How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others Who "Work Harder"

Read on — and discover bedtimes that'll blow your mind.

Welcome to One Thing Better. Each week, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine (that's me) shares one way to be happier and more effective at work — and build a career or company you love.

This edition is sponsored by ZeroBounce, which helps you earn more money with email marketing. Scroll down to learn more.

Today’s one thing: Working hard.

That one thing, better: Working hard, sleeping harder.

Made with DALL-E

You feel lazy compared to others.

Why? Because they are working it, baby! They’re pushing at all hours. They never seem to sleep. Hustle, hustle, hustle.

That leaves you feeling… perpetually behind? Unable to rest? Trying to do more, to squeeze more, to demand more?

Today, I’ll help you give yourself permission to chill out. To embrace normalcy. And to still get everything important done.

Because for all the wild stories out there about hustlers hustling, there’s something important you need to know.

But before we get there, let’s start with a founder I recently met, who nearly drove himself into the ground...

When the grind grinds you down

I recently met a founder I’ll call Mike. His company has hundreds of locations throughout North America.

“The biggest mistake I made was sleeping at the office,” he told me.

He did this often during his company’s early days — working to exhaustion, sleeping on the couch, and rising early to keep going. 

Why? Mike told me he grew up on stories of work-obsessed entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs started emailing employees at 4:30 a.m. Mark Cuban didn’t take a vacation for 7 years. Marissa Mayer worked 130-hour weeks at Google. Elon Musk slept on the Tesla factory floor.

Those were the models that Mike absorbed. As far as he knew, that was the way to run a company.

But Mike struggled with it. “I was a terrible boss,” he told me. He was tired and irritated. He resented his employees for not prioritizing work the way he did. The stress (and absence) strained his marriage.

I told him: I feel partially responsible for this.

I really do! I’ve been in media for decades now, and my industry amplifies these kinds of stories. Here’s just one of many examples:

Stories matter — they provide frameworks for how to understand the world.

But there is a massive downside to learning through stories — because not all stories get told. The outrageous ones are told the most. As a result, we make the unusual sound usual.

Normal stories do not get told enough. But there are more of them.

So, let’s tell some normal stories.

People often ask me: “Do you ever sleep!?”

It’s a reasonable question. I have a big job and a lot of side projects (including this newsletter).

But the answer is very boring: Yes, I sleep. The kids are down by 9 pm. My wife and I usually catch up and watch a show, then read in bed, and lights are out by 11. On weekdays, we wake up at 6:40 am to get the kids ready.

This isn’t just me. This is normal.

I once found a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. The author reconstructed the work schedules of famous artists, including when they slept. They were fascinating in their usualness.

For example:

Ludwig van Beethoven slept from 10 pm to 6 am.

Just for fun, I asked AI to give us a visual of this:

So cozy, Ludwig! Now imagine a story about that…

Not as sensational, but certainly honest.

And here are some other famous sleep schedules:

Maya Angelou slept from 10 pm to 5:30 am.

Charles Darwin slept from midnight to 7 am.

Charles Dickens slept from midnight to 7 am.

Immanuel Kant slept from 10 pm to 5 am.

Flannery O’Connor slept from 9 pm to 6 am.

I know a lot of big-time CEOs. They sleep well. I was just talking to a famous author, who told me she wakes up at 3 am to write and meditate — which sounded nuts to me, until she explained that she goes to bed around 9.

Live your normal story.

If you’re lucky, your life will be full of incredible and unusual things. You will do the stuff that others want to talk about. You will have experiences worth sharing.

But the foundations of your life do not have to be so unusual or incredible. They can be boring.

Some useful caveats: Are there times you must work hard, perhaps to the point of exhaustion? Absolutely. But it’s not sustainable, and you shouldn’t expect it to be. And this isn’t just about sleep — I mean, maybe you have a weird sleep schedule! That’s fine! I’m making a point about basic structures of your life, and how you prioritize.

There’s a great theory called Parkinson’s Law — the idea is that “work expands to fit the time allowed.” If you have a lot of time to do things, you’ll take all that time. If you have a little time, you’ll complete the task faster.

If we allow work to fill all hours of our lives, it will. But if we decide to live a regular life — and to confine work to mostly regular hours — then we will force a different series of normal, boring events.

We will instead ask ourselves things like:

  • How else can I get this done? 

  • Who else can I turn to? 

  • What things aren’t worth doing right now? 

  • What things maybe aren’t worth doing at all?

This is what Mike, the founder I met, ultimately learned for himself.

He finally stopped sleeping at the office. Then he realized that, with the right systems in place, he didn’t even need to work late.

“Now I get a full night’s sleep at home,” he said, “and my company still grows.”

He is happier. He is healthier. His relationships are stronger. These are all good and normal things. Maybe they’re not the stuff of legend. Maybe they’re not the stories that are told and retold. But they should be.

So go tell that story for yourself.

That’s how to do one thing better.

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P.S. Did what I wrote today resonate? I’ve written more on this subject — here’s how to think differently about productivity.  

P.P.S. Miss last week’s newsletter? It was about how to recover when you mess up. Read!

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