Become More Effective or Risk Being Killed By Karoshi




There’s a prevalent belief amongst executives, entrepreneurs and professionals that the only way to succeed is to work until the early hours and still get up at 5am to work on weekends and during vacations (if you take them), live on caffeine and numerous other legal stimulants, ignoring friends and family (who you will make it up to once you reach your goals) and pushing until you reach the finishing line.

This was a belief I passionately shared during the 15 years I practiced as an attorney. I prided myself on creating my best work at 3am and believed I was invincible. However, that belief was shattered when my consultant told me my adrenals were wrecked and that I had a month to live unless I made some dramatic changes.


My consultant got my attention. I knew I had to ditch the daily 12 cups of coffee and 3am tasks. But at the same time, my drive to succeed remained in place, and I knew there was no way I would be able to live on a mountain drinking herbal teas and eating a raw food diet excluding caffeine and pizza. I knew there had to be a better way.

After the grim prognosis from my consultant, I spent the next couple of years obsessively researching how the most efficient human beings on the planet (including C Suite Executives at Fortune 500 companies, Special Forces personnel and athletes) ran their lives, and immersed myself in the latest research from the fields of neuroscience, performance psychology, productivity and nutrition. This research was a life changing, eye opening learning experience that changed forever the way I work and run my life.


It’s worth noting that “death from overwork” is not new or rare. In Japan, death from overwork is termed “Karoshi.” The Japanese Ministry of Labor started publishing statistics on Karoshi in the eighties, and now tens of thousands of deaths are believed to result from this condition. America is the only country in the world where people work more hours than their Japanese counterparts, but equivalent data is not maintained.


The consistent findings from some of the finest research institutes and universities and most experienced researchers in the world, coupled with the practices and routines of “elite performers,” provide knowledge that must not be ignored by anyone who wants to achieve more in less time. This knowledge includes:

  1. Taking regular breaks every 90 minutes, for at least ten minutes, leads to a significant increase in both productivity and quality of work. Think about being a sprinter rather than marathon runner. A meaningful break means at a minimum walking round the office, getting out of the building and if possible, listening to music. The objective is to change your physical and mental state.
  1. Blocking out all emails, calls and social media for key periods of work, has a dramatic impact on a person’s ability to focus and consequently, their efficiency.
  1. Taking cat naps in the afternoon of between 20-40 minutes enables you to perform at full throttle for the rest of the day. This is not always practical but, if you can, it makes a massive difference.
  1. Automating key tasks (human automation rather than technology) frees your brain up to be more creative and find solutions to challenges. Technology has its place but you have to start with the mind first.
  1. Spending a few minutes each day using simple but highly effective psychological processes to lock on to your target, maintain motivation, and develop resilience to bounce back from the inevitable setbacks that you’ll encounter on the road to success.
  1. Using nutrition as high octane fuel, exercise as a way to increase mental and physical performance capacity, and rest to fully recharge.

By applying all of the above and more, most of the time, I achieve far more in less time than I did during my years as an attorney, while managing to have a significantly better quality of life. I am no less determined than I was at the beginning of my legal career. I have become wiser and more effective.

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit:  CC by royalty free

About the author: Martin Soorjoo

Founder of The Pitch Clinic, Martin Soorjoo is a pitch strategist. He coaches entrepreneurs world-wide, helping them launch and raise funding. Prior to founding The Pitch Clinic, Martin spent 15 years as a former award winning attorney. He has worked with start-ups and investors, including senior investment bankers, venture capitalists and angel investors. During this period Martin raised several million dollars, including negotiating one deal worth $75 Million. This experience has equipped him with unique insights into the challenges start-ups face and how investors make decisions. He is a Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and an expert in body language.

Martin is the author of ‘Here’s the Pitch‘.

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