I logged 80 hour work weeks for over a year while also training for the Boston Marathon. It wasn’t pretty. But here’s what my days looked like — and what I wish I had done differently.
I worked in Corporate America for 13 years and recently left to work for myself, blogging and also launching a few other businesses. I am consistently asked by friends in real life and on the internet how I “balance it all”, particularly in the last year as people could see demands on my time ramping up.
- How do you fit in blogging, Beautycounter, Best of Winston and all your other projects?
- When did you find time for marathon training?
- How on earth did you fit in all of that on top of a Corporate job?
In short, it wasn’t pretty. I worked 80+ hours a week. For over a year.
And until you’ve worked 80 hours a week, you probably don’t quite get what that looks like, day in and day out.
How many hours a day is 80 hours a week?
On average, 11.5 hours a day, 7 days a week. And I’ll show you what my life looked like for the past year+ working hours like that.
I do NOT share this to brag or to complain.
It’s also not something I’m suggesting you aspire to.
I share this so you know that I don’t have any secrets to “fitting it all in.” Habits that help, yes. Productivity hacks, some.
But mostly, I worked my butt off. And that’s the real secret: I just worked a LOT.
I also wanted to share this so you have a realistic sense of what it took for me to get to the place where I felt comfortable quitting my “stable” job and how I fit everything in. I didn’t just quit to follow my passion, without a plan, without building up emergency savings, without diversifying my income stream. It was a planned out, and a strategic decision.
But lots of things got sacrificed along the way.
So, I hope you can learn from my experience and do things a little differently if you find yourself overworked and overwhelmed. I shared at the bottom of the post what I would change, in retrospect. And it’s not necessarily working fewer hours. (UPDATE: I left Corporate American and work for myself now. You can read what a day in the life looks like now in this post.)
First, a quick background on my career…
13 years in Corporate America
I started working in Corporate America starting in 2006 after graduating from Brigham Young University; my first job was with Goldman Sachs as an analyst.
I started my first blog during college in 2004 (a personal diary of sorts) and then launched A Foodie Stays Fit in 2009 as I found myself writing more and more about food and workouts. And I’ve had my blog ever since, while at the same time working for massive corporations, including BB&T and Wells Fargo.
My blog is part of the reason I was hired for my last two positions, managing social media campaigns for BB&T and Wells Fargo. And that’s something I never could have expected when I graduated with a Finance degree. (You can hear more about my career path on this podcast.)
To be honest, I don’t think I ever worked 80 hours a week in Corporate America. 60 hours, yes. And maybe a week here and there were I worked 60-70 hours, but in general, I had pretty good work-life balance.
When I was working, it was intense, to be sure. Tons of meetings. Lots of deadlines. Lots of pressure. But I set good boundaries and didn’t make late nights or weekends the norm, nor the expected. But eventually, the combination of Corporate America AND side hustles became too much, altogether.
So, here’s what a typical weekday looked like:
Work before work
5:00 – alarm goes off. Get coffee and start to work, answering emails or drafting a blog post.
5:50 – leave for my run
6 – 7:30 – run
Sometimes my runs were a bit shorter, but in general I was usually gone for 90-100 minutes during the week since I had a high mileage training plan leading up to Boston.
7:30 – 8:15 – shower, eat breakfast, get ready
While I was doing my makeup, I listened to messages from my Beautycounter team and my blog team (I have five part-time employees) and replied. (Thank goodness for Voxer voice messages which allowed me to multitask.) I also chatted with Tommy while he was getting ready during this time.
8:15 – 8:45 – answer more emails/finish writing
8:45 – 9:00ish – Corporate job begins
Sometimes I was online earlier depending on the day but on longer run days, I was definitely pushed for time. I worked from home sometimes, but also live only 10 minutes from the office which helped a LOT.
Corporate work day
9-6 WORK! My mornings were spent working on emails, projects, reviewing creative, etc. I almost always had back to back meetings/conference calls from 12-5, including right through lunch. Sometimes I had them later in the evening too since I worked with many people on the West Coast.
On the rare days I didn’t have meetings through lunch, I would try to get some fresh air and/or catch up on more blog work or answer questions from my team.
I also had therapy appointments during my lunch hour 1-2x a month since I started having regular panic attacks over the last 6 months, related to the stress of trying to “balance it all.”
Work after work
6:00-8:00 BLOG WORK – wrap up my Corporate day and continue my work day
The work varied by day, depending on deadlines and my content calendar, but it included:
- writing posts and newsletters
- taking photos and editing photos
- phone calls with brands
- phone calls/voxers with my team (blog employees & beautycounter team)
- reviewing contracts for blog partnerships
- working with web developers on new functionalities — or broken things!
- SEO research
- replying to emails
- finding my outfit items to link for the liketoknow.it app, and uploading those outfits
- scheduling social media content
- answering questions on Instagram / direct messages
I usually walked Maizey sometime during this time and would answer more Voxer/text messages while walking. Or, I’d call my parents.
8:00-8:30 – dinner
Simple meals were KEY. Grilled meat + roasted veggies/sweet potatoes or microwaved rice were on repeat.
Work after dinner
8:30 – 9:45 – more work while Tommy cleaned up dinner
Yep, working in PJs and all. My days started and ended like this.
9:45 – 10:15 – hang out with Tommy (we usually watched the Great British Baking Show together 🙂 )
10:15 – 10:45 – wash face and wind down. Wind down time = answering Instagram messages while lying in bed and then reading a book for about 10 minutes.
10:45 – lights out – hopefully. I was often up until 11:30 if I got wrapped up in answering emails or messages on my phone…
And then it would all repeat with a 5 am alarm clock the next day.
Work on the weekends
On weekends, after my Saturday long run (18-22 miles), I would work for 4-6 hours. Tommy and I tried to spend time together with just us or friends on Saturday nights since I protected my Friday nights, knowing I had a long run the next morning.
After church on Sundays, I worked another 4-6 hours. On Sunday evenings, I grocery shopped and prepped for the work week ahead – reviewing meetings and deadlines, coordinating schedules with Tommy as needed for any home repairs (more on that below), etc.
How many hours a day is 80 hours a week?
During the week, I worked about 13-14 hours a day. But, realistically, it was more than 14 hours a day since I was generally always answering my team or taking phone calls when I was doing something else, like walking Maizey, getting ready or folding laundry.
Weekends had an additional 8-12 hours or work.
If you add things up, I was working 80+ hours a week.
Total that up and I was working 70 hours during the weekdays and 8-12 more hours on the weekends. So, my hours ranged anywhere from 78-82 hours a week.
This was my routine during the week for the past 12+ months, including Friday evenings. Of course there were exceptions here and there when I had something in the evening I couldn’t miss, but this is what I did nearly every day.
What’s did I miss out on?
- Time with Tommy
- Time with friends
- Giving Maizey attention
- Any meaningful downtime
I only saw Tommy for about 1 – 1.5 hours a day during the week, max. But I did try to spend more time with him on the weekends.
I skipped many of his work parties. I turned down invitations for lunch, dinner or drinks with friends. Phone calls with my family didn’t happen nearly enough.
Poor Maizey would try to tell me when it was time to stop working. I still have so much guilt over ignoring her when she’d beg for walks, particularly since she is aging and I know time with her is so precious.
Again, I’m not proud of this. But, I don’t want people to think that I have some sort of magic powers. My magic power is that I’m willing to work hard, excessively hard. And that’s often to the detriment of other things.
I was only getting about 6 hours a sleep which is NOT ENOUGH, especially during marathon training when I was running 55-60+ miles a week.
What about vacations or hobbies?
When I traveled for work or to see family, I had to work while I was gone or else I would just get BURIED. I didn’t take any true vacation other than Ireland last year. And whenever I got back from traveling, I was severely behind and people would start contacting me multiple times asking if I got their message/email. And that led to more anxiety.
I’ve truly forgotten what my hobbies are and have had to intentionally work to remember and rediscover what I used to enjoy with leisure time. Walks without my phone. Hiking. Baking. Reading. Meditating. Golfing.
Is working too much bad?
I wasn’t balanced working 80 hours a week. I never had enough time to get everything done. No matter how much I worked, I constantly felt behind. Time with Tommy, friends and family got sacrificed. Sleep was sacrificed. But, I knew the end goal and I was willing to put in the work to meet that goal.
I am NOT someone who drops the ball or is slow to respond. But balls dropping became the norm — missed calls, delayed replies, lost text messages — simply because I could NOT get to everything in a day without sacrificing my sleep even more. I simply couldn’t keep up, even as I hired more people to help me.
And balls dropping caused more anxiety for me. (I could write a whole post on managing stress and anxiety, if you’re interested.)
I just started reading the Passion Paradox and I feel like it’s going to touch upon these same things. My passion was launching my businesses. Training for the Boston Marathon. I was very unbalanced — and what that book argues is that achieving big goals creates an inherently unbalanced life.
What I wish I had done differently
Even though it was all worth it in the end, there are some things I wish I had done differently to make everything a little less painful.
- Prioritized even more ruthlessly
I’m really good at planning my workload and making sure the TOP priorities get done each day and each week. But, in hindsight, some things I thought were priorities weren’t.
- Meditated more regularly
I used meditation as a coping mechanism when I hit crisis mode and was spinning, unable to focus. I think if I’d truly developed a daily meditation habit, it could have helped me cope as a whole — and think more clearly about those priorities! Instead, it happened maybe 1x a week.
- Scheduled time with Tommy at the beginning of the week
I was constantly exhausted and no desire to do anything fun. But, if I had made it a priority to figure out when we could both be together and be truly present, that would have helped us have more consistent, quality time. Again, those priorities.
- Let friends & family support me more
Most people had no idea how much I was working or how much I was burning myself out. No one knew about the panic attacks. And I have SUCH an incredible support network that I know it would have helped have shared more with close friends.
As I did eventually share, I was met with “How can I help you manage this without adding more stress?” And my answer was to get me away from my desk, to force a break. So one of my friends would meet me for lunch each month, even when I was totally miserable company and I’m pretty sure I just vented. But I CHERISHED that time.
So, there you have it. Now you know my secret – I worked too much.
But, in the end, I still say 80 hour work weeks were worth it, as miserable as I was for a short period of time, in the grand scheme of things. Because so far, I LOVE working for myself. I still feel behind, I still have too much to do.
And I at least feel like I have control of the direction I’m heading and will eventually be able to swim and look ahead, rather than drown. (Never mind I am actually a terrible swimmer in the literal sense. Bad analogy. )
Plus, a HUGE part of the reason I wanted to work for myself is to have more flexibility to spend with those I love. And that has already started happening.
In the past week few weeks, I had long lunch with a friend, went on a walk with another friend, visited my family in Utah, and played golf with Tommy. And on a few occassions, I took Maizey on two walks a day. And I’m SO GRATEFUL for time with all of them.
How do you cope when you feel overwhelmed?
I’d love to learn from you since we all have periods of feeling like this, whether it’s from work, family, health or some other challenge. I’ve been overwhelmed at different times in life from other factors and the one thing that I find consistently helps is connecting with those who love and support me. And yoga. Yoga is always good for me. 🙂
You may also like:
- Healthy habits mini e-course (free)
- Over the years I have learned a lot about managing a lot of work and still making time to eat well and workout. You can learn more in much more depth in my Healthy Habit Lab.
- My approach to alcohol
- What I eat in a day
- What a dietitian said about what I eat in a day
- My five-minute makeup routine
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