Have you spent more than a decade trying to work as many hours as you can just because you think this is closely related to seeing more progress? Well, turns out this might be your biggest obstacle to being more productive and focused and something that’s also hindering your chance of getting promoted.
Let’s first back this by science, before moving onto some practical ways on how to get past this bad habit. However, know this is a mindset before anything else. You’ve allowed yourself to believe that more work equals more money, praise, results, even satisfaction. But it’s not like that.
For a start, a study found out that those working 39 hours or more are basically putting their health at risk. That’s because they are left with much less time to take care of themselves, to even see which areas of their life need improvement and do something about it, to have some ‘me’ time, do things they enjoy, have a social life and just blow off some steam.
Working longer hours is linked to depression and indulging in harmful behaviours such as drinking more. And because working more means resting less, that can lead to burnout, fatigue, bad mood all the time, and of course all this eventually affects your productivity and you simply become bad at what you’re doing.
But that’s not all. By working that many hours, or even pretending to be working for most of them, you’re damaging your brain. If you’re over 40, your memory would suffer too and you’re even increasing your chances of dementia, as this report suggests.
So if all this is bad for you, then it means you should work less. True. Not just that, but science also says that you can achieve much more if you focus on the right things. Which means:
You can work less and get more done.
Researches found out that average people, even if they are stuck behind a desk for 8 or more hours every workday, are still being productive only during around 3 of these hours.
The Solution in 3 Easy Steps
It might sound too good to be true, but we can’t deny the facts. Entrepreneurs and small business owners have realized that working smarter not harder is the way to go. We need to preserve our energy and focus and only invest them in the work-related activities that matter. Anything else just drains us. So, let’s see how to start working less without feeling guilty about it.
1. Embrace the 6-hour workday
Let’s start with a smaller change. Consider your workday to be 6 hours, instead of 8. Even if you’re around the office for the same period of time, know for yourself that you’ll be concentrating on work for a maximum of 6 hours.
That exact number is the reason why workers get less sick, decrease stress and actually work harder.
2. Learn how to rest
We live in the era of distractions, of information overload, of the fear of missing out. There’s a lot going on and there’s this presumption that we should be in a hurry all the time, keep ourselves busy and always strive for more. But it’s an illusion that ruins our mental health, productivity and chances of success.
It’s time to learn how to relax. Especially now that you’re not in your 20s or 30s anymore and your brain needs to re-charge and indulge in other activities other than work. But it’s also key to just do nothing sometimes. Empty your mind, breathe deeply, appreciate what’s around you and just be in the moment.
Meditation can help you with that. Stealing a few minutes in the morning and evening to find an isolated place and just sit there for a while is enough to help you find some balance.
3. Don’t take your work with you everywhere
Another one of the biggest mistakes of most career women is that they keep working (mentally) even when the workday is over. That might mean thinking about all that happened in the office while in bed (which keeps your brain active and you have a hard time getting to sleep). It could be that you wake up and check email first thing in the morning, or call clients in your free time. Even being available to them 24/7 isn’t good for your brain. You need that time off. It’s great for your creative and productive energy to do different things during the day. That means social life, hobbies and relaxation. Then, when you’re back to work, you’ll double your results.
I hope that opening your eyes for the fact that you work more than your body and brain want to was good for you. It will take some time to make a lifestyle change like that and to actually start working less (not as easy as it sounds), but it will bring you long-term benefits like no other productivity practice. Give it a go and start enjoying clearer thinking and more enjoyable living.