was basically hired on the spot by a previous coworker who had already left.
    My suggestions if you are going to stay in role, even in the short term:
    1) Be kind to yourself. There is no physical way to be “on” that many hours of the day, don’t beat yourself up for feeling tired.
    2) Don’t get sucked into the mentality that if you’re not literally dead on your feet and working 90 hours you aren’t hacking it. These type of jobs usually have a lot of one upmanship..the “oh you worked 80 hours? Well I worked 90 when I had pneumonia!”. Don’t fall into that!
    3) Have a plan to leave. Pick a hard and fast deadline to when you are willing to walk away. I’d suggest not planning on 2 to 3 years but more like 1 and then reevaluate.
    4) Understand it may be impossible to apply and interview working like this. You may need to pick a less stressful position that’s not necessarily a step up and then apply to better roles from there. I only made it out by taking something that I thought would be a step down….turns out I almost immediately got promoted to something better. Be ready to work part time/ freelance/ etc.
    5) If you are not being paid hourly, break down your salary per hour. It may not be worth it.

    For your last question…do I regret it working like that? Yes and No. I should have left sooner than I did. Had I left at the 18 month mark and not the 3 year mark I would not regret it. I also only made it through because I have a massively supportive partner who could hold up things at home. I do regret the physical and mental toll it took, and I wish I would haven’t had felt the need to keep going when it was clear I was reaching my limits.

    Best of luck !

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      By the time I left I had developed a facial tic

      Ah, the facial tick – I know it well, lol. I developed this at Evil Law Firm and it took about a year for it to stop.

  126. Em from CA*

    In purely practical terms, here’s what I’d say: you’ve got to do everything to maximize and fiercely guard what little off-time you have, and to take care of yourself as best you can in that off-time.

    – Okay, so you work 70 hours a week. Ruthlessly guard your time off. Take a look at what you’re doing when you’re not at work (weekly trivia night with friends? volunteering? religious services?) and cut out anything that isn’t nourishing you. For me it was stopping one of the two choirs I sang with—I adored them both, but the time commitment for two choirs was just too much. I’m not saying quit everything—you need something in your life besides work!—but maybe you can eke out an hour or two here and there.

    – Along those same lines—if you’re serious about staying with that job for another 2-3 years, you’ve got enough time left that it might make sense to change some of the bigger things as well. How long is your commute? If it’s long, maybe you need to consider moving. For me, the long hours were doable when I had a 20-minute commute by bus. When it changed to an hour and 20 by car, that rapidly became a major problem. And if the long hours come along with good pay, maybe think about paying other people to do things for you. Cleaning service every two weeks? Grocery delivery? Laundry delivery instead of going to the laundromat? Blue Apron or other meal delivery? You might decide the extra cost for these things is worth it if it means some time you can spend reading or going to the farmer’s market or whatever. When I was a kid, my mom was a single mother, and she made it work being a physician with on-call hours by having an au pair. It probably cost her a lot of money, I don’t know—but she’s spoken of it as a lifesaver at the time.

    – Finally, it probably is the last thing you want to hear, but in that limited window of free time, it’s probably worth spending some of it taking care of yourself. Twenty minute walk in the park, yoga once a week, swimming at the Y, five minutes of meditation in the morning—whatever. It’s so easy for this kind of thing to be the first to go when you’re feeling busy—but physiologically it is necessary. Stress is mediated by hormones, and the exercise helps them get back t normal levels. (Or something—I’m no doctor!)

    Finally, if you haven’t already, check out the book Burnout by Emily Nagoski. I’m in the middle of it myself, and it’s very interesting.

  127. drpuma*

    Is it worth it? You’re allowed to change your mind about that. After a few years of 60+ hour weeks I certainly did. You may think now that the hours are worth where you end up. You’ll get more information as you go that will prove or contradict that assumption. Or you’ll learn that succeeding is not only about the hours. Let yourself change your mind, IF a change in pace or track starts to feel right for you.

  128. Jay*

    I’m a doctor. I did a time log for the author of this “I Know How She Does It” (Laura Vanderkam) and discovered I was really working about 45-50 hours a week, although I was at work for 60 and was documenting at home for at least an hour every evening. I took a look at what I was doing during the day and eliminated almost all of the time-wasters. I kept some of the at-work socializing but started turning off my personal phone on arrival and worked longer stretches – if I sat down at my desk, I worked on documentation for at least an hour. I was able to reduce my at-work time by about an hour a day and eliminate most of the documentation at home. So take a look at how you’re working. Laura’s research shows that most people become far less efficient and less productive after a certain point in the day. For me, that’s late afternoon. Figure out your own rhythm and respect it.

    That said, I have suffered throughout my career from the optics of how I work. I’m efficient, especially with paperwork. I type very quickly and in the era of computerized records, that means a lot (and isn’t as common as one might think). I also have studied and teach advanced communication skills so I use my time efficiently in the encounter with patients. From the outside, it doesn’t look like I’m working as hard as everyone else – despite the productivity data and satisfaction data that prove I’m doing very well. I either get criticized for not working hard or I get more work to do than everyone else. I’m now in the job from which I intend to retire and I’m not longer working in an office – I do home visits – so no one knows that I usually go home for two hours in the middle of the day, or show up to my first patient in the last 15 minutes of the two-hour window because I was having breakfast with a friend. My numbers are good, my patients are happy, and it all works. So my advice is figure out what about the long hours is important to the people who evaluate you. Is it butt-in-chair time? Face time when they’re around? Actual productivity (let’s hope it’s that)? Make that a priority and then block out some time for yourself – and don’t underestimate the value of having a home that works for you and is a pleasure to come home to. For me it was totally worth the investment of time and money to *finally* have furniture and a closet in my bedroom that hold all my clothes so I can see them. I’m much less stressed and I am far more likely to put things away than to leave them on the chair or ottoman.

    1. Jay*

      I meant to also say: take vacation and REALLY unplug. Don’t call in to meetings, don’t check Email, don’t work on documents on the plane.

  129. BTDT*

    You work those hours short term (3-5 years) by keeping your eye on the ball. Long hours are easier when you are younger and gaining experience that can be leveraged into a well- paying job with more work/life balance is invaluable. I still work 50-60 hours per week by choice (interesting, well-paying work that contributes something to society) despite being nearly 60. But I started out at 90+, learned a tremendous amount, and have been able at times in my life to either not work at all for months, choose contract assignments, work 20 hours a week,etc. all because of the hard work early in my career. Work – life balance occurs over your entire life.

  130. Quinalla*

    My last job I had my normal weeks were 50-60 and that was hard, but doable for me as a married person with no kids. Once I had kids, I cut back to 40-50. More than 60 I just couldn’t do regularly, so I don’t have much advice there.

    As for stress, the only thing that works for relieving stress effects is exercise for me. There are other ways that can work for folks, but I just had to figure out how to get in 30-40 minutes 4-5 days a week or I suffer (headaches that often turned to migraines, being an asshole to everyone, etc.)

  131. Heffalump*

    Some years ago I was on a 4-month contract assignment where I worked 10 hours a day 7 days a week. Of course, I knew that I’d have to kiss off work-life balance during the assignment. It was tolerable because I knew in advance how long it would last. I can’t imagine working a permanent job on that basis. I know, that probably doesn’t help the OP.

  132. AccountantWendy*

    My long hours did not pay off, but I was not in a industry where those hours are normal, I was just in a bad job But here’s how I survived:

    Set habits, and stick to them. Since the time I went home at night varied, I gave myself a strict time limit of 60 minutes to do whatever I needed to do, and then I went to bed. So I had to prioritize whether that was dinner, and errand, personal emails, chores, etc. I got up at the same time very morning because I had a strict 8:30am start time for my job that I could not be late for.

    Outsource: I got groceries through Instacart, my prescriptions through mail order pharmacy, my laundry got dropped off at a service, etc. If I could pay someone else to do it for me, I did.

    Take a one hour lunch and leave the office. I don’t care if you have to sit in your car, but step away during the day. I used that time for errands, but I also worked in a big city so I had lots of services within blocks of my office. Getting sunlight will also help, and when you’re arriving at work in the dark and leaving in the dark, getting outside is a HUGE help. Possibly also invest in a sun lamp.

    Keep food at work. It was just too hard to figure out day to day so I’d buy 5 containers of pre-cut fruit and 5 frozen meals and stash them at work on a Monday morning. I kept pop tarts at my desk, too. You need energy and food.

    Figure out when your cognition tanks and save mindless task for those hours. Me? After 6pm I’m toast. There wer certain tasks requiring attention to detail that I just wouldn’t do after 6pm. (And keep in mind I was routinely working 8:30am – 9pm). So I’d save up things during the day to do after 6pm. You might be different, but figure out when you’re at your worst and your best brain-wise and schedule your work accordingly (if you can).

    See a therapist. I carved out 1 hour every two weeks for therapy and it helped SO MUCH. I am not a person who has ever experienced mental health issues so it took me a long time to realize that I was, in fact, experiencing depression (situational, not clinical) and therapy was a god-send. A therapist can really help you cope with the stress that is going to come from working all the time.

    Nothing substitutes for sleep. If you are struggling to fall asleep at night because you’re wired up, look for ways to calm your brain now. Meditation, a specific soothing song playlist, whatever. I found a tanagram style puzzle game (caliphs not digital) and I would play for a few minutes before bed. Focusing on the puzzle meant I was able to not think about work and stress for a few minutes, and once I stopped thinking about work and stress I would fall asleep without issue.

    Don’t commit to anything outside of work. Accept that long work hours means no hobbies that require you to do something, because any free time you have you need to spend resting (however you define “rest” whether that’s napping, gardening, reading, TV watching, exercise, whatever).

    Aggressive time management. Use all the tools you need to ensure your hours are actually being used to accomplish the right things.

  133. Jenny Grace*

    I worked Big4 accounting (audit) for two years and it was frankly quite rough. I think rougher on me than on others because I was older than other entry level people (career change) which meant (1) I had worked other jobs and was accustomed to a true definition of work/life balance and (2) I had a young child. Most people in my ‘class’ were newly minted grads with no children or significant prior work history.
    THAT SAID it was very good experience and hugely beneficial to my career. Setting an end date for myself was part of how I got through it; knowing it wasn’t forever and it was just a season. There was also a general culture where the interpretation of work/life balance was that you can play on the company softball team and go to happy hour and hang out with your coworkers even more than just the 12 hours/day you are working together which is not my definition. I had to set up some pretty firm boundaries about actually going home when the work was done, while still making a point to attend occasional events for relationship building.
    I’m in industry now and we have occasional long hours but it’s nothing like what I was doing as an auditor, so keep your eye on the ‘it gets better’ prize.

  134. eeh*

    I currently work in public education and for the past 15 years put in at least 60-70 hours a week (sometimes alot more). I currently love my job and wouldn’t think about leaving. Things I’ve noticed that effect how I feel about that time:

    1) Am I feeling successful? The days that I feel like I’m failing are the days that I resent the time.
    2) Do I feel like I’m doing work that matters?
    3) Do I enjoy the people I work with? (having an amazing Assistant Principal has been a GAME CHANGER)

    It also really helps that my husband works fewer hours can take on more of the childcare/household stuff. Feeling guilty about dropping balls there also made me resentful of the house

  135. Cece for the win*

    I am fairly early in my professional career, but I quickly learned in my first job out of college, that NO JOB is worth jeopardizing your health-mental and physical. I was overworked, undervalued and got sooo very sick. In hindsight, I wish I would have left when I started feeling overwhelmed. It’s just not worth it.

  136. Laura H.*

    I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum (not enough hours and stuck at home most days) and while it’s not at all the same as burnout, it’s opposite is just as bad. (yes I am job looking but it’s doesn’t help with the loads of time issue.)

    Scheduling time for me (whether lunches w/ friends, religious edification, volunteering, or even just a solo breakfast or afternoon at the library- again I have a lot of time on my hands) it helps keep me on even keel and the cabin fever from getting too bad.

  137. I was a spy in Boca Raton*

    It’s sad that you had to give up singing in two choirs. Singing is such a fantastic stress reliever!
    When I was working highly stressed jobs with long commutes, singing was the one place where I had to leave everything else out of my brain and concentrate on reading the music, creating a good sound, conveying the song meaning, and watching the director for tempo and dynamics. There was no room left to think about work.

    There’s even some scientific documentation that singing gives yo a high: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4CBpdQyyRBPRDcmmPmfHVFD/can-singing-give-you-a-natural-high

  138. IV*

    I’ve built an entire successful career NOT working those kinds of hours (note, my industry is a mixed bag, startups with crazy startup culture and more stable firms).

    Regardless of where I worked, I set boundaries, didn’t let other people’s emergencies become my problem, and just worked reasonable hours whether people liked it or not. All the while being awesome, impressing everyone, bringing it on time, all the time. If anyone ever said anything about my schedule, I’d immediately respond with “yes, I can only work at this pace and with this quality for so long… then I’m done and I might as well go home because I’ll just start making mistakes.” I did this from the very start of my career and while there’s no way of knowing whether I’d be a CEO or something if I had worked crazy hours, I feel very successful, well compensated, and in demand. Plus I’m happy and have a life.

    No one ever lay on their death bed wishing they’d spent more time at the office.

  139. waffles*

    I don’t regret most of the time I spent working long hours. Someone had the really good observation that what matters in some cases is centering your goals – why are you working these long hours?? Even if it’s required (e.g. you need X hours to qualify for a license) or the norm in your industry, what is your end goal? I had a job where I worked probably 10-12 hours a day at least 5-6 days a week, and another job where when I was on, I was on. Most of the time – I loved it. I got great experience, the pay wasn’t bad, and I felt like I learned every day. I started to like it less and even resent it when I felt like the work didn’t align with my goals and priorities. But, after having a kid, I do look at this question really differently – it’s not worth it to me to work those kind of hours anymore.

    Survival advice – +1 million to all the people who said when you’re off, you’re off. Put it all out of your mind, leave it all at work, don’t answer the phone, don’t answer email, don’t do work. I had to have some times in the day and year where nothing was coming at me from work. Have as few other responsibilities as possible. Spend your very precious free time the way you want to – not doing chores. But, the risks to mental health and just your outlook on life are real. I think if you feel like you’re hurting yourself physically/mentally, you have to pull yourself out as your main survival mechanism way sooner.

  140. Tora*

    I wouldn’t say that I “regret” the long hours I spent working at the beginning of my career because I learned a lot and believed in what I was doing, but I certainly wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have to and I don’t recommend it if you have a choice. There is a whole big lot of world out there and experiences that you can’t have if you are focused on work, and burnt out or tired on top of that. For me it wasn’t worth the price.

  141. Clay on my apron*

    I can’t imagine working these kinds of hours, even for a month or two.

    You could try some of these…
    – put a 20 minute appointment into your calendar every day so that you can go outside and take a walk
    – set reminders for yourself to get up from your desk (if relevant), eat lunch, stretch, refocus your eyes
    – mute notifications so that you can focus on your work without constant interruptions
    – eat healthily even if you sacrifice variety by cooking a big pot of soup on the weekend
    – find a way to mentally disengage from work when you leave – take a walk, meditate or watch half an hour of comedy
    – build exercise into your day so that it isn’t a choice of no exercise or making a lengthy detour to spend an exhausting hour at the gym

    Obviously this aren’t all going to be possible for every type of job but hopefully some of them will be helpful!

    Lastly, consider whether you can meet your life goals in some other way. This job sounds brutal and it’s easy to tip over the edge without realising. I had an extremely demanding job about 10 years ago, not long hours but with a slave driver boss and almost impossible objectives, and after I’d left I realised that I’d put both my marriage and my mental health at risk. I couldn’t see it at the time.

  142. sofar*

    Mute/silence your notifications when you are off work.

    My job is very seasonal, wit 70+ hours per week (plus weekends) being the norm for about six weeks out of the year. And people try to balance family life and kids by working all kinds of crazy hours (ie, after the kids go to bed) during that time window. This means I’m getting emails, Slack messages, etc. at all hours. The moment I’m done for the day (starting my bedroom routine, running to a quick work out, eating), I mute everything and put up every “away” icon possible on Slack. I do not unmute until I am sitting in front of the computer, ready to start my next day.

    This eliminates the temptation to respond to a messages in real time all night long. And it communicates to my coworkers that they should have no expectation of me answering. They can either figure it out themselves, or wait for me to to be back on. Yes, it’s delayed some things getting done. But I am human and I need to sleep to perform the next day. By making myself available 24/7 that just snowballs unrealistic expectations for everyone, and I don’t want to contribute to that.

  143. Meredith*

    I think it’s a rare person who can consistently work 60-80+ hours per week and enjoy what they do, and unfortunately, it’s more and more common for companies to expect it.

  144. cheeky*

    Hours like this are not worth it, unless they’re limited in duration and come with high compensation. Are you making $250,000 a year? Maybe it’s worth it in the short term. But if you’re making $50,000, well, that’s a poverty wage for all that work.

  145. Phoenix Programmer*

    Frankly, this is the adult peer pressure equivalent to highschool pressure to smoke or do drugs. I dismiss any pressure to work more hours in the same manner. I refuse to play the martry game.

    As I approach middle age I’ve had this sentiment reinforced. I can’t tell you how many times I have taken over the work of a supposed “all star” working 60-80 per week and been able to do everything assigned to them, more accurately, in 30 hours a week.

    The price I pay for this, having the heavy “woe is me, i worked 90 hours” crowd strongly dislike me has not tangebly impacted my career trajectory.

    I’ll also add that the few times I have seen the working lots of hours crowd get promoted, they almost always flame out and take a voluntary demotion or get fired for not performing.

    1. Phoenix Programmer*

      Oh and forgot to add that by “no tangeble impact” I mean my career path is upward mobile.

      3 promotions over 8 years for total salary increase of 240%.

  146. DB Dev*

    It’s rough admittedly.

    Over the course of 10 years, I worked back to back jobs where up until being caught in layoffs I was working 60-80 hour weeks, with no sign of adjustment and without taking much in the way of vacation. Part of me eventually gets to a point where I can thrive in that circumstance, and you might too.

    But the thing is, it definitely broke me over time, it added a lot of stress that I’m still figuring out how to deal with years later, and I can out of the other side with a fairly damaged relationship with motivation & work that I’m still trying to fix.

    I probably would have been better off not switching to a job that was 40 hours / week, and low stress.

    And I am well aware of how broken that previous statement sounds.

  147. Teapot Translator*

    I just want to say that it’s okay to decide that it’s not for you. Even if other people are able to do it, happily or not, doesn’t mean that everyone has to choose to do it. Physical and mental health are important.
    I would also like to recommend the episode of the Joe Rogan Experience with Sleep Expert and Neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker. It talks about the health repercussions of too little sleep. And when you’re working 60-hour weeks, you’re probably sleeping too little.

  148. MissDisplaced*

    If the money was really, really good, as in six figures, I would feel that much better about working like that. I’d move to a apartment where I could walk to work and not have a commute to save time & energy. Then you tell yourself you have an end goal in mind: saving $x or paying off student loans within 2-3 years.

  149. WorkInProgress*

    Ooof. I still have PTSD from my time in hospitality operations management – 60-70hr weeks (bc it’s a 365/24/7 business and sh*t always hits the fan just as you’re about to finally go home – call outs, fire alarms, hostile guests etc). At first it was fun, I liked the energy of it all. I was also in my 20s and really naive about the value of my work (and time). Having fun co-workers who were “in the trenches” with you helped – that camaraderie can go a long way in terms of survival. But man, did my mental and physical health suffer – not to mention personal relationships outside of work. I started becoming depressed, having anxiety, and began drinking too much as a coping mechanism. When I had free time I was too exhausted to do anything except sit on the couch (and then would feel guilty that I wasn’t devoting time to personal projects or even cleaning the apartment). I ate out a lot, so whatever extra money I made went there. (Or towards “retail therapy”). Money was decent, but certain weeks I would divide my paycheck by hours worked and realized I was barely making minimum wage… but saddled with WAY more responsibility/stress that comes with a minimum wage job.

    I ended up resigning without a backup plan bc it had just gotten that bad in terms of burnout. (I “luckily” had 2mo worth of vacation time I took with me bc there was never time to take time off). I took the first 9-5, no stress, no think job I could find – at about half the pay I was making. It took about 2yrs to finally be able to hit “reset” on life. And it took about 5 years to finally crawl my way to a gig with excellent pay, benefits, and work/life balance.

    If I had known then what I know now, I would have left way sooner. OR I would have been way more strict with boundaries and negotiating for more pay, more staff, etc. At the very least I would have known that I DON’T have to accept this, that it’s NOT normal – or doesn’t have to be. But companies/certain industries get away with it because it’s part of the “culture” and this is just “what you do.” Nope. That’s the lie they tell you to squeeze every last bit of juice out of you. They will never care about you and your well-being as much as you care about doing a good job for them. Let that sink in. If you have a strong work ethic (and LW, it sounds like you do) – you will KILL yourself going above and beyond. You will be a star performer. But at the end of the day, when you decide to cut your losses – they will shrug their shoulders and say, “Whatever… NEXT!” And some other naive person will take your place. It’s a lopsided relationship that I wouldn’t tolerate in a significant other – so why should we tolerate it in the workplace?

    The good part is that having had that experience makes me appreciate my current workplace more. And it’s also helped me hone my “red flag” detector for toxic culture.

    In the end, was it worth it? To me? No. I don’t know if your experience will differ, but everyone I know that has been in a similar situation and then left, look back with a “what the hell was I thinking and why did it take me so long to wise up” mentality. No job is worth your mental (at times physical) health or your personal relationships.

    Looking back, I could have undoubtedly learned the same lessons (professional and personal) in a less stressful environment. Career growth? I left and basically started from scratch in another industry. I made my way out, but it would have been easier to just start sooner. And I should note that my mind was mush for that first year – hence taking a job that was “sit at your desk, do mind-numbing data entry, punch out at 5.” I was pretty much operating at 60% capacity during that first year – that’s how drained I was from it all after I reached my breaking point.

    If for whatever reason you DO have to stay in your current role –
    – Make sure to guard your “me time” ferociously. Do NOT answer/read any work related emails, texts, slacks etc. Put OOO on for everything. If possible get a secondary phone just for work so you’re not tempted to check an email while you’re scrolling through Insta… or reading Ask A Manager. (If you do this, do NOT give out your personal number or email).
    -Schedule a massage (or some other type of pampering/destressing activity – maybe it’s therapy? maybe it’s goat yoga?) anywhere from once a month to once a week.
    -Stay hydrated (this does not include coffee or booze).
    -Eat well – if this means hiring a meal delivery system (most places have healthy pre-made food delivery systems), so be it.
    – If financially possibly, out source what you can to leave you with more free time – laundry, apt cleaning, etc. Maybe see if your roommates will go in on it with you?
    – Get some exercise at least 3x a week – take walks, ride a bike (maybe this can be part of your commute).

    Good luck, LW. Ultimately, only you can make the call of whether this is all worth it in the end. (Maybe it is! I don’t know your industry and the payoffs and how important those payoffs are in relation to your current sacrifices). But from someone that’s “been there” and come out on the other side… nothing wrong with trying something out, realizing it’s not for you/not sustainable, and then knowing when to cut your losses. And if that’s the case, better to do it sooner vs later.

  150. DaniCalifornia*

    I’ve spent 8 years working tax seasons. It sucks and I’m not even a CPA! This past season I tracked my hours and realized I was working 24/7 Jan – Apr about 60-70 hours a week. I even got chastised about not being there one Sunday even though there are no specific rules about me having to work on a weekend. I had just done 21 days in a row and was exhausted. I finally decided it’s not worth it. I wish the workforce in general would realize no job is worth that stress and we self impose some of the urgency created with consumerism.

    The first couple of years were okay, I enjoyed the fast pace, the days went by quickly, and the team we had worked well together. Now the job has turned really toxic and my coworkers aren’t great. It just makes it all the worse. My mental health has suffered the most, but physically it’s not worth it anymore. No amount of time in the gym, meditating, listening to music makes up for a job that is most likely taking years off my life. I am too tired to see friends and family, and I don’t have enough time with my spouse even when we outsource yard and house work. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have young kids and do this job! And we hope to have a family in the coming years, there are no daycares in our area who would even support my hours which means we’d have to get a nanny and those can be more expensive than daycare. I hate always feeling frantic. Our deadlines just get worse and our clients seem to not care. I will never do another tax season. If I don’t have another job by mid November I am quitting and letting my small office know they have 6 weeks to find someone.

  151. EmilyG*

    I had a job like this for about a year after college. I’m rushing here to comment without reading the rest of the comments first in order to say that it had a really big impact on my life: I learned that I should never ever ever take a job like that again, not for any amount of money. I should say, part of the problem was the hours and part was that it was a whole company of hot-mess young people. I think my boss was 25…

    My job was at a company that was both disorganized AND had its business model set up to make money by charging clients extra for rush jobs and not paying very young salaried staff overtime. They tried to convince me that we were working hard and playing hard, and looking out for each other as a team, but I soon figured out that I was being exploited.

    How did I take care of others things in my life? I didn’t. I lived in a sort of post-college flophouse with some college pals; we ate takeout (often at the office) while the groceries we occasionally bought rotted in the fridge. I skipped meals or had weird snack foods for breakfast. I don’t care to remember how infrequently I changed my sheets! I didn’t prioritize sleeping and don’t remember working out during that period at all. My social life consisted of going out to bars with coworkers after we all managed to escape for the night, which was kind of sucky at the time, and really sucked when I quit the job and didn’t have many other friends.

    I soon got another job and grew up fast. The most lingering effect of this, other than having learned a lot, is that the job had free soda and no dental insurance. I started out with perfect teeth… got lots of small cavities that had to be filled, by a dentist whom I now recognize as rather interventionalist… small fillings became bigger fillings… bigger fillings eventually have to be replaced by crowns. I hate to think how much I’ve spent on dental work because of this but $20k wouldn’t be an unreasonable estimate. This is the only aspect of it that I don’t now regard as faintly hilarious.

  152. Fieldpoppy*

    I have gone through phases of working super high volume hours but it’s translated into expertise and reputation that gives me a lot of freedom, choice and resources in my 50s. I work hard now but i have super clear boundaries and it’s rare that I work past 6 pm and maybe 2 hours on most weekends. But I also take 6 weeks or more off a year where I’m completely off, have traveled to more than 30 countries for pleasure in the last decade, and can choose the projects I want to work on. It’s because I built expertise and a niche “in the crucible” when I was younger. But it’s not worth it if it’s not for a purpose.

  153. Flower*

    For me it’s not so much the hours themselves (I’m a grad student – sometimes I work 80 hours, sometimes I work 25) as it is the feeling that I always have more work to do and that any time I take for myself is wasted and being a bad worker/student. It’s a huge part of my considering leaving my program (an idea I’ve kicked around for months and will decide on when other major life stressors have had some time to pass out of consciousness – couple weeks now).

    I’m of the opinion it’s not worth it.

    1. Flower*

      That said, my father has worked between 60-80 hours for most of his adult life, often with long commutes. He seems fine with it, and in recent years due to some changes in living situation he’s recently had more time to pursue hobbies, exercise, and time with my mother. So from the point of view of a child of a parent who worked *loooong* hours…

      But in practice, it means he just wasn’t present for most of our (my and my siblings’) childhoods. He did a lot of those hours from home, too – so even when he was home, he wasn’t *really* home, and could be called away at any time to go to his office. Now that we’re all adults and live away from my parents, he makes more of a point to be present when we are (visiting), but he still is usually able to be called away for work and has to disappear for a few hours each evening. I vary between feeling like I don’t have much of a relationship with my father at all to saying that we don’t get along super well. (Though I’m honestly not sure if he would agree with me… he seems to think we have a decently strong relationship.)

  154. Third or Nothing!*

    My husband (welder) used to work insane hours before he found his current cushy job. I took care of all the household responsibilities so the small amount of time we actually did get to spend together was pure quality time. I think he would have buckled under the pressure if he hadn’t had any real down time. I agree with commenters suggesting you schedule down time. You can’t survive long if your entire life is work, sleep, and chores.

    If you live alone, it helps to contract things out so you don’t waste what little free time you have doing chores. Hire a cleaner to come in once a week, buy pre-made healthy meals (ask around for places that sell meal prep), send your laundry to a dry cleaner (they do plain laundry too!). If those options are too expensive, consider reaching out to your support network for help. Your friends and family might be willing to chip in here and there to help out if they know you’re feeling overwhelmed.

    You might also consider taking up a casual hobby. I know that running has been really helpful for me, even though I don’t work long hours. It’s great stress relief. Even if you realistically only have 30 minutes/week to devote to a hobby, it’s good to have something to look forward to that’s only for you, you know?

  155. Jamie*

    Topic so near to my heart and I’m too busy to read all the comments until later. Ugh

    It was worth it in some respects for me, but it came at a cost. I’ll be paying for it the rest of my life…I don’t recommend getting on a hamster wheel off of which you can’t easily jump.

  156. SassyAccountant*

    This is very timely as tomorrow is my last day at a job that I’m leaving for the same reason. I took the job because the pay was fantastic and it was to work for a famous prestigious company. I was told January was our only crazy month as it was for year end. It was 7 days a week for over a month and no one socialized or talked the entire time. I cried every day. My drive was over an hour to boot. Year end is over and I found that your hours never ended. There was always one more thing that HAD to be done before I could leave and that one more thing took a few hours to do. I had to give up getting any meaningful exercise and regularly didn’t get home until 7 at the earliest and quite a few times after 8. Just giving me about an hour and half to eat, prep for the next day and see my family before bed so I could be up at an god awful hour to shower and get ready for another day. Then it turned into a Office Space deal where at the last minute on Friday it was all “Yeah we need you to come in tomorrow and Sunday.” I gave up appointments, events, parties enough times and erratically that doing anything extracurricular was pointless. On top of that no one socialized ever or if they did it was very cliquey. Despite many attempts I never felt comfortable there.
    Bottom line? I learned a lot and it helped tremendously but I hated the drive, hours, work, and loneliness. So was it worth it? I can’t say for sure. I didn’t even make it a year. But I know I wouldn’t do it again knowing what I know now.

  157. Gail Davidson-Durst*

    I’m pushed to my limit right now for other reasons, but I think a few things apply to your situation:
    1. Push for lots of money. :) In all seriousness, if you’re putting so much in, don’t leave any possible money on the table to compensate you. And remember they won’t give you what you don’t ask for.
    2. Use the money to “buy time.” Cleaning service, lawn service, restaurant meals, prepared foods – these are my lifeline right now. It’s vital to spend money so that I have actual leisure time in my off hours, rather than doing chores.
    3. Prioritize & cut from the bottom mercilessly. Do I need to shower every day? Do I need to wash my hair more than a few times a week? Do I need to wear makeup or non-repetitive outfits? Does it matter if dishes sit for a couple days? All have been answered “No” recently, to make time for more important things.
    4. Try not to cut foundational stuff that makes everything else possible. Sleep, dance class, and a certain amount of crocheting in front of the TV are non-negotiable for me right now!
    5. Set a deadline. Don’t let it creep infinitely out into the future. Being able to look at a calendar and count down can make the unbearable bearable.

  158. ZinniaOhZinnia*

    I worked at a farm for 6+ years with very long hours (14-ish hour days), doing physically demanding work. The key (for me) was to really pace myself and make sure I had time to unwind at the end of the day, and to not just fall into bed exhausted the second I got home. For me, that meant really making an effort to not do any work or check my emails from home, as tempting as it can be to get a head start on the next day’s work. I also found that putting together a really healthy routine that included lunches away from my desk, and exercising in my down time helped me quite a bit.

    I don’t regret the amount of work, and I have fond memories of my time farming, but I am currently very happy to be back to a regular 40 hour work week!

  159. Jersey's mom*

    I’m in environmental services and worked construction as an environmental inspector for two years. It’s pre-dawn to dusk, six days a week. While winter months have less outside construction time, that’s when you catch up on all the paperwork and reporting. I made the conscious decision to accept this job knowing I would not have a life for two years.

    The caveats – I knew exactly what I was getting into. My husband and friends knew I essentially would not be available for anything (there was no pressure for me to go out and do things, and no hosting get-togethers at my house). My husband was also willing to take over nearly everything in terms of housekeeping and cooking. My boss and I were on the same page for expectations for that two year period and my workload beyond that.

    The reality – it was exhausting. The job was my life. I did almost nothing personal during that two years. My day off was spent sleeping, doing little tasks that my husband couldn’t handle, and just spending quiet time with my husband.

    I definitely lost two years of personal life, but long term it really helped me in my career – and I didn’t have to do that kind of crazy workload after that particular construction task was done. It was worth it for me, but I think what made it work (besides personal stamina and stubbornness) was that my boss and my husband were completely on board with clear expectations and followed through over the two year period.

  160. S*

    My post was a lot longer, but ultimately, it boils down to this: for me, it was not sustainable. I was physically and mentally sick all the time (more than once, doctors wanted me to be hospitalized for the physical illnesses caused directly by my job, and I actually ended up getting surgery over a usually-scheduled work break to help alleviate them), discouraged from taking any sick days, and unlike your job, there was no chance of it slowing down in 2-3 years. In the grand scheme of things, 2-3 years is nothing, unless you find yourself totally unable to function. That’s not a slight. 2-3 years can absolutely feel like an eternity.

    Since you’re a recent graduate, though, a lot of this could boil down to pure culture shock and, possibly, some impostor syndrome. No matter how much you worked through school and were told about these hours, really nothing prepares you for the world beyond. Consider getting a therapist, even an online one, and talk through what you’re worried about–the nice thing about online ones is that you can message in the middle of the night or whenever is convenient. They can help you find coping techniques that work for you and help you get through these few years until things get easier.

    Good luck! The first year at any job is the hardest. Even with mine, I rarely struggled like I did in year one, when I was trying to apply my academic understanding to the real world tasks.

  161. Rebecca*

    My husband has a job like this and he is not surviving it. The company doesn’t consider you as overutilized until you’ve worked 55 hours in a week. He’s tired, cranky, and doesn’t have enough time to really buckle down on a job search.

    So don’t do it any longer than you have to. If you’ve noticed physical and mental effects, you’ve already been there too long.

  162. GreenDoor*

    The only time it was worth it to me was when I was in college. I went to school and worked about 65 hours a week between 2-3 jobs. The payoff was, I made enough money to be able move out of my parents house (yeah for independence!) and – AND – I had zero student loans because I was able to pay as we went for my tuition. You can’t just consider the payoff though – you also need to consider the trade off! My long hours were back when I was single, with no kids, in excellent health, and I was happy living in a dumpy little apartment. My life has done a 180 since and the trade-off of having no time for my spouse and kids, being tired and grumpy and mentally stressed, plus having nice things but no time to enjoy them….are not a worthy trade off to me.

  163. booksbooksbooksmorebooks*

    Ugh. I did this for a few years – #AgencyLife (ew) – and dislocated part my spine from too much time in my desk one particularly heavy reporting & forecasting month. I’m still recovering. It was worth it in some ways (not pay! but definitely opportunity later), but a few things I wish I had learned earlier:
    1 Boundaries – setting them! I had a boss near the end of it who made me turn off the notifications on my phone and regularly talked boundaries. When he left, that’s when I gave up on the company. He fought for us and was cognizant of boundaries in a way the new director, steeped in politics and living/breathing that agency life thing, was not at all.
    2 Sleep & exercise – this is always a work in progress, but these were the minimum things I definitely needed, that I often went without. I gained 40 lbs and have issues with stress & insomnia now.
    3 Not internalize the ‘must do it all’ attitude – for a while, my entire social life was work and my hobbies suffered: that’s OK if it’s a conscious choice, and less OK if you’re also thinking you should be dating + social + always exercising + cooking fancy meals + on top of your finances + have a pet/house/insert things here… There are seasons in life where the ‘balance’ is going to be out of whack, and that’s ok.

    1. booksbooksbooksmorebooks*

      OH – and housekeeping, cooking, all of that – it’s going to slip. Factor that into your finances or relationships, and drop a few balls (there’s a great book called Drop The Ball by Tiffany Dufu on negotiating this.)

  164. Gazebo Slayer*

    The last year or so I have done a lot of 50-70+ hour weeks – I have a combination of retail and freelance/gig economy work, so the hours vary a lot and the work doesn’t pay well. I basically…. don’t do housework, except for laundry, dishwashing, and really basic cooking. Occasionally I throw out old junk I don’t want or wash bathroom/kitchen surfaces if they’re visibly filthy, but that’s about it. My apartment is a disastrous mess, including a roach infestation, but I just deal with it. I never have guests over.

    I eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and energy bars. I oversleep and end up having to take a Lyft to my more time-sensitive job more often than I’d like to admit.

    I have a couple of weekly social activities, one in-person and one over an online chat. I don’t do much socially other than that, and I’m single with no kids and never date.

    I do some simple fun stuff on my own, as my time and energy permit – reading, watching shows I like, video games. My more active/involved interests have mostly fallen by the wayside for now.

    I paid off some credit card debt, and I’m paying my bills now – which I wasn’t always able to do when I was working fewer hours. I don’t have a huge amount to put in savings, but I get by.

    I’m hoping to be able to raise my freelance rates a bit over time, but my poor job history and lack of marketable skills mean I’ve had to start at rock bottom. I did manage to charge my biggest client a *little* bit more per hour recently, though, so maybe that’s on track?

  165. Clementine*

    If you do this, I think some keys are to be willing to outsource food, laundry, cleaning, and maybe transportation. I know some people do prefer to do their own food prep for relaxation and control, which is fine if it works for you, but you can get excellent, healthy food without preparing it yourself. Get a cleaner. Take Uber as appropriate. The exact parameters will differ for everyone, but this is not the time to be penny-pinching on essentials. Someone suggested Marie Kondo, and yes, massive decluttering will help too.

  166. SI*

    You have to decide if the long hours are worth it or not. Is it worth the toll it will take on your health? You may not be eating very healthy, your blood pressure might be high because of stress and a lack of proper sleep. All of this contributes to unhealthy weight gain or other chronic health conditions. Are you missing out on things outside of work? For example, time that could be with family and friends. Do your hours eat into fitness, dance, or other classes you want to take? Maybe those long hours forced you to give up a hobby.

    If working long hours has a purpose or will benefit your career somehow, then it might be worth it.

    A lesson I learned the hard way is that burn out sucks. After weight gain, migraines that became almost chronic, a constant state of sleep deprivation, I quit my job. I have no regrets.

    If you decide that the long hours are worth it, try to find a way to make things outside of work easier. Remember, it’s perfectly okay to decide your work situation isn’t sustainable and move on. Your personal well being is just as important.

  167. Karak*

    Eliminate as much extra work from life as you can. Get a maid, get one of those dinner box delivery companies, drop the laundry off at dry-cleaner, cut a deal with your partner or roommate.

    Take one day every 3-4 months. “I’m taking Friday off, I need it.” You can work from home, but makes sure you have a REAL change of pace.

    Eat real food, not energy drinks.

    Plan, plan well. All social events, appointments, anything besides “go to work” go in the planner. Surprises or last minute things will kill you.

    Carve out tiny places of hope—brunch every 2-3 weeks, something to get out of the work/sleep rut.

    I started wearing makeup every day—seems counterintuitive, but I needed a separation of “work” and “home”. Ten minutes to put on my face and prepare for my day, five minutes to take it off when I got home and decompress.

    Good luck, OP.

  168. Ginevra Farnshawe*

    The question about staying productive and alert is an interesting one. I was able to do it when I was a wee lawyer based on sheer coursing cortisol because everything everyone asked me to do seemed equally important and terrifying. Once I figured out whose requests weren’t important (most people’s, turns out) and had to set my own priorities it became really important to recognize my own circadian rhythms—I did plenty of 12 (and 18, and… 20) hour days, but they involved waking up early AF and getting in the actual hard, focused work (writing, mostly, the more important meetings) in before 2pm, and using the rest of the day on the less rigorous side of things (reading, less important meetings). Also anything you can just throw money at, do it. Cleaners, trainers, meal delivery, whatever. Eat breakfast!!!! Set a quit date—sound like you have one roughly in mind anyway. So pick a literal specific day. I blew my imaginary quit date at various jobs by like, YEARS, but just the idea of “if this isn’t better in 6 months I’m walking” helped.

    As far as worth it… I know people who relentlessly worked insane hours (trials are charnel houses) who would say it was worth it because they are Head Boy now, but those are *not* the same people who were wondering at the beginning of their careers if it was worth it. That said it’s not bad to try surviving a couple of really brutal spin cycles; that’s a skill that comes in handy in life, and is kind of its own payoff in that way. I don’t regret my time in those trenches—not because it allowed me to climb any ladder (sort of did, sort of didn’t)—but because it helped me figure out my own skills and priorities and develop a somewhat thicker skin.

    TDLR; eat breakfast, quit in precisely 19 months, you got this.

    1. Ginevra Farnshawe*

      Oh full disclosure—I totally forgot my hours were a proximate cause of divorce! All told, that man needed a good divorcing, so I don’t know what weight to assign this.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        LOL @ “that man needed a good divorcing” – I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before, but it’s great.

  169. LBug*

    Hi, I haven’t read any of the previous posts because I’m short on time – taking a PTO day to do some Marie-Kondo-ing, lol. I’ll share my experience as a data point for you.

    In my 20’s, I worked many hours and hard. I also still had the energy to really have great personal experiences – going out with friends to bars and clubs, travelling with friends to Europe and South American countries, moving to new, fun cities and just really living it up. I was working insane hours, but when I wasn’t, I was having the time of my life.

    I settled down in my late 20’s, got married, still worked long hours (at work I really liked) but didn’t play as hard.

    Then I had a kid and happily plateau-ed for a few years. The newborn, infant, and toddler years drained me dry. I put in 8 hour days and coasted, doing well at work and exceeding only because it was work I was really good at and took me less time to do than others. And I was so grateful that I was earning really well, work was pretty predictable, and I could dedicate a lot of my energy to staying afloat at home and really enjoying those years.

    Now my child is 11, I’ve taken a more demanding job that requires more hours, but it’s still not as crazy as when I was building my career. I’m more challenged, but I still can take a week or two off a year plus a 5 days of sick days and long-weekend days when I need to.

    In a few more years, I’ll step it up more at work and start looking for more travel and even more responsibility. I’m looking forward to it – I’ll be ready for it and it will be exciting. I wouldn’t enjoy it right now, but in about 5 years it will be perfect.

    So, for me, putting in the hours (in jobs I’ve loved doing work that fulfilled me) was like the ant in summer stocking up when the going is good for the harder days when I needed to nest at home and just coast at work – still providing value but maintaining, not accelerating for a while.

  170. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

    In my experience, it’s very difficult to tell where the line is between “difficult time in my life but I can push through” and “time to exit this situation.” It might be worth checking in every now and then with someone you love and trust. Do they think you’re becoming a different (not-in-a-better-way) person? If that answer is no, then you might still be on the “pushing through” side of that line. But if the answer is yes, believe them and don’t drag your feet on the way to the exit. As others have articulated up-thread, some people can handle this fine. Some people can’t, and the consequences can be far-reaching if it goes on too long.

  171. Close Bracket*

    At my company, 60+ hours are the norm, and people LOVE it. I’m not a 60+ hour person myself, but hey, whatever floats their boat. I’ve actually been trying to get on the weekend schedule to give other people a break, and they don’t schedule me bc other people don’t want the break! Personally, I don’t know how any of them stay married.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Probably because they don’t spend much time with their SO, lol. They say familiarity breeds contempt – if you don’t spend a lot of time with your lover, there’s no time to get familiar. It’s like dating someone new all the time.

  172. Workfromhome*

    My #1 piece of advice is don’t so it. Its all too easy for 1 year to become 2 then 3 then 10. We cant get our time back and sometimes you cant get your health back. Not could be worse than working 80 hours a week to make big $ and then becoming so sick from it you end up off work and eating through any $ you made working 80 hours.
    #2 If you are going to do it do a real assessment of of what the payoff is for doing this Are there are people in the same job that have been there 2,3 or even more years working 80 hours a week? If so where are they compared to when they started? Have they all been promoted? This answered a lot of questions. If they are still working 80 hours a week you know this isn’t temporary and will go on essentially as long as you let it. If they have not been promoted then 80 hours is just the norm and doing it won’t put you to the “head of the list” If everyone who works 80 hours has left after 2 years (either quit or gotten better jobs) then you know that should be your plan…to get out within a couple years.
    #3 If you are going to do it manage what is necessary. Often times people work huge hours because “there is always more to do” or “we’ve set the expectation this is what we do because we’ve always done it this way”. May past job many people often worked crazy hours 60 -80 hours often with travel on top of it. Working all day with clients, travelling and then “catching up” on all the work you couldn’t get done during the day in the hotel. It was insane. One thing I did was look at all the tasks I was doing and see if they all made sense to do and not just do them because someone said to do them. There were reports it took hours to compile and send. I asked my clients what they did with them? Turns out they showed them in a folder and no one could remember looking at them. I asked around and someone who worked their years ago (long since fired) said they were “really important”. So guuess what I stopped doing them. I didn’t make a big deal of it just stopped doing it. Months went by and not a word about it. I got those hours back as free time. Dont waste time doing useless stuff. you might find than you work less.

  173. Rexasaurus Tea*

    I’m a software engineer and at some tech companies it’s not uncommon to see people putting in hours like this, especially young single recent grads. It’s different from the LW’s scenario in that much of the long-hour days were self-inflicted by people who felt they had to prove themselves, but there were also teams where there was an unspoken expectation that people would work from home in the evening, and be available on email at all hours of the day and night.

    I went down that path myself for a while. My spouse and I were both in tech and had no kids or pets, and consequently it wasn’t a big deal for us to stay at the office longer in the evenings. Most of our social network was built on coworkers and industry connection so we were seeing friends regularly during the day. We were kind of blind to just how much of our “normal” life was based on our jobs and our co-workers. When I later switched to a team where I didn’t have all the social connections, suddenly the long hours were… no longer fun.

    I left that company after 12 years and moved to a different company, same industry, but a very different internal culture where there was not an expectation of the long hours and the constant availability and it was an eye opener. It’s not a bad idea to discreetly check around with other companies in your industry to see if some of them have different expectations around the hours you work, although from the letter it sounds like that might not be the case in your industry.

    Some survival strategies:
    Having a friend or two in the office is really valuable in letting you have some kind of human connection during the day, even if it’s just 30 seconds to share a joke or vent about something. (But have friends from outside the office too, or else you risk every social gathering turning into an informal work chat session)

    If you can afford it, pay someone to do stuff for you. House cleaning, yard maintenance, laundry, etc. Coming home to a messy house added on to my stress because now I had to think about trying to squeeze home chores into an already-packed day.

    Find something active that you can make happen on a regular basis – team sports are great for this, like a rec league for soccer or ultimate frisbee. This lets you get some exercise and work out frustration, and will hold you accountable to pulling yourself away from work to participate.

    Looking back:
    Putting in the long hours when I didn’t have dependents to care for wasn’t a big deal, because I could come home and turn into a slug without being concerned about anyone needing me to feed them, walk them, bathe them, etc. I was able to use those long hours to look like a superstar at work, especially compared to others who were working more normal hours.

    The downside to this was that it set other people’s expectations for me, and then when the dogs and kids did happen and I could no longer work those hours, people’s perception was that I was no longer living up to my previous performance. It’s probably not a coincidence that the company switch happened about a year or so after our first child was born and I was trying to burn the candle not just at both ends but in the middle as well.

    I don’t regret taking that first job, because I learned A LOT and formed some strong social connections. But I also don’t regret leaving it once I’d matured a bit more in my career and personal life.

  174. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Jack Ma of Alibaba says that it is “a bliss” to work 996 (9:00AM to 9:00PM, 6 days per week). Of course, it’s “bliss” for HIM because his employees do 72 hours of work each week for 40 hours of pay.

  175. I Have All Of The Questions*

    Well, I want to wish you luck. I’ve done a few stints in careers that have 10 to 16 hour shifts but the latest one is a funeral home. It’s more emotionally draining than physically draining.

    Make sure you have healthy, filling, food that you can eat quickly. Make sure you have drinks with you at almost all times (water, tea, etc) so that you do not dehydrate and can keep thinking. If you have times that you cannot go to the bathroom (like we can’t go on services) make sure you go WHEN you can go. It’s like getting your kids to go before a road trip. Doesn’t matter if you need to or not, go. Try to get in some good physical activity too because the long shifts and OT are terrible for your physical health.

    Also, make sure that you know yourself and how you handle stress. If you are an introvert you get yourself some books on your days or times off and you enjoy what you enjoy. If you are an extrovert, you get yourself some nice parties or gatherings and go to town. You will need to relieve stress because this two or three year stint is going to be stressful.

    Look at your new office/department and read the room. Find out who does what and the culture of the area. You should make some friends but don’t spend time on those that will make your days or shifts feel longer.

    If you have children or a spouse/significant other, you will have to communicate with them and know how to read them as well. You have to be able to lean on them and for them to still be able to lean on you. A lot of people in my industries have had divorces because they’ve stopped communicating with people in their lives and shut themselves off. You should learn from them and not do that.

    You have to know you and how you work and how those closest to you work. It’s not great, you’ll know yourself more but it seems like this is what you want to do. I am job searching to leave this position because I can’t handle it and can feel the burnout coming. I don’t want to hit that point so I’m trying to leave before that point hits… you should be able to read that about yourself too. Don’t let yourself actually hit that point because it’s going to take awhile to come back from it.

  176. CM*

    I actually found my big law firm job to be fun and exciting and didn’t so much mind the hours at first. Over time, it got to me because the lack of sleep affected my health, and I already had a family when I started and this model really assumes you have a stay-at-home spouse managing your life for you. So I ended up leaving after a while. Never occurred to me to regret the years I spent doing that! I got a lot of benefits from it — training, experience, money, network — and got out when I became unhappy. In fact, I felt the opposite — rather than regretting the years I did it, I sort of wished I could have had those years to focus on work instead of always having to be conflicted and divide my time and attention between my work and family. The firm certainly would have preferred it!

    Now that I’m older, I don’t think I could physically do it. And I also resent the business model for being inhumane.

    One tip that I don’t think has been mentioned — if you’re basically working all the time anyway, and nobody is keeping tabs on your whereabouts, grab free time whenever you can. If you have a slow morning, show up at 11. Leave at 2 p.m. and take a long walk until 4. Who cares, you’re going to be in the office for a million hours anyway even if you’re not there from 9 to 5. If work is claiming your evenings, take back your days whenever you can.

  177. Lorax*

    My first four years out of college I worked in disaster response. My position had me traveling around the country to provide immediate logistical support in the wake of natural disasters. This job meant: (1) I was always on call and had to be ready to go within 6 hours, 24/7/365, (2) I was traveling more often than not, and (3) I was working incredibly long hours when out on assignment. My longest week was getting randomly assigned to lead EXTREMELY understaffed emergency sheltering operations that had me working 100+ hours a week. 80 hours/week was more typical.

    That was 10 years ago, and I’m still not fully recovered. I broke. Part of it was all the stress of being in literal disaster zones all the time and the constant feeling of helplessness when facing mind-boggling levels of need, but the long hours themselves took their toll. My stress and anxiety were out of control. I developed a drinking problem and insomnia. I gained 20 pounds because healthy food and exercise were an impossibility. I was probably depressed as well. I couldn’t maintain relationships outside of work, as much as I tried. Ultimately, I had a series of breakdowns, was unable to fulfill the duties of my job, and I left my position without having another job lined up. I burned through my savings and racked up credit card debt before I could find another job, but I still don’t regret leaving, right then and there.

    You’d think with all that, I’d warn you the hell away from taking on long hours, but there were some upsides to my experience. In retrospect, I realize I was probably able to help a lot of people, even if it didn’t feel that way at the time. I gained a great reputation in my field and was working my way up in my organization. I was recognized for my efforts, earning awards and even invited to the White House, which was a neat experience. I learned A LOT, both in technical content and in general, big-picture life lessons. It was a crash course in leadership development, which is skill that transfers to any industry, and it’s given me the confidence to take on big challenges in my current career: No project I work on today is half as challenging as a hurricane. Finally, it gave me a lot of perspective, if not wisdom.

    But it also forced me to leave the industry. My job now is no longer in disaster response, and I will never work in that field again, even in a more structured, more “work-life-balance-friendly” position. I just can’t. I had to re-start my career from an entry-level position in another industry.

    So here’s what I’d say:

    * IF you don’t have any kind of structured thinking or plan around this, and IF you just intend to keep going like this indefinitely to “put in your time,” then stop. Get out now. This isn’t sustainable. You’re already noticing deterioration in your mental and physical wellbeing, and that’s not going to get any better. There’s no real way to recover when you’re pulling these hours, as you’ve noticed in carrying stress around with you even during your time off. Even minor bandaids around diet and exercise and sleep and therapy isn’t going to be enough in the long run. The problems you’re noticing now are just going to compound if you keep putting in those hours, because you’re not fundamentally changing the root cause of those problems. Eventually, you could be left a broken person who isn’t able to perform up to the standards of the job — like me — which is exactly OPPOSITE of what you want to be doing if you intend to stay in the same field for your entire career.

    * IF, however, you have a clear end-line in sight (you mentioned 4 months on at a time? for the next 2 – 3 years?) and a PLAN, then this might be do-able. Are there concrete skills you want to develop? Specific achievements you want to achieve? A certain level of responsibility you’d like to get to? Be VERY clear and specific about what you want out of this experience, then make a plan to get those. Keep track of your milestones, and when you’ve completed all of them, leave. If it ever becomes clear that you’ve gotten everything you can out of it, leave. If you find yourself drinking heavily or using drugs to get by, leave. There are other opportunities out there. Move on to the next phase of your career. In the meantime, use all the bandaids you can: safeguard your sleep, find someone to talk to about all this, try your best to eat healthy and exercise, work with a doctor to get on any medications that will help, meditate, draw clear boundaries between work and the rest of your life, find help with housework and other basic life necessities (TaskRabbit? Amazon?), etc. I don’t think it’s enough in the long-run, but those steps can probably get you through the next 2-3 years.

  178. 'Tis Me*

    My husband used to routinely work 100-120 hour weeks. He only realised he was doing it when I added it all up and pointed it out to him… Then he was diagnosed with Bipolar II. His pattern was to start a job, rapidly get at least one promotion, be irreplaceable golden boy doing at least 3 people’s workload – then getting increasingly frustrated with aspects of the job dictated to him from on high, and leaving, often reasonably abruptly. He didn’t always leave blazing bridges behind him but it did happen a few times…

    Two breakdowns (one when he was initially diagnosed, and one which involved a 2 week stay in hospital) later and he has been at the same job for over 3 years now. It’s in health care so even after a stressful day he knows he made a real difference to other people’s lives, which helps. If he does ever need time off for health issues it will not be an issue. He does overtime sometimes but my health is poor and we have two young children so he does a lot less now than he did in the past… He also actually has hobbies now (he used to joke that working *was* his hobby)!

    Getting his meds right has made a huge difference of course but his work-life balance is so much better now and I think it does also help.

    Working all of your working hours (and then some) is not healthy or sustainable for anybody long term. I don’t think it’s something any employer should ask of or allow from their employees. Honestly, I would consider it a warning sign if I heard of anybody pushing themselves like that (and on a few occasions have questioned people I care about to confirm this is not something they intend to do for any length of time etc). I am also glad that e.g. my company considers a working week to be 35 hours, and discourages overtime; the UK and EU have working hour directives so e.g. here you aren’t supposed to work over 48 hours a week (averaged over 17 weeks according to Google) although it is possible to opt out of them I believe.

  179. Ellen N.*

    I used to work in entertainment business management.

    For about 20 years I worked 10 to 14 hours per day, six days a week. I often worked holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    When I was young, single, didn’t have pets or my own house I didn’t mind. I was making decent money. I live in Los Angeles, CA where housing is notoriously expensive. I figured that it was worth giving up my life when I was young to buy a house. I wanted to ensure that I had stability and security when I was older.

    Once I got married, bought a house and adopted pets I resented never being able to spend time at home with my family.

    I switched firms three times. Each time during the interviews I stated that except during tax season I wanted to work minimal overtime. Each time they assured me that their employees aren’t expected to work excessive overtime. Each time this turned out to not be true.

    As a result of buying a house when I was young; I can now afford to live on much less income. Therefore, I don’t regret working crazy hours when I was young. However, I’m glad I’m not doing so now.

  180. Poppy the Flower*

    I’m a physician so this was required of me in residency. I was in one of the “easier” specialties so averaged “only” 60-70h/week (definitely had some 80+ though). I came in LOVING medicine; I had not experienced burn out in med school like others and really was committed to the career as my “calling”. While I think residency would’ve been hard anywhere my program turned out to be toxic in that they pretty obviously played favourites (not me or my friends) and was also impacted negatively by the financial situation of the hospital. This plus the constant lack of sleep totally destroyed me (burn out) as well as my love for the job. I had originally planned to do a fellowship to further specialise but I just couldn’t do any more training. Which was honestly another grieving process because that is what I was truly passionate about. Anyway, I prioritised work life balance while looking for a job and I am now working ~40h/week. And it is SO MUCH BETTER. I have time for visiting family, hobbies that I missed, SLEEP, etc. I’m starting to like what I do again. Also, I took a job at a hospital I was familiar with in med school which I knew had a good environment. In the years I’ve been gone they’ve taken a lot of positive steps to not only improve patients’ experience but the staff because their whole perspective is if the staff aren’t happy we won’t deliver good care. Like… DUH. So enough ranting. The positives were I did get good training and I am very close to my friends from residency because we went through this together. I’m still recovering though.

    Tips:
    -Outsource as much as you can, cleaning, cooking etc especially if it’s not something you enjoy
    -Try to limit your commute if at all possible
    -If there is something you do that is really important to your mental health like exercising or journaling, prioritise that and schedule it in
    -Try to also schedule in one of your hobbies even if in a limited way. Like if you like to read, listen to an audiobook in the car during your commute.
    -When you are off try to be OFF. Don’t go online and comment in the reddit related to your field (lol). Disconnect and do something totally different from your job if at all possible.
    -I do recommend making friends at work even if you don’t hang out after work, just to have someone who “gets it” (I ended up becoming great personal friends with a few people from work but I know that is not everyone’s style/not possible in all workplaces)
    -Try to stay connected with friends/family even if it’s not as often as you’d like. Isolating yourself can make it worse.
    -If you are off and just need to sleep, don’t feel guilty. You’re probably very behind on sleep. Just take care of yourself and sleep.
    -Have an exit date if your plan is only to do this for a short time. The motto for residency is “they can’t stop the clock”.

  181. pcake*

    I worked at a nightclub where I was promoted to “assistant” manager. The quotes are because the new manager, previously a bar tender, didn’t do any work at all – it fell to me. The owner was aware of this, but felt I was doing great and didn’t seem to register that he was paying a full time manage who didn’t do a thing.

    I was working 6 to 7 days a week, some days working 2 full shifts, so I worked from 10:30 am to 2:30 am those days. At first it was all right for me, but then the owner started to try and make things “more professional”. It became a grind, except for Sunday morning (the club opened at 11 am, and I always worked the night before till 2:30 am), but that was also the day shift my buddies worked, so we had a nice time. Other than that, I was drowning in written reports, hiring, handling vendors and cleaning, linen services. I also handled formal PIPs for bartenders and servers who, except for the new written rules, had been doing the same job in the club, in many case for over a decade with no complaints from anyone.

    One day, I didn’t feel well. I got our operations guy to cover me, then went to drive home. I couldn’t drive – I had a massive panic attack the second the car started to move – the first I ever had – so I pulled it back into the spot and called for a ride home. I couldn’t stop crying, and I wasn’t even sure why I was crying.

    No surprise – the psychiatrist I talked to said I had massive burnout syndrome. This was in the late 1980s, and I’ve never fully recovered. I developed phobias including driving on freeways that I haven’t been able to work around, although in many ways I have improved. I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs for a year. Therapy and self discovery helped a lot, but working all those hours under less and less friendly rules and requirements broke me. I would have been better off if the owner’s father – the previous owner – hadn’t passed away, but his son (in his early 60s, btw) was one of those people who just added rule and requirement after rule and requirement, and each one made my job harder and all the long-time loyal employees more and more unhappy.

    Btw, after holding my job for two months and offering me an assistant, they hired not one but two people to replace me.

  182. Blue Horizon*

    I was in one job like this for about 3 months (actually I was there around 6 months, but the hours only got like this after 3 months and I stayed another 3 months after that). I learned a few things about how I operate in that mode:

    1. I can do it. I think I could even do it for a long time if I had to.
    2. I will not do good work, at least in comparison to what I would produce in a normal 40 hour week.
    3. I will be miserable.

    There are, sometimes, ways around #3. If you have something important that it’s keeping you away from, like family, then nothing will fix that except for lowering the hours. But people find all kinds of ways of carving out space for themselves that go under the radar. More often than you might think, there isn’t actually enough work to justify the enormous hours – it’s just a default mode that the organization either operates in all the time or snaps into once the pressure comes on. So if you can figure out what ‘on the clock’ means in your particular context, and get all your work done in a timely manner (which often won’t require 100% of your time) then you can sometimes find a fair amount of flexibility within those constraints.

    For example, the expectation of long hours at the employer I mentioned above seemed to mostly revolve around staying really late at night. I learned that lots of people met that requirement by shifting their working day an hour or two later. I tended to start around 9:00am at that time, which had always been on the late side at previous employers, but at this place I often found myself unlocking and turning on all the lights.

    I’d also recommend not staying so long that it starts to seem normal. I got along well with the people while I was there, but when I gave my notice they were upset with me because I was leaving after only six months, while I couldn’t fathom why they would expect anybody to stay under those conditions unless they had no good alternative. If you ever find yourself on the other side of that (upset with somebody because they choose to opt out of the crazy hours) it’s probably a sign that you’ve been there too long.

  183. Working Mom Having It All*

    I started my career in film and television production, which especially at entry level is legendary for long days.

    As to how I got through it, honestly I think this is one of those things where the archetypal “big city” post-college life is somewhat ideal. I lived in NYC, so I didn’t have to worry about stuff like long driving commutes that could potentially be unsafe after long hours or needing to do errands like getting an oil change or going to the DMV. I had roommates in tiny apartments, so it’s not like I was spending a lot of my free time on domestic tasks. Additionally, NYC is a delivery/hiring out type of culture, so it was easy to get takeout rather than cook dinner (more about which in a second) and generally outsource a lot of your responsibilities. Groceries (such as they are if you don’t cook) can be delivered, if you have a pet hiring a dog-walker is trivial, services like StitchFix and Rent The Runway rather than spending time shopping for clothes. It’s also a dense, walkable city, so things like bodegas, a Starbucks and a Chase branch on every block, etc. just made life much more efficient. You just don’t spend a lot of time maintaining your lifestyle in general.

    Also, because I worked in a field where long hours were expected, I quickly learned to leverage the perks where I could. There was always free food at work, so I would eat that rather than buy groceries and cook at home on weeknights. If you were in the office later than 11pm, you could take a cab home rather than sit on the subway.

    I was also lucky that I was in a creative field, so nobody really had time consuming hobbies. Your job (or stuff tangentially related to your job, like going to the movies, taking a screenwriting course, etc) was your hobby. Similarly, it’s very easy to tell yourself it’s OK that you’re still at work at 1AM because this is your passion, and it’s all going to be worth it someday.

    The one area where it was really hard, and where I never learned to use it to my advantage, was in maintaining friendships outside of work. In my 30s I still don’t have a lot of close friends who are just friends, not coworkers or creative collaborators or people I have a collegial relationship with.

    One other thing that worked for me, in my city and my field, was that every year or so I would have a long hiatus in work. I used that time to travel (which I could afford since I never had time to spend the money I was making), or just to goof off and recharge my batteries. We also got a lot more time off around the holidays than most traditional workplaces tend to give.

    I have NO IDEA how a person living in the suburbs working for an insurance company would handle any of this, just because the support system (roommates, takeout, long gaps in employment understood, etc) isn’t there. Also, it really, really sucks the deeper you get into your 30s, especially if it’s not being rewarded by outstanding career success. I’d still work 60+ hour weeks if I was making 6 figures or getting nominated for Emmys or something. But otherwise, no thank you.

    All of the above said, I neither regret nor over-value that time in my life. It very much comes with the territory in my field, so it kind of is what it is for me. I would not tell someone who really wanted to pursue a career in film/television not to work long hours, because the reality is that you WILL be doing it, and if you’re not, then you probably won’t advance in your career.

  184. Miss H*

    I am a CPA.

    – (think 60-80 hour weeks for 4 months in a row)

    If you are in accounting, especially more on the audit side than the tax side, recognize that there is a BIG difference between working 60 hours a week versus working 80 hours a week. I never worked for the Big Four, but outside them are a huge number of small to mid-sized accounting firms. Their policies and practice on work hours can vary enormously! My first employer was the smaller end of mid-sized, and they had minimum 55 hours per week during Tax Season. If you were new, you worked 55. The longer you were there, the more your hours crept up as the managers and partners found you reliable. I think, by the end of my 6 or so years, I was up to 65 hours per week. However, there are some firms where much higher hours are the norm. You can pick a firm that won’t kill you with 80-hour weeks! Seriously!

    Even if you are in consulting, you can probably find another firm where standard busy hours are less each week.

    – How do people survive working jobs with insane hours?

    + Prep. Before Tax Season started, I would cook up a lot of big, bulk meals and store them in my chest freezer. If you have anything like car registration renewals or medical appointments, get them out of the way before busy season if you can.
    + Have someone else take care of everything else. DBF took care of almost all home stuff. He took over all pet care, all laundry, most groceries, most cooking (I do like cooking sometimes to just calm down).
    + Almost no social life. Unless DBF arranged for us to see friends during my few spare hours on weekends, I didn’t do anything. He took care of all planning.
    + Live a short commute from work. You are probably going to and from work at non-rush hour times, but it still shouldn’t be a long drive. FYI, lack of sleep WILL affect your ability to be a safe driver.
    + NO CPA EXAM PREPPING. My bosses said “Oh, you’re smart, you did well in school, why don’t you just polish off those CPA exams before Tax Season ends?” Thank you NO. I’m sure some people can do it, but I did my studying and testing outside of Tax Season like a normal person.

    Finally, one of the things that I preferred was to NOT work even hours. Instead of working 10 hours/day Monday to Friday and 5 hours on Saturday, I would stack the week. So, Monday I worked 16 hours, Tuesday 12 hours, Wednesday 8 hours, Thursday 8 hours, Friday 8 hours, and Saturday the minimum 5 hours. Until my firm banned this practice (and I quit) it worked quite well for me. I had some time in the evenings to see DBF and my pet. Occasionally I saw daylight, too.

    HOWEVER
    If you are feeling burnt out now, in your first year, then these hours are not for you. Seriously, it does not get easier over time as you acquire more life responsibilities. Also, there may well be more Busy Seasons at your firm. My firm had Tax Season from January to April-ish, but then there was also The Big Audit in the Summer and The Big Project in Autumn.

    If you are unhappy now, it will be worse when it ends and you realize you haven’t actually seen Spring in years.

  185. DKMA*

    There’s a lot of comments here, but I thought I’d add because I worked consulting and there was a point in my life that I thought the long-hours trade-off was very much worth it and a different point where I did not. So I’ve put some thought into what makes it make sense.

    It can work when:
    -You are learning a ton and interested in your work
    -You are paid well enough that there isn’t a clearly better choice right now for you (as opposed to just more future potential)
    -You have minimal enough responsibilities outside work that you are fine if you ignore them for a little while (e.g. “Oops, my apartment is dirty” not “I’ve been neglecting my family”)
    -You can plan vacations and take them

    If any of the opposite are true you will burn out too quickly (e.g. Doing boring, repetitive work; Knowing there was no real trade off to working less, feeling like you are failing on your responsibilities vs missing out on fun).

    I had professional advancement benefits from doing so, but I also had some real personal development benefits. I learned my own limits – now if I get a more minor busy period I can easily handle it without freaking out. I learned to set boundaries and enforce them – success was hit or miss in that enviroment, but the skills work great in a more normal enviorment. I improved my own work ethic.

    I also found there were major differences in “long hours”. I could work 60 hour weeks pretty much indefinitely, but 80 weeks burned me out after a few in a row, and 100 hour weeks required a literal recovery period especially if there was ever two in a row.

    Good luck!

  186. Dawn*

    I’m a middle school teacher in a small rural school, and for parts of my year, I work 10-12 hours a day for six days a week. I teach three grade levels and two content areas, so there is a lot of planning; I have 45 students total, so there is a good amount of grading, though not as much as most secondary teachers have (but most secondary teachers also don’t teach three grade levels and two content areas!) I love to work and I love my job, with the bonus that I know the hours I put in are making a real positive difference for my community, but even I can get worn down by the hours.

    As to surviving it, to begin with, I know the start of the school year is going to be the worst, so I go in with the expectation that I’m going to be in my building for ten-hour days and then bring work home. I know, at this point, that this will not last forever. I make it my goal to survive till Thanksgiving break, and by that point, students are assessed and settled, routines are established, long-term projects are underway, and my workload drops a bit.

    I force myself to observe just two small boundaries, but I have found that even this gives me enough of a sense of control to make a difference. My contract allows me to leave at 3 on Fridays, essentially with the students. I take advantage of this. Then, I take all of Saturday off: no going into my classroom, no work at home. Sunday, at least at the beginning of the year, is usually a regular workday for me, but that just-over-a-day off, when I know I won’t have work to do, is something to look forward to each week. I also stop work at 10 PM, no matter what, and spend that hour before bedtime doing something frivolous and relaxing. If I work right up till bedtime, all I do is dream and worry about school, and the loss of sleep makes the long hours even more difficult.

    Time off is important too. I’m a teacher, so I get a lot of it compared to most U.S. workers. (Most of it isn’t paid, but I do get a lot of it.) My district has three week-long breaks throughout the year, plus the unpaid two-month summer break. Those week-long breaks are a lifesaver. It makes the work feel more like a series of sprints rather than a marathon: If I can make it seven weeks between December and Winter Breaks, I can enjoy a week off. And I can make it for seven weeks, right? I realize the LW is probably not in education, but with that grueling of a schedule, I sincerely hope there is vacation time in the compensation package to match, and I would encourage them to use it.

    Perhaps this is more specific to my profession, but I also put in the effort to hopefully minimize the work I have to do in years to come. My district has no set curriculum, so I have designed it myself–itself a mammoth task–and in my fourth year at this school, I’m finally to the point where most of what I’m teaching comes from things I’ve created in years past, that I can tweak or even run with as-is, rather than planning from scratch every day. If the LW’s busy time follows a similar pattern, I’d encourage them to likewise think about what systems can be put into place now that will make future years easier and more streamlined.

  187. vlookup*

    I did two years of 50-80 hour weeks (with long stretches at the higher end of that range). I was a community organizer, so also making an outrageously low salary. I was unhappy almost all the time, and I can’t ever imagine doing it again, but I don’t regret it.

    As others have said, you make it work by prioritizing a certain level of essential self-care, while letting absolutely everything else in your life fall apart: relationships, hobbies, etc. I lived in a series of disgusting apartments with a zillion roommates. I blew off steam by binge drinking with my coworkers. I once forced a potential suitor to do a volunteer shift for my campaign before I would agree to go on a first date.

    Despite being miserable, it was truly a great learning experience, both personally and professionally. I was young enough to have a certain sense of adventure about the whole thing, and got out before doing too much damage to my physical and mental health.

    Some things that helped me:
    – A short commute
    – Creative strategies to make sure I actually ate food on busy days
    – A sense of camaraderie with my coworkers
    – Being intensely protective of time off
    – Not working harder than necessary: you can only be mentally focused and productive for so many hours in a day, and an 80-hour work week is almost certainly full of time wasters (10 pm conference calls, weekend staff meetings, social pressure to not be the first one to leave the office, whatever). I reclaimed my time where I could and usually got away with it. It probably helped my productivity.

  188. fromscratch*

    I deeply regret the few years I spent working that 60 hour a week schedule. My mother was ill and we did not think it life-threatening – but then she died unexpectedly and I’d been so busy with work I missed the last 3 years of her life.

    So, I’m at a job now that requires roughly 55 hours a week but has a generous PTO plan so I take a long weekend every few weeks and just got back from a 2-week vacation.

    1. fromscratch*

      Also: my house is a disaster on those busy weeks and I’ve learned to be OK with that. I tend to keep the bathroom spotless and try to stay caught up on laundry but most everything else falls apart until I have a long weekend to catch up.

      There’s a Panera across from my office so most days I do their rapid pickup for lunch. It means I don’t have to stress about groceries or food prep, I get a healthy lunch, and I get a 10-minute break from my desk to go pick it up.

  189. only acting normal*

    10 years on and I have not fully recovered from burning out: after taking on every job that was lobbed at me, working harder and harder, faster and faster, like some kind of demented hamster on a wheel, until my body said “STOP!” and didn’t take no for an answer. I was signed off work for six weeks (but really should have stayed off longer).
    I went back to normal full time but could no longer sustain even that, I kept getting all the warning signs of burnout at a much lower threshold than the first time. So eventually I had to drop to 30hrs a week and so far so good.
    It’s an ego blow that while I’m good at my job I can’t do the high pressure thing, but my ego can go suck it. Leave it to people who can manage it: and good luck to them.
    If you are experiencing signs that you personally are maybe not cut out for a long-term, long-hours, high-stress job, DO NOT wait until you break. Burnout can be catastrophic for your long term health.

  190. RoadsLady*

    I have the fortune of never having worked such a job.

    However, there was a time in college where Student Me looked at the requirements needed to boost my GPA-based scholarship up to full tuition. I manipulated the balance of credits and trimester with a goal for such-n-such grades. On paper, it worked. In reality, it was totally against policy, but the computer register program didn’t care about that.

    I destroyed myself for a trimester for a better scholarship.

    Was it worth it? Yeah. Would I ever recommend it? Nope.

    To answer the question, my husband did it for a few years. He says “caffeine and a domestic partner to do everything else”.

  191. Nanobots*

    I was in a job that had long hours like that. It’s wasn’t necessarily the industry norm.

    I burned out like a flash and had to quit after 3 years. I just couldn’t keep up, and my life was deteriorating.

  192. A genuine scientician*

    I’m in academia, so grueling hours are the norm. This isn’t going to be popular, but the honest ways I deal with this are 1) having very few other commitments (eg I’m single and don’t have kids), 2) hobbies that I can pursue in short burst from nearly anywhere (eg I read, a lot), and 3) getting at least some meaningful intellectual satisfaction from what I do. The fact that I naturally sleep much less than typical helps a lot. As does the fact that I’ve never worked a schedule of less than 50-60 hours a week since I was 19 or so, so I never really got used to the idea of nights and weekends being my own time.

    It’s a serious problem that many careers are all but inaccessible to people who have any sort of non-work-life demand on their time. But I’m pragmatic enough to recognize that that *is* the current reality, as screwed up as that reality is.

  193. LeslieKnopeLite*

    I think it depends on the field! I worked ridiculous hours as a first year teacher, but I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t work those hours now, but at the time I wasn’t married, didn’t have anyone to look out for but myself, and had the energy for that much dedication to the job. What got me out of bed every day was knowing that the work I was doing was impactful – it was directly affecting 120 middle schoolers. I also learned so much about teaching, about my kids, about healthy boundaries for myself, and how to support & empathize with struggling teachers and school leaders in my current director-level position. What I DO regret is not knowing – or trying to figure out – what I’m worth. I was grossly underpaid and overworked for 8 years and just had no idea because I stayed at the same organization … Work hard, but DEFINITELY do your research and advocate for yourself. But also, if you don’t find much meaning in your job, and all the hours you’re putting in aren’t resulting in something meaningful (whether for others or for your future self), then it’s probably not worth it.

  194. Anon Accountant*

    I did public accounting for 11 years. My physical and mental health declined from 70+ hour weeks January-April. Then workload increased to 60 hours a week year round and growing.

    I was miserable. But I learned a lot that helped me land my current job in government from the diversity of work and experience. I’d do it again but for fewer years like 5 maximum and would leave.

  195. Lavender*

    When I work overtime, I don’t get paid for it, but I believe in fair exchange and stay positive knowing and trusting that the energy I put in will be returned to me – not necessarily in the form of money from my employer, but possibly in other ways, like opportunities, alignments, or other types of abundance).

  196. jfgulia*

    I work in the performing arts and these type of insane hours are industry-standard (although the field is starting to have some self-reflection about this which is great!). It is cyclical, with “season” being in the 50-80 hr range and then off-season dropping down to 35 or so. It is true that it has gotten better overall the further along I go – not because there is less work, but because I have more control over how/where my work gets done – like tonight, I’m putting in a solid 2-3 hours at home (once I stop procrastinating on AAM) after being at the office for 9. But, I didn’t stay through like I would have done 10 years ago — I came home, got to hear about my daughter’s latest crush and had family dinner. So no, I don’t get to veg out and binge-watch Hulu right now like I want to, but I got to have that 1 hour of quality family time and I’m here in case anything else comes up tonight.

    This all leads straight into my soapbox issue of retiring the phrase “work-life balance” and replacing it with something like “work-life harmony.” Balance implies that all things are equal and at even keel at all times — this is an unrealistic expectation of my field and my role (right or wrong, that is the reality and any potential industry change is still going to take a LONG time). When I think about my life as a whole and finding harmony, it feels like a more attainable standard — and makes more room for the idea that sometimes work will be all-consuming (our workflow is cyclical), but then,n, when it isn’t, I can allow the rest of my life a little more space and give myself a little more grace around choosing to work that hard. I realize that may seem like semantics, but I feel like (and especially for women) there is a “you have to make room fo