How much work is too much?

A buddy of mine was watching the news on Sunday night and caught a story about Julia Gillard doing something or other for schools earlier in the day and thought: "Does this woman ever take a break?"

Whatever your political leaning, I'd suggest it'd be uncharitable to deny Gillard works incredibly long hours, in a very demanding job, as do most of our federal and state ministers.

To put it in perspective, I corresponded recently with a former state premier who told me their weekly schedule went something like this:

Monday to Friday

Up every day at 5am for media briefings/morning radio. Leave home at 7am.

Work through until 7pm or so, then either attend a function or head home.

Every night a folder of briefings, speeches, etc. for the next day arrived at my house about 8.30/9pm. These had to be reviewed before bed.

In bed by 10.30/11pm.

For those of you counting, that's 18 hours a day, Monday to Friday, or a 90-hour, five-day week. Then of course comes ...



Usually three hours of daytime functions/media and one night-time function.

Tried to keep Sundays function-free, though not always successful.

Always had papers to read, etc.

Probably 12 to 14 hours across Saturday and Sunday.

And that's a state premier.

Imagine what's being thrown at the leader of our country?

I spoke to a senior staffer for former PM Kevin Rudd who estimated "Gillard would get six hours sleep a day and would work every other available moment, including over breakfast/lunch etc."

"Even if you build in a tiny bit of downtime on Sunday it's still a safe bet she does at least 120 hours a week," he said.

There are 168 hours in a week.

If we pencilled Gillard in for 120 hours a week of work (when she's not dealing with a leadership challenge) and add 42 hours' sleep (six hours' sleep per night) - you're up to 162 hours.

That leaves six hours (less than an hour a day) over seven days to eat, shower and just contemplate being a human being - and I guarantee Gillard's getting smashed by emails, texts and phone calls when she's doing that.

My friend's point?

Even an Olympic athlete training for their one shot as gold has days off because they know over-training is as much their enemy as being unfit.

You have to wonder how the demands of always being "on" wears down our politicians and affects their decision making, and whether we're doing ourselves an injustice expecting this kind of omnipresence from our leaders.

There is only so much output a human body and brain can deliver.

I don't know about you, but if I ever go in for a kidney transplant, I don't want to be operated on by the surgeon who's pulling their sixth 18-hour day in a row.

I want mine first thing Thursday morning after she or he has instead played 18 holes of golf on Wednesday afternoon, had a massage and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Funny that we'd not want the same for the people running our country.

How many hours a week do you work? How much is too much?

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