How to Avoid the Hustle Culture: 5 Tips for a Healthier Workday

Macgill Davis

"Hustle mode." "Wake up, hustle, repeat." "#hustle." It's common to find phrases like these everywhere nowadays. From screen-printed tank tops at the gym to decals on the windows of the local coworking space, we're constantly told that the hustle is the key to success.

But what does it mean to hustle? And is it all it's cracked up to be?

The idea of grinding around the clock, sleeping less, and working yourself to exhaustion has become normalized and even celebrated in many industries. But while motivation and hard work are powerful for meeting goals, this culture of constant hustle can be harmful to productivity and health.

If your days have become more "rise and grind" and less "rise and shine," consider stepping back and evaluating how the hustle trend has impacted you. In this article, you'll learn how to harness hustle culture's energy for positive productivity while staying healthy and balanced.

What Is Hustle Culture?

While the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hustle as "to obtain by energetic activity," in recent decades, the word has taken on a new meaning. To hustle now means to work tirelessly and relentlessly toward success, often at the expense of your well-being.

Although the idea of working hard for success isn't new — it's the foundation of the sought-after American dream — hustle culture takes the concept to a new extreme. The Great Recession is partly to blame for popularizing the mentality.

After the 2008 financial crisis, the millennial generation entering the workforce struggled to find solid footing in an economy where job security no longer existed. Soon, the gig economy and social media were on the rise, offering new ways to make money, often outside the traditional 9-5.

This perfect storm of financial insecurity and new technological capabilities resulted in a culture where young people felt they had to work all the time to make ends meet. The word "hustle" became a rallying cry for a new generation of workers who were determined to make it, no matter the cost.

The Widespread Invasion of the Hustle

Hustle culture: stressed entrepreneur looking at a laptop

The culture has continued to grow, with the rise of social media giving people a platform to share their stories of late nights and early mornings. Hashtags like #ThankGodItsMonday, #RiseandGrind, and #BossBabe have become common as people share their stories of working around the clock.

In business and entrepreneurship circles, hustle culture has become obsessed with working long hours, taking on multiple projects, and grinding until you reach your goals. You can see it in the Starbucks line early in the morning, buzzing with phrases like "drill down" and "bandwidth," as young professionals network on their cell phones before their day has even started.

Hustle culture has taken over at the gym, as people try to "crush their workouts" and post about their "gains" on social media. Even leisure activities like knitting and cooking, once considered calming and relaxing, are now approached with a hustle mindset. Opportunities to "monetize your hobby" and "turn your passion into a business" fill our inboxes and social media feeds.

There's no rest for the weary in hustle culture. Relaxing activities like reading and spending time with friends and family must be scheduled and given deadlines as people try to "optimize" their leisure time. Even our sleep hygiene is damaged.

When Hustle Culture Goes Too Far

Hustling for a living isn't always negative. In some cases, multiple jobs are a necessity. These days, 31% of American adults have a side hustle in addition to their regular job. And of those, 41% need the extra income to pay for everyday living expenses.

While working hard and being motivated are essential for success, the hustle culture mentality can backfire. The problem arises when we take the "hustle until you make it" philosophy too far, sacrificing our well-being for the sake of our goals.

In a culture where constant overworking is glorified and praised, there is an unrealistic pressure placed on employees and entrepreneurs to be "on" all the time, constantly available, and filling every moment with some "productive" activity. 

In many ways, this kind of productivity is toxic:

  • It's not sustainable: Hustle culture creates unrealistic expectations. It's impossible to always be on without burning out. Eventually, you will need to rest, and when you do, you may struggle with guilt, anxiety, and feelings of failure. This creates an unhealthy cycle where you're constantly pushing yourself to the brink, only to take a step back and start all over again.
  • It's harmful to your health and well-being: You stress your mind and body when you work long hours, skip meals, and neglect your self-care. Stress elevates adrenaline and cortisol levels, negatively affecting your mental and physical health, including insomnia, headaches, stomach ulcers, anxiety, and depression.
  • It's unproductive: Recent studies indicate that overtime and extended hours do not necessarily lead to more productivity. Being creative and focused is difficult when you have an unsatisfactory work-life balance.
  • It's isolating: The hustle culture can lead to loneliness and isolation, despite being around people all day. Working all the time leaves you with no time for social activities or hobbies that make you happy. Since work always takes priority, your relationships suffer as well.
  • It's addictive: A constant need to achieve more, be more, and hustle harder can become a habit. The rush of dopamine from crossing things off your to-do list or completing a project can be addicting, driving you to do more to obtain the same feeling.

Hustle culture also creates the false impression that we must do everything ourselves. The idea of grinding away until you make it on your own is romanticized, but very few people succeed on their own.

Taking Action Against Hustle Culture

In recent years, a slow-burning fire has been building against hustle culture. A global pandemic fanned the flames of discontent growing in the workforce, forcing hustlers to adapt. Some persist, but many have taken a step back to reevaluate their priorities.

Thirteen years after the Great Recession gave birth to hustle culture, the wake of the Great Resignation is creating a new wave of anti-hustle culture. Movements like slow living and slow productivity encourage people to focus on quality over quantity and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

It's no easy feat, given what they're up against. From influencer promotions on Instagram to Elon Musk's viral tweet about the insufficiency of a 40-hour workweek, the hustle culture is loud. Critics, however, are becoming more vocal in opposing these messages.

"It creates the assumption that the only value we have as human beings is our productivity capability — our ability to work, rather than our humanity," Aidan Harper, a researcher for the New Economics Foundation and a member of the 4 Day Week campaign, told The New York Times. "It's creating the idea that Elon Musk is your high priest. You're going into your church every day and worshiping at the altar of work."

When competing demands, overwork, and constant hustle surround us, it's wise to step back and try to see the bigger picture.

Work Smarter, Not Harder With These 5 Tips

Hustle culture: entrepreneur using a laptop at an office

To end the hustle culture, we need to change our mindset. You don't have to sacrifice your well-being to be productive. You can harness hustle energy to boost productivity without sacrificing your physical or mental health. The key is learning to work smarter, not harder. 

Here are five strategies to turn the hustle into something positive.

1. Set Realistic Goals

Setting reasonable goals is your first step toward positive change. Trying to do too much will only lead to burnout and frustration. When you have a clear purpose, it’s easier to stay focused and avoid getting sidetracked.

But before you can set a realistic goal, you need to figure out what's motivating you to hustle. Is it:

  • A passion for your work?
  • The desire to provide for your family?
  • A need to be perceived a certain way by your peers?

Being honest will help you see what is driving you to overwork. Once you know what's motivating you, it will be easier to remove unrealistic expectations and prioritize attainable goals.

2. Plan and Manage Your Time (and Stick to It)

A great way to increase your productivity is to plan your workdays. Then, keep your schedule — no more late nights or missed lunch breaks. You can stay focused, avoid wasting time on unimportant tasks and achieve a better work-life balance by proactively managing your time.

When planning your schedule, include time for exercise, meals, and breaks. Periodic breaks during the workday are essential, even if they're just for a few minutes. Enjoy a few minutes to read a book, take a power nap, or go for a stroll. Taking time for yourself will help you return to work refreshed and ready to tackle your to-do list.

3. Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Hustle culture emphasizes quantity, but success isn't defined by the number of hours you work. Focusing on quality is even more effective. To concentrate your efforts in the right directions, prioritize your tasks and delegate or outsource the rest. Hustle culture tells us that we must do everything independently, but delegating is essential for productivity.

It's also crucial to learn to say "no." This can be difficult, especially if you're a people pleaser, but it's essential if you want to avoid burnout. Saying "no" to unnecessary tasks will free you up to focus on the most critical ones.

4. Simplify Your Life

Entrepreneur using a tablet

An excellent way to reduce stress is to simplify your life. Start by removing anything that doesn't spark joy or isn't necessary. This may mean decluttering your home and workspace or streamlining your wardrobe. Reducing the amount of stuff you have to deal with daily will help you feel more in control and less frazzled.

Minimalism can help you declutter your physical space, but it can also declutter your mind. Make a list of your priorities, let go of anything that isn't essential, and focus on what matters most. When you have fewer things to worry about, it's easier to focus on what's important.

5. Set Boundaries Between Work and Life

When you're always hustling, it's easy to blur the lines between work and life. However, setting boundaries between the two is essential to maintain a healthy balance and prevent burnout. Try assigning specific hours for work and sticking to them. It may be hard at first, but you can support your efforts to leave work behind by shutting down your computer and turning off your phone at the end of the day.

When your workday is over, switch your focus to yourself and your loved ones. When constantly hustling, it's easy to forget about the things you love to do. Carve out some time to pursue your hobbies and interests to keep your life well-rounded. Be sure to connect with friends and family as well. Whether catching up over coffee or sharing a meal, spending time with loved ones can help you relax and recharge.

Say “No” to Hustle Culture and “Yes” to Focused, Sustainable Productivity

Hustle culture has taken over, but it doesn't have to be your way of life. Hard work has its place, but so does slowing down and appreciating our humanity. Our time is our most valuable resource, and how we spend it reflects what we value most.

If you're ready to say “no” to hustle culture and “yes” to a more sustainable, focused way of life, Rize can help. Rize is the only fully automated time tracker built for individual productivity. The app tracks your workday to show you when you were focused and the quality of that focus. It also reminds you to take breaks. 

Try Rize for free for two weeks and see the difference living a more intentional, productive life can make.