Too few people have strong work ethics these days. Those that do understand their responsibilities, work hard to fulfill them, and go the extra mile when necessary. I have a profound respect for people who value hard work and diligence and see them as morally beneficial and character building. For those who share this value system, a strong work ethic often becomes a passion, not just an obligation.
I have witnessed (and experienced firsthand) two temptations that come to people who hold these values. The first gets plenty of attention – workaholism. Those who are passionate about their work can become addicted to it. It can become a god and they can pursue it above all else. Often the workaholic begins to see their entire identity as stemming from what they do, or what they have accomplished. They fail to see themselves as an individual, as a person.
The second temptation, I think, often goes unnoticed. It is the temptation to make tactical progress against a goal more important than it really is. Why is it that I stress out about clearing my inbox every night before I go home? Yes, it might be a good practice to respond to everyone within 24 hours, finish my to-do list before I go to bed, or roll out that new strategy on the 1st of the month, but does it really matter if the response slips until the 36th hour, I get some rest with 3 tasks left, or the strategy slips until the 3rd? No, in most cases, it really doesn’t.
The reality is that by putting too much stress on ourselves to meet self-imposed deadlines, hard workers often make themselves less effective by tiring and stressing themselves out. If you’re a workaholic or are simply diligent and passionate about your work, you may want to consider cutting yourself a break every now. Take a step back and consider whether the standards you are holding yourself to really matter. If they don’t, you may be hurting, not helping your productivity.