From an early age, we’re told that in order to be successful in life, we have to work hard, which often gets interpreted as working long hours.
We hear people say they’ve been “burning the midnight oil” or “doing an all-nighter” in order to achieve a particular outcome.
There is value in having a strong work ethic and doing what’s required to get to where we want to be, but there also has to be a certain level of intelligence as to how we go about it. Working long hours doesn’t always equate to how much we actually get done.
Have you ever been in a situation where you know you’re about to go on a holiday and you have certain things that must get done before you leave? What usually tends to happen?
Oftentimes, the last couple of days before we leave is when we get the most done because we have an unmovable deadline. We somehow manage to become so productive and get things done.
If we can be so productive being we leave for a holiday, it means we have the capability to do that whenever we want. It also means we have to question the need to work long hours consistently.
Working long hours does not always result in us doing our best work.
I once had a manager who was proud that he worked between thirteen to fourteen hours per day. When I questioned why he worked such long hours, he said it was the only way he could get all his work done. My response to him was, “That’s crazy! You have to be better at managing your priorities.”
Most people would agree that working eight hours per day, in a typical work environment, is the norm. That equates to around forty hours per week. Whenever we exceed that number on a consistent basis, that should be a warning signal we have to evaluate how we are working.
We can start by reviewing how we spend our time, then identify what we can do to either remove, improve or delegate tasks. Working long hours isn’t sustainable over the long-term because there are some significant effects.
The Effects of Working Long Hours
- Your health will suffer. If we work long hours, we have a much higher chance of gaining weight, becoming obese, having heart issues and sleep issues, and having a poor diet. This can cause us to get sick easily, which will continue to add to the problem.
- You will experience higher levels of fatigue. Our bodies get tired after being awake for a certain number of hours, which is why we need to sleep to replenish our energy levels. Working longer hours means we’re using up mental, emotional and physical energy, which can affect our concentration levels. That can also increase our risk of personal injury such as driving on the road when we’re tired.
- Your productivity will decline. Long hours does not always equate to better productivity. We have a certain amount of willpower every day, which dictates how well we can focus. Once we reach our threshold, our level of focus starts to fade and unless we give manage our energy levels well, we’ll be ineffective even if we’re working longer hours.
- Your relationships will suffer. If we spend more time working rather than being with those close to us, we tend to alienate ourselves from them. This can place enormous strain on our personal and social relationships, which can also cause significant emotional stress.
- You will have less free time. We can’t do two things well at once. By choosing to work long hours, we don’t give ourselves enough down time to recharge. Having free time is vital if we want to do our best work on a consistent basis. There has to be a healthy balance work and leisure.
- You will miss opportunities. Working long hours consistently is like having an addiction. It’s a repetitive pattern or behaviour that’s hard to break. As a result, it’s very likely we’ll miss seeing things around us, which may be opportunities or solutions that can help us in some way.
- You won’t be as happy as you want to be. As human beings, if we do the same things over and over again, we reach a point where we become less motivated and generate feelings of being stuck. This affects our emotional state and we won’t enjoy the things we’re doing as much.
It does take work to reach a new destination or reach a new level of success. However, that doesn’t mean we always have to work long hours. If we’re able to clarify our priorities and focus on what’s essential to get the outcomes we want, we’re more likely to achieve them faster, without placing ourselves under unnecessary pressure.
Question: What is another reason to stop working long hours every day?
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