Happy People
Do It Better

Avoiding Burnout and Increasing Happiness
by Creating Better Work-Life Balance

by Jason Lengstorf

Who Am I?

  • Consultant for startups & agencies
  • Pixel pushing since 2003
  • Author of 3 books on nerd shit
  • Just passed 1 year mustache-free
  • No home address

We Have a Problem:

Our Current Relationship with Work Is Fucked

(I learned this the hard way.)

This Was Not a

Story Time!

Black Friday

- or -

How I Nearly
Killed My Beard

Story Time!

Black Friday

- or -

How I Nearly
Killed My Beard

Working These Crazy Hours Was Normal

This Wasn’t Working.

I Had to Make a

...or I was going to die.

I Wasn’t Alone

The Cult of Overwork You Never Meant to Join

  • Published April 151
  • Front Page of Hacker News
  • Top Stories on Medium for a Week
  • Republished on several other sites
  • Over 90,000 views
  • Thousands of social media shares
  • Dozens of emails sharing similar personal stories

We All Know Something Is Broken

So… Why Is Nothing Changing?

Work, as It Exists Today

  • 94% of knowledge workers work 50+ hours per week2
  • 41% of workers don’t use their vacation days3
  • At least one firm has people faking workaholism4
  • “Death from overwork” is an actual fucking thing5



Literally: “death from overwork” in Japanese.

The Qualities We Like Most About Ourselves

Have Turned Against Us

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
“I can’t hang out tonight; I’m working on this really important deadline for work.”

But There’s a Problem

Working This Hard Makes Us worse at Our Jobs

Working 60-Hour Weeks

Will Result in Negative Productivity

Compared to the same period of time at 40 hours a week.6

Companies that Require

(or even allow)

60+ Hours Are Losing Money

In More Ways than One:

  • Overwork kills passion and engagement7
  • Longer hours lead to higher turnover8
  • Creativity drops off significantly
  • Overall happiness starts to suffer

After 19 Hours Awake,

You May As Well Be Drunk

Because that's how impaired your performance is.9

Pat consistently showed up to work after drinking 4 beers.

Current Status:


Terry consistently shows up to work after sleeping 4 hours.

Current Status:

“Hard Worker”

We Want to Blame the Workplace

But Work Only Mirrors Our Own Habits

It Feels Like We’re Just… Stuck

But don't give up hope just yet.

Companies with Healthy Working Cultures Exist


New Relic   Buffer

Precision Nutrition

FullContact   inVision

Mozilla   Basecamp


& many more…



Step 1:


How We Measure Value

As Knowledge Workers,
We’re Paid for the

Results We Deliver

…and Not the

Hours On the Job

Measuring Employees’ Value by Time:

  • Says, “I don’t trust you.”
  • Measures quantity over quality
  • Punishes efficiency
  • Rewards inefficiency

If My Task for Today Is Done In 4 Hours

I’m Done for the Day

Step 2:


On the Right Goals

We Want to Produce the Best Work Possible

To Do That, We Need


Success Is a Long Road

We can’t sacrifice our long-term well-being for short-term gains.

Step 3:


The Right Behaviors

Set Sane Guidelines &

Follow Them

Let the Team Choose

How They Work Best

The Most Effective Management Tool Is


Step 4:


Control of Your Time

You Are the Only One

In Charge of Your Life

When You’re Done with Work,

Be Done with Work.

Control Your Attention

Regularly Take Full Days Off from Work

Fixing the way we work is worth the effort. Remember…

We’re Some of the


Workers on Earth

We Create Something from Nothing

We Add More Beauty to the World

Let’s Make Sure We

Survive to Enjoy It

Thank You

(Let’s be friends on Twitter.)


  1. The Cult of Work You Never Meant to Join
  2. The Cult of Overwork
  3. 41% of American Workers Let Paid Vacation Days Go to Waste
  4. How Some Men Fake an 80-Hour Workweek, and Why It Matters
  5. Karōshi on Wikipedia
  6. Why Crunch Mode Doesn’t Work: 6 Lessons
  7. Working Long Hours: a Review of the Evidence
  8. Why You Hate Work
  9. Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication

Tweet: @jlengstorf #webvisions