The 8-8-8 Method

Hi, I’m Annie, and I’m a workaholic. Beyond my regular workweek, I’ve spent an inestimable number of evenings and weekends at my computer over the past few years, forgoing social activities, fresh air, and rest in the name of . . . what? Extra income? Perfectionism? My love for what I do? Sure, all of those are valid reasons to work hard, but I’ve fallen down this rabbit hole mostly because, as much as I’m accustomed by now to the roller coaster ride that is self-employment, I still can’t ever totally shake my nervousness that if I say no to just one assignment, my employers will suddenly all disappear and leave me with no prospects for future projects. It may be an irrational fear, but when I put on my worrywart hat, it feels all too real.

Then I read this Forbes article, “Why Working More Than 8 Hours a Day Can Kill You,” about some of the grave health risks associated with chronic overwork, and I decided enough is enough. So now I’m trying out something I’m calling the 8-8-8 approach to work-life balance. It’s a simple concept—8 hours of work, 8 hours of sleep, and 8 hours of everything else (meals, exercise, relaxation, errands) per day—but it’s surprisingly complex to execute. I’ve mapped out these chunks of time on my Google calendar for every day in the month of October—an attempt at giving myself a 31-day challenge of sorts—and I’ve committed to taking on only as much work during those days as I can manage without eating into the time I’ve allotted for other activities, but all it takes to get off track is one unexpected task: a lengthy email I hadn’t anticipated writing, or a half-hour proofread. Each time I derail myself, I treat it as a lesson about how to adjust my schedule for the following week.

I’ve been at this for only 13 days, but here’s what I can tell you so far: Last week, I felt better rested than I had in months, after sleeping between eight and nine hours every night; I made it to the gym Monday through Friday; I saw college friends for dinner two different nights and cooked new recipes for myself the other three evenings; and I started a new chapter of my novel—and I still managed to fit in eight work hours all five days. This weekend, I’m making time to blog and focus on my own book, but I also spent all of Saturday hiking and swimming in the San Gabriel Mountains, soaking up some much-needed vitamin D. And guess what? I didn’t think about my computer once.