Why You Need to Stop Working Long Hours

If it’s 10 pm and you’re still at the office, are you the ideal employee? Not exactly. Putting in extra hours may make you feel like an indispensable member of the team, but it’s not a productive long-term strategy for success.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

The biggest reason to eliminate your workaholic tendencies is the damage you’re doing to your health. Our minds and bodies aren’t made to work nonstop. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, the stress caused from overworking can lead to impaired sleep, difficulty concentrating and a tendency towards heavy drinking — as well as serious medical problems like depression, diabetes and heart disease. If you never leave the office on time, you’re essentially working yourself into an early grave.

To make matters worse, there’s a good chance your boss isn’t even noticing your long hours. Research has found that the majority of managers are unable to tell the difference between employees who work 80 hours a week and those who are merely exaggerating their long hours. Since the productivity levels of the two groups were similar, there was no concrete reason for managers to dole out bonuses for pulling all-nighters.

Strike a Balance by Improving Your Productivity

If working long hours serves no useful purpose, how can you break the habit? Start with these tips:

Set your alarm clock.

Getting up early can be a bit of a drag, but there’s a solid reason for starting work early and leaving on time. Most people find themselves better able to focus early in the day, especially if the office is half empty with no one around to chat with. Tackle your top priorities immediately, before your energy levels start to drop. With your boost in efficiency, you can clock out on time with a clear conscience.

Prioritize your to-do list.

A to-do list is a helpful organizational tool, but only if the list is a manageable size. Identify what must be done today and what can be put off until tomorrow. If you’re struggling with this concept, try adopting the 1-3-5 method for creating each day’s list. Jot down one vital large task, three medium sized tasks, and five small tasks that would be nice to accomplish but aren’t absolutely essential. At the end of the day, create a new list for the following workday.

Stop multitasking.

Pop culture leads us to believe that the ideal worker is constantly multitasking, but this simply isn’t true. Splitting your attention between two or more tasks increases the risk of errors, leaving you with more work to do later when you’re forced to fix those sloppy typos in your sales presentation or scrap your budget spreadsheet entirely. The Guardian also reports that multitasking increases the brain’s production of the cortisol and adrenaline. This can lead to stress and a mental fog that are bad for your health as well as your productivity.

Batch process repetitive tasks.

Consider dealing with repetitive tasks such as making phone calls or writing invoices in one batch instead of doing them throughout the day. Knocking these types of items out in an assembly line fashion is more efficient than constantly switching back and forth between tasks.

Go on a diet.

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you sign up for Weight Watchers. I’m talking about an information diet. With so many websites, magazines, newspapers and television stations at our disposal, keeping up with current events can easily become a 24/7 job. Limit yourself to only the essential news sources, setting a timer to remind you not to waste an entire hour being distracted by different stories. You may feel out of the loop at first, but the time you save will be well worth the effort.

Cut back on your email.

According to members of the department of psychology at the University of British Columbia, constantly monitoring your inbox promotes stress without improving efficiency. The typical office worker responds to email within an hour of receipt, but limiting checking email three times or less per day creates a reduction in stress that is equivalent to visualizing peaceful imagery. This is likely due to the fact that switching between tasks zaps cognitive resources, forcing the brain to work harder without improving productivity.

Schedule personal time.

Boundaries are essential for work-life balance. If you have a central calendar system, block out chunks of time as set appointments for hitting the gym, helping your son with his algebra homework or any other personal priority you’ve been neglecting. To avoid coming across as a slacker, simply label these hours as “unavailable” for after-hours meeting requests.

Embrace your imperfections.

Striving for perfection can be paralyzing. If you’re putting in extra hours because you feel like your work could always be just a little bit better, it’s time to silence your inner critic. Decide how long a task should reasonably take and set a timer. When the buzzer goes off, force yourself to move on to the next item on your list. Realistic expectations are the key to success.

Are you struggling to find the right work-life balance? Share your tips for cutting back hours and amping up productivity in the comments!

This post first appeared at www.punchedclocks.com

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and blogger sharing advice on career development, leadership, and finding happiness and success at work and in life. Catch Sarah on Twitter @SarahLandrum and be sure to subscribe to the Punched Clocks newsletter for more great tips.

25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

Whenever I’m asked “What are some of the best questions to ask a ...

25 Songs For Your Leadership Playlist

What are your all-time favorite leadership songs — the ones that make you ...

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a question I ask in a survey ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

15 Leadership Quotes to Help You be a Leader, Not a Manager

Sometimes you need a reminder and some inspiration to be a leader, not ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

Leaderly Quote: The tasks you let go of…
Leaderly Quote: The tasks you let go of…

“Shoulds” are tasks or obligations we take on, accompanied by an inner monologue that goes,

How to Write a Simple and Beautiful Manifesto
How to Write a Simple and Beautiful Manifesto

Traditionally, a manifesto is a written statement where you publicly declare your… – Intentions (what

Leaderly Quote: Leadership is not about doing more
Leaderly Quote: Leadership is not about doing more

You probably already had a to-do list longer than a CVS receipt before this global

What’s on Your Not-To-Do List?
What’s on Your Not-To-Do List?

Leadership is not about doing more. It’s about switching from doing to leading. From this

100 Leadership Qualities: What’s Your Signature Style of Leading?
100 Leadership Qualities: What’s Your Signature Style of Leading?

There’s an entire industry of books and seminars founded on the assumption that if you

20 Leadership Quotes by Women to Inspire You in 2020
20 Leadership Quotes by Women to Inspire You in 2020

20 of our favorite leadership quotes by women At Be Leaderly, we’re on a mission

Happy Holidays 2019
Happy Holidays 2019

May your Holidays sparkle with moments of love, laughter, and goodwill, and may the year

5 Ways to Shift From Doing to Leading
5 Ways to Shift From Doing to Leading

To become a leader, there is a series of key shifts in mindset and behavior

You Do You: Claim Your Leadership Strengths
You Do You: Claim Your Leadership Strengths

We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses that we neglect to

Leaderly Quote: We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses…
Leaderly Quote: We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses…

We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses that we neglect to

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Copyright 2020, Be Leaderly