The more successful you’ve been in your career, the more you’ve likely been putting in long hours at the office. If you’re putting in long work weeks, you can take solace in knowing that you are essentially cramming two years’ worth of work and learning into a single year. This adds up to a heap of knowledge and experience gained. Even if you’re not in your dream job, you’ll be learning skills that’ll take you far.
However, you’ve seen how the added stress has affected your co-workers and you don’t want to go down the same road. Many of them seem sick and burned out, and you want to avoid that at all costs. One colleague is always tired and irritable and doesn’t enjoy his work anymore. He’s always looking for excuses to do less work which is translating into measurable performance declines. Another co-worker’s health is in serious trouble. She’s put on weight and recently took a long sick leave of absence.
This article will show you a few ways to beat the stress and stagnation that comes from putting in long hours with little rest and lots of added stress.
Why do we work long hours?
Many of us put in extra time to clear backlogs, meet project deadlines, or study and research. Other’s work long hours because they want to be seen as a “good worker” compared to others. However, there are traps that we can fall into if we are not making enough time for ourselves, or if we don’t have time management and coping strategies in place to help manage the extra time at work.
Here are a few tips for making the most of your grueling work schedule.
How to Survive Long Hours at Work
1. Make Time For Yourself
I know sleep is precious when you are working an 80 hour week, but hear me out. Consider both waking up early in the mornings and staying up for a few minutes when you get home. I know you think that this will cut into what precious little sleep time you have, but making time for yourself is important.
2. Create Morning “Me Time”
Get up 15 minutes early, or, if you’re a morning person, perhaps even earlier. Go for a jog, start doing morning meditations, or call a friend in another time zone to reconnect and give yourself some personal time. This will set the tone for the day and leave you feeling more balanced and connected.
3. Unwind Before Bed
It may seem like the best idea in the world to just head straight home and plop into bed. However, if you do that day in and day out you’ll soon begin to regret your decision to work overtime and start hating your routine and life.
Instead, make time for yourself at the end of the day as well. Throw on a pair of your favorite comfy leggings, read a few pages of your favorite books, watch and old season of one of your favorite shows, or just listen to your favorite song. Remember to prep your power blazer and get your statement jewelry ready for the next day as well. This will minimize any stress from sorting through your closet in the morning.
Taking a few moments to yourself will help you feel refreshed and happy before you knock off to sleep.
4. Keep Weekends For You
Make sure that you’re running errands, grocery shopping, and taking care of personal business as much as you can on the weekends. This will ensure that your work week goes as smooth as possible. Laundry, dry cleaning, grocery shopping, haircuts, picking up prescriptions, and other errands should be a part of every weekend’s routine.
Schedule time for a get together with friends on the weekends as well, and make time for longer outings that will help you feel reconnected and refreshed. You work hard and deserve vacation breaks. Schedule time off well in advance and make sure that you have friends and family to share that time with, otherwise you may end up napping the days away and wasting your precious down time by binge-watching Netflix.
5. Minimize Distractions In The Office
Forbes notes that the average business professional is managing anywhere from 30-100 projects at once. In order to stay organized and focused you need to carve out time for yourself where you can work without distractions. There are numerous systems and programs for both time and attention management. Try a few and see which works best for you that you can stick with.
One such system is Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique. It was originally conceived in the late 1980s and gradually refined until 1992. The technique is named after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used during his time at university. He hit on a system whereby work is broken into 20-35 minute chunks with a period of intense focus followed by a five-minute break. Cirillo also recommends a longer break of about 10-15 minutes after ever four “Pomodoros”.
This attention management technique, and others like it, can help you make fast strides on your most important projects. It also helps work in the downtime needed to regroup between focus sessions. The more work you can get done in a short amount of time the faster progress you can make on projects and the less stressed you will be each day. The key is to make sure your co-workers understand your schedule and respect your need for some task-specific focus.
If you are lucky enough to have an office with a door it may be as simple as putting a sign on the doorknob and turning off your intra-office instant messenger for a few hours. For those that work in cubicles or more open spaces, it can be a bit harder to minimize distractions but it’s still doable. Invest in large, obvious, headphones and some signage for your desk or cubicle wall to indicate to co-workers when you are in the middle of your focused tasks. It may take them time to get used to the new schedule, but once they see your productivity soar they’ll learn to leave you alone when you are in “the zone.”
When working long hours and a grueling schedule, whether a single job or two (or three) remember to just keep at it one day at a time. Carve out as much personal time as possible and make what hours you do clock in count for more with distraction minimizing techniques.
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