There’s no need to feel guilty – the hustle culture is all around us. Telling us we can do it all, have it all and be it all. Encouraging us to push past the pain no matter what, because that’s what will make you rich, powerful, happy, or successful. Pushing us to take on more, especially when it comes to work.
Deep down, you know that your value comes from more than what you can do in the office. There are so many facets to you that you probably couldn’t even list them all if challenged to. And you’re developing new qualities, interests, opinions and skills every day. But the work blinders make it hard to focus on those things.
That’s hustle culture for you.
But recognizing you’ve bought into the hustle culture is the first step to fighting back against it. Here are a few warning signs to watch out for:
1. Love songs make you think of your job. This happens more often than you’d think (speaking for a friend, of course). If you have ever listened to the lyrics of a love song and thought about your employer, you might have a hustle culture problem. You’ve been taught to treat work like a lover, putting the needs of work above all other things, so it’s only natural to think of your job when you hear a love song. The problem with this thinking is that, while it feels good when things are going well, the reality is you’re in a one-sided relationship. The work can never love you back and can never sacrifice for you the way you do for it. Even if you love your boss, your coworkers and your daily routine, work is not your lover. Treating it like one is a slippery slope to neglecting the rest of your life, leaving you lonely and unfulfilled. If this is you, it’s best to acknowledge you have a problem and think about how you can start setting boundaries for yourself.
2. You’ve secretly gotten up early or logged in late to get work done before others around you noticed. This is a tough pill to swallow because if you’re sneaking around hoping no one will notice how much you’re working, even you know you’re working too much. Hustle culture has taught you that more is better. Unfortunately, hustle culture lied. In fact, research from Stanford University shows that longer hours spent working can decrease your productivity. So you work more but do less. To avoid this, try starting your week by pausing instead of running to the first thing on the to-do list. Think intentionally about what you want to get out of your week and what matters most, paring down the things that are keeping you busy but unfulfilled or unproductive.
3. You pretend to pay attention to those around you while secretly thinking about work. This is another one that is more common than not. In fact, almost everyone we’ve mentioned this to has pleaded guilty. And it’s no surprise. With all the things today’s workers feel pressured to take on in the office, there’s often no time other than outside work to think about things. But this is an early sign of burnout and another indicator you’ve fallen for hustle culture. The best way to address this is facing your workload head on and being honest about your capacity. Once you’ve done that, look for advocates and allies that can help you reprioritize and reallocate workloads. Ask your boss or a mentor for help in pushing back on new requests you don’t have the ability to handle right now. They will appreciate reaching out to find a solution instead of waiting until you hit a breaking point and leave.
The truth is, you’re not alone in being hustled by hustle culture. It’s all around us and easy to fall into the trap. But the more you can recognize when you’re letting it get the best of you, the more you can take action to stop it.