Working long hours? Here’s what to do
When we’re newly promoted or get a new job it’s natural to feel that we have to up our game and work harder than ever to prove that we deserve our success. Quite often we end up trying a bit too hard. That might mean that we take too much on because we don’t like saying no or don’t want to ask for help and the upshot is that most of us will end up working very long hours. After all, if we’re putting the hours in then nobody can say that we’re not trying. Right? No,in fact this is an all too common mistake: working 16 hour days does not mean you’re doing a good job, in fact it’s probably the Working long hoursopposite.
In their book ‘On Form’ Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz point out that most of us treat life as a sprint when actually it’s a marathon. We rush around trying to cram everything in and set ourselves up for failure because we can’t do everything we take on. We also fail to manage our energy which leaves us feeling stressed, exhausted and demotivated. The fact is that nobody can work flat out all day, every day; we all need to rest and recover, we all need time for ourselves as well as for our friends and family. Unfortunately it’s tempting to prioritise the demands of work over our own physical, mental and emotional health and that ends in poor performance, stress and ultimately burnout.
Loehr and Schwartz suggest breaking the cycle by building time into your schedule for renewal. Think about where you get your energy from – is it exercise? Spending time with friends? Painting? Reading? Playing guitar? We all get our energy from different sources, so work out where yours comes from and make time to do whatever helps you to relax.
I heard a great story the other day about someone who was headhunted for a top job in the City. Their package includes time for a siesta between 3 o’clock and 4 every day; no meetings are ever scheduled mid afternoon, they lock the office door, have a snooze and return to work feeling refreshed and ready for anything. That might be a little tricky to negotiate but we can all build time to rest and recover into our day. Here are some tips that should help you manage your energy better:
- Treat the time you need to rest, exercise or socialise as an appointment and put it in your diary.
- Take frequent short breaks throughout the day: go for a quick walk around the block or the building, get some fresh air, even a quick stretch at your desk or in the loo will refresh you.
- Eat healthily with plenty of fruit and vegetables – try not to grab a takeaway or sandwich at your desk every day.
- Make time for the people close to you – don’t try and cram them in somewhere, allow enough time to and space to really be with them.
- If you really can’t fit everything you need to do into your working day then look at why. Start with yourself: do you need more training and support? If so, what’s stopping you for asking for the help you need? Talk to your boss or HR about what help and training would be available. If you feel your employer has unreasonable expectations then you definitely need to talk about what is manageable based on your time, skills and resources.
- Find someone to talk to – a trusted colleague, mentor or coach will help you keep things in perspective and work out what you need to do to stop feeling overwhelmed.
50 ways to take a break image courtesy of Karen Horneffer-Ginter