Sick Day Manifesto
TL;DR; Life is short, don’t burn yourself out. Do consistent work for good people.
Today I am ill, it’s that time of year. But as I set about my daily activity at Jetpack CRM this cold morning, something is different.
(In case you don’t know me, my name is Woody and I’m a co-founder here, and I’m recovering from extreme burnout, or chronic fatigue syndrome.)
As Jetpack has grown, so I have made my way back toward ‘normality’, and with it, an amount of ‘productivity’. When I burned out, I was working long hours on almost 10 projects. It wasn’t sustainable, smart, or even that fun. Long story short, I crashed, and all of my ‘productivity’ fell away. I could barely handle any hours at a computer. From 120mph to 10mph, in a week. It’s from this collapse that I’ve started to recover.
You learn things when all of your capacity is removed. I learned that forcing success is false, and that there needs to be sustainability in the way you ‘work’, if you are to last the course. I’ve learned to prioritise, to cut the crap, and to live far more effectively. I’m still recovering, but Jetpack has actually been a great vehicle to practice what I’ve learned.
Sick days used to be ‘drink coffee, take painkillers, carry on’. Sick days are now, ’do I want to do anything? What fits my capacity?’ It’s changed.
I NEVER take days off…
Contemporary culture tells us lies. These lies, left unchecked, wreak havoc on our relationships, our bodies, and ultimately our lives. It’s just a sick day, sure. But if your business, family, or personal culture prides itself on ‘going no matter what’, sooner or later you’re going to hurt yourself. There’s an art here, balancing overcoming fear (being productive in the face of challenge), vs not overdoing it (and burning yourself out for the sake of meagre gains).
So my message to you, this cold October AM – is to take a break. S l o w d o w n. Truly good work does not need to be ‘rushed’ or ‘forced’. I’m writing now, rather than forcing myself to write code, so as to take care of my self, and to heal so as to deliver another day.
Jetpack is different in these ways. We believe in consistently doing the right work, not forcing ‘all’ work, or ‘profiteering’. We craft software, we don’t force it out of a tube. We want to slay the idea that life is a brutal race. We will make good tools, and we will do it calmly, consistently, and we will not sacrifice our lives for the sake of short-term gains. We believe in this manifesto, and in the long term it will keep us here, serving you, for the course.
Today I write these words instead of code. This may make a feature take an extra day before it’s released. I make that choice, and I trust you to respect it, because overall, we deliver to a very high standard, consistently, and we’re looking after ourselves, which helps you too, ultimately. Look after yourself, health is wealth!
Here’s a few reminders and a great Tolstoy quote which fit with todays writing:
1. There is ‘time’ – death to the notion that ‘there is not enough time’ – this is a falsehood hiding a lack of prioritisation
2. Life is not a ‘race’ – who can work themselves into a grave first?
3. Love > Fear – after a small amount of wealth, financial gains do almost nothing for your wellbeing. You probably have ‘enough’
4. Craftsmanship cannot be rushed, forced, or faked – True mastery takes time & diligence (consistency)
5. You do not need permission to do things differently – Working less has taught me how to achieve more. It’s not the common cultural dialog, no one says it’s valid, but it’s happening.
6. Sticking to principles may hurt short-term, but long-term the inner-respect and mastery will be worth more
7. Life matters (me, our team, you our customer, your customers, your family, the wider community, the planet) – don’t burnout, we’re all better if you consistently take care!
“Work can be unnecessary fussy, impatient, irritating, an encumbrance to others, and ostentatious. Such work is much worse than idleness. Genuine work is always calm, balanced, and unobtrusive.”
Tolstoy (A calendar of Wisdom, September 25th)