Staying Sane In a CrAZy World

“With a show of hands, who has ever heard the phrase “It’s been crazy at work”? Everyone in the room raises a hand.

It’s becoming the norm for the workplace to be crazy, and not only that, it’s becoming a flag of praise, especially in startups, 60-80 hours work weeks are normal nowadays, and anything measly like 40 is considered a bad work ethic.

Well, no thanks.

Overwork has some serious side effects, first of all, it does not give you the output you’re looking for (more on that later), introduces physical issues, as lethal as blood sugar and strokes, or as aching as those crazy headaches, it also destroys relationships with people around over-workers, in a study by the university of North Carolina, the divorce rate is ~higher by 40%~ for marriages where at least one spouse is a workaholic. Let that sink in, almost half of divorces had overwork as one of the reasons.

A message to employers, if you’re noticing a growing culture of overworking at your company, you need to take attention (and probably action) to that culture. You see, when a few people overwork to impress management, and management cheers for that behavior, others will say “If they can do it, I can do it”, and by each passing day, over-workers will rise in numbers, now from the outside this looks gold, “I’m paying them for 40, they’re doing 60, what am I mad about?.” The issue is when the rest of us, can’t, or simply won’t participate in this if-I-can-plan-my-shit-and-eat-breaks-I-can-probably-get-120-hours-on-the-clock attitude, and if only over-workers are being praised because of that, we’ll start to look to work somewhere else, that’s Strike 1. Strike 2 comes when those over-workers can’t maintain that same lifestyle over extended periods, and also jump ship. You’re gonna end up alone (or in the best case scenario, with new talent who knows nothing about your product, and that’s plenty expensive.)

If you are deliberately on the workaholics train; this is your chance to jump and join the escape horse this article is (we’re gonna chill by the river with some quality BBQ).

If you woke up one day and found yourself on the stressed-and-exhausted-from-being-constantly-overworked train; this is your chance to jump and join the escape horse this article is (we’re gonna chill by the river with some quality BBQ).

So let’s get to it, this article is based on my experience, what I went through, and what I did to get my sanity back, chances are you’re gonna be able to apply a lot of it yourself, but the real intent is to give you ideas to adapt your life to better take care of your health.

To move forward with this, we need to understand that in “creative” lines of work, the relationship between work hours and output is not linear, the opposite of something like a production line, where more hours means more output.

Everyone has a “creative battery” responsible for fueling their creative thinking, including problem-solving, and as with every other battery, it discharges with usage; the more you use it, the more it discharges. The more energy it has, the more performance you get.

Simple as that.

Understanding this, we can start to look at ways to recharge our batteries and maintain good health.


Research shows that sleep is the number one thing that overworks give up to achieve those crazy work hours, which to me is kinda funny, because sleep deprivation impairs cognitive functions, meaning if you can’t think for shit, what do you expect to achieve? So the first thing you need to do, is get some quality sleep hours, every body is different, some need 6, and some need 9 hours of night sleep, you know yourself better, the important thing is to not fool yourself and be honest about how much sleep do you need to wake up refreshed? Also, try to limit your caffeine intake 6 hours before you sleep, you might fall asleep just fine, but the quality of your sleep will suffer. So what we’re looking for is enough uninterrupted quality sleep.

Stop at working hours

In my observation, doing long hours usually comes down to two things, either the product is implementing the falsely hyped “Move Fast and Break Things”, which tells you to try a ton of different things, ship them, observe the reaction, and loop. I hate this approach with my guts in full honesty, because the result is a product with no identity, the users own the problem, you own the solution. The other thing is interruptions during work hours, it’s normal to see people do hours early, or late outside of working hours because they have that time to themselves, no interruptions, just deep work, and this is super important; meaningful work needs uninterrupted stretches of time, a great book on this subject is Deep Work by Cal Newport. Now we can’t fix the first part of this problem, because it’s the company’s vision, but we can mitigate the second part. I promise you with an uninterrupted lifestyle, 40 hours a week is plenty and you’ll have time for other stuff too.


I’m willing to bet money that in at least 8 out of 10 times, a meeting is requested, it’s from a managerial role, and that makes sense if we look at how each role works. You see, managerial roles don’t need long stretches of work as much as creative roles, so chunking up the day into 1-hour slots is fine, and encouraged, by definition their role is to gather information from others, and make a decision based on that data, if a meeting is due in 20 minutes, they can check their email until then, but contrast this with a creative role where they need that uninterrupted time, a meeting in 20 minutes means that I can’t start working on anything else, and forced to waste this time on meaningless things, schedule a few meetings scattered across the day and you’ve successfully lost that day, that is unless you wake up at 2 AM when everyone is asleep and you get your work done.

So what do we do? Async.

I genuinely don’t understand why people love meetings so much, it should be a last resort, for many reasons. First the aforementioned issue with interrupting people, second it’s a lotta expensive, if you block a meeting with 5 persons for an hour, the real cost of that meeting is 5 hours and not one. Also, the quality of decisions I believe is worse, unless it’s purely brainstorming, having people decide on the spot with limited time to think is like playing speed chess, to make better decisions you need time to ingest information, let them brew in your mind and then come up with your own take. Having people in a meeting do that greatly limits this process, what we can do is let everyone formulate their idea in full, write it down and post it somewhere asynchronously, this way you don’t interrupt people because they can look at it on their own time when they’re not doing deep work, and they can take their time to formulate a better response.


That’s a sneaky one. Email is one of the biggest time wasters I’ve seen, and chasing Inbox Zero makes it double. If you think about it, most emails require some kind of action, either a reply, a comment, a review, or something else, and here lies the problem. If you’re constantly checking emails throughout the day, it means that you’re constantly shooting yourself in the foot with interruptions. The solution is to check email periodically, depending on your position you need to adjust how frequently, I myself, find it okay to do two times, once in the morning and once by mid-day when I’m out of deep work and “need a break”. If you’re using the browser for email, close that tab, if you’re using an app, close it completely to avoid the “let me check this real quick” temptation.


Same as we did for email, try to limit your Slack time to defined windows and not on a message basis, now this is tricky because of how chat apps set response expectations, when people see the green dot beside your name, they’re expecting subconsciously that you have nothing better to do than reply to them, and if you’re not replying, where the hell are you?

The problem with the green dot is that it sets the expectation for an instant reply, and you know what, 90% of the times we don’t need an instant answer. What you can do is set yourself as offline, this will just remove the green dot beside your name, and everything else stays the same. But the difference is you’ve just removed the instant reply expectation, you still receive notifications as always (maybe consider muting notifications when you’re really into deep work too?), and you decide if it requires an instant reply or it can wait. Zero disadvantages.

I’m gonna warn you, depending on how toxic the environment is, you might not get away with this one, especially, especially if you’re working remotely. But take my advice if the company needs to see a green dot by your name to know you’re working, you might be better off somewhere else.


This is a must. Find something to take your mind off work, I’m using hobby loosely here. Anything that disconnects you is fine, could be video games, movies, family time, camping, anything. Disconnecting like this ensures maximum charge to your battery.


This is extremely important, it’s like a super-booster for your body, try to do it at least three times a week, no need for a gym or something, you can do those bodyweight exercises at home, I use an app called 7M workout that will get your blood flowing in 7 minutes. You can do multiple rounds if you’re feeling athletic.


We’re body and soul, now that we’re physically recharged we need to recharge our souls. Try doing 20 minutes Yoga first thing in the morning, or If you’re a Muslim, make sure to practice your 5 prayers, and try to wake up 20 minutes before Fajr and do at least two Ruk'a, now you’re written with the night prayers.


As I've said before, the intent of this writing is to give you ideas to take care of yourself, you know yourself best, listen to your body and mind, and act accordingly.

Do you have other tips? I'd love to hear about them, shoot me a message at stash.yazan at

Till the next one, stay safe 🤙🏼