Work Related Depression: Why Is It Endemic?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The 80/20 Principle" by Richard Koch. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you feel like your work has consumed your life? Do you want to work less and live more?

If you feel burdened with work, you are not alone. Many people feel like their work consumes not only their time but also their energy and morale. Understandably, you can’t just call it quits without a backup plan or a safety net in place. What you can do is to allocate your time better, minimizing soul-sucking tasks and maximizing activities that bring you joy.

Here’s how to work less and live more.

Work Less and Find Creative Ways to Use Time

According to Koch, the key to success and happiness is not hard work. The future, he says, rewards creative innovators who are savvy enough to manipulate the 80/20 Principle for their advantage, allowing them to work less and earn more. 

According to Koch, we can observe this among the successful few, who work less by finding unconventional ways to use time. They turn down superfluous meeting requests, outsource the tasks they aren’t good at, and focus exclusively on the things they know lead to high returns on happiness, profits, or both. For example, it may take someone four hours to create an intricate spreadsheet whereas it would take the accountant on staff 30 minutes. In this case, it’s much more time efficient to assign the spreadsheet task to the accountant. Koch insists we need to do similar time reallocation to work less and be more productive. 

If you think this is unrealistic, remember: Koch says you must ditch your skepticism because you have more control over your life than you think. He asserts that most of what we’ve been taught to believe about advancing in our lives and careers is wrong. If we compromise and conform to expectations of working long hours, we’ll sacrifice our happiness and freedom and undermine our earning potential. So, Koch tells us to define our own “rules” by applying the 80/20 Principle. 

How to Work Less and Live More—And Is It Even Possible?

Although Koch says that working less is key to multiplying our happiness and success—and that everyone can control how they allocate their time, to greater or lesser degrees—others challenge this assertion.  

Researchers point out that many people do not have as much control over their life circumstances as Koch seems to imply. For example, people in poverty often have such an intense focus on stretching their scarce resources that it absorbs all their mental capacity. Thus, they have negligible “cognitive bandwidth” to pursue job training, education, leisure, or other activities that could help alleviate their suffering and lead them out of poverty. Further, people who deal with stressors such as discrimination, limited access to health care, and exposure to crime are highly susceptible to physical and mental disorders that limit their opportunities.

What about people at the opposite end of the earnings spectrum? Are they as free from hard work as Koch states? Many self-made millionaires say absolutely not. In fact, they attribute their success to working long, hard hours. For example, entrepreneur and Shark Tank star Daymond John says the secret to success comes down to one thing: work. He says that to succeed, people need to be all-in by allocating most of their time to their career ambitions. Ultimately, then, Koch’s prescription to work less is not necessarily a surefire path to success and might not be open to all.
The Modern Dilemma: How to Work Less and Live More

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Here's what you'll find in our full The 80/20 Principle summary :

  • How you can work less, earn more, and multiply your happiness
  • What the 80/20 Principle is and why it matters
  • The mindset shifts you must make to take advantage of the 80/20 Principle

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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