Breakups are hard, but breaking up with hustle culture? That’s even harder. The “grind never stops” mentality is everywhere – on social media, in the workplace, even in our conversations with friends. If you want to avoid burnout and invite balance back into your work life, it’s time you break free from hustle culture. Here’s how.
What Is Hustle Culture?
Even if you’ve never heard the term “hustle culture,” you’d probably know it if you saw it. Hustle culture is the mentality that values productivity above all else. It glorifies working long hours, having multiple side hustles, and putting work before every other part of your life.
If you’re looking for examples, just open Instagram or LinkedIn. You’ll find countless corporate and entrepreneur influencers bragging about how hard they work and how little time they devote to anything else. And the scary thing is, this isn’t limited to the working population. Whether it’s parents enrolling their kids in way too many extracurriculars or the kids themselves falling for hustle culture (looking at you, #studygram), this mentality can be downright toxic.
Want proof? Studies have shown that increased stress levels negatively impact productivity, enjoyment at work, and overall wellbeing. By overworking your body and mind, you’re setting yourself up for burnout. That’s what happened to me.
How I Fell Prey to Hustle Culture & Burnout
A few years back, I was working my dream job in the New York fashion industry. I had a cute little place to myself, a pretty comfortable salary, and a great big corporate ladder in front of me, just waiting to be climbed.
But the longer I worked that “dream job,” the worse I felt. It started with a few late nights in the office. Then, I was arriving early to squeeze some more work in before my meetings. I started answering emails from bed at night because I was too stressed to sleep. Before I knew it, I was spending nearly every waking moment of my day working, all in an effort to get ahead.
Not only was I mentally exhausted, but I was also physically unwell. I can’t even count how many trips I took to the doctor or urgent care with a cold, flu, or random pain. It took a serious conversation with my doctor for me to realize the problem: I was entirely burnt out, all because I’d fallen victim to hustle culture.
When I started my business, I promised myself I’d break up with hustle culture and reclaim my health. Three years later, I can finally say I’ve done just that. Here’s how.
5 Steps to Breaking Up With Hustle Culture
1. Redefine your version of success.
Hustle culture is built on the idea that you should strive for professional success, but only a very specific definition of it. Spend a few minutes scrolling on Instagram and you’ll see that this type of “success” looks like corner offices, 5am morning routines, and endless corporate ladders. If that’s the life you’re aiming for, the grind is the only way to get there.
But when you define your own version of success, you open yourself up for a more balanced, easeful life. Maybe your version of success looks like a cozy home office filled with plants, tons of free time to travel with friends, and a budget that can afford quality food and a roof over your head. Success can look different for everyone, but until you define it for yourself, you’ll never be able to break free from the rat race and constant hustle.
2. Prioritize wellness.
Prescribing to hustle culture requires that you prioritize productivity over all else. Let’s flip the script! Prioritizing yourself – your mental health, physical wellbeing, and overall happiness – is radical these days, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
When you sit down to plan your day or week, try to prioritize the activities that enrich your life most. Opt for a gym session over an extra hour at the office, and block off time for your daily self care routine. Do the same thing when you sit down with your budget. Allocate your money according to your values and goals, even if those things don’t align with what you “should” want. That might mean investing in a monthly massage instead of name-brand clothes or shoes. Whatever wellness looks like to you, spend your time, energy, and money on it.
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3. Practice mindful decision-making.
The more you practice prioritizing yourself, the easier it will be to make decisions that align with the life you want. When you’re faced with a decision, think back to your version of success. What would get you closer to that? What other moves can you make in that direction?
Mindful decision-making means rewiring your brain to truly consider your options before making a choice. It looks different for everyone, but here are a few examples:
- Taking a lower-paying job because it offers a better work-life balance.
- Turning down a night at the club for an evening at home practicing self care.
- Investing in healthy whole foods instead of eating out every day.
- Pivoting your business so you can work less but make more.
Like I said, it looks different for everyone. What matters is that you’re taking the time to consider your options and make the choice that gets you closer to your version of success, not the mainstream hustle culture version.
4. Make time for rest.
When was the last time you really rested? And I don’t mean sleep, I mean rest. There are seven types of rest, and you need a combination of all of them to feel truly rested and rejuvenated. Block off time in your calendar for mental and physical breaks.
- Improve your physical health, including your heart health and immune system.
- Increase performance, at work, at the gym, and even in the bedroom.
- Improve your mood and better process your emotions.
Whenever you feel guilty about taking a break, remind yourself that rest is necessary. It makes you a happier, healthier human being, and that’s worth clocking out for.
5. Check in with yourself.
Hustle culture has a way of sneaking back into your mindset. Even I find myself “hustling” from time to time. To stay in alignment, check in with yourself from time to time. Are you still on track to meet your goals? Are you happy with your work-life balance? Are you physically and mentally well? While there’s definitely been a shift towards slow living in the past few years, hustle culture isn’t going anywhere. Stay aware, check in from time to time, and keep prioritizing yourself.
My Favorite Anti-Hustle Culture Books
Want to do some more reading? Here are a few of my favorite books for breaking up with hustle culture.
Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee. What if we prioritized being over doing? In this book, Celeste Headlee breaks down the harmful effects of hustle culture and offers a slower, more intentional alternative.
Tired as F*ck: Burnout at the Hands of Diet, Self-Help, and Hustle Culture by Caroline Dooner. If you’re feeling overall exhausted – by work, life, and everything in between – this is the book for you. Caroline Dooner explains how trying too hard to improve ourselves is another form of hustle culture (and another path to burnout).
Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price, PhD. Do you ever feel guilty about doing nothing? In this book, Devon Price asks you to reframe how you think about “laziness” and invite more white space into your life.
Breaking free from hustle culture doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.
But guess what, you can be productive, achieve all that you desire AND take time off to rest. There's 7 different types, find out which they are by filling out the form below.