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6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Work Too Hard For Your Job

6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Work Too Hard For Your Job

Many people have the preconception that Millennials are lazy. They think that the concept of “work” for Millennials is different: Millennials don’t see 10-12 hour days at the office productive. They want to work from the coffee shop down the street, because they “feel” better there. They want to be judged only by results, not by the amount of time and effort they appear to have put into a project. This is a huge paradigm shift which members of older generations have difficulty making.

No matter if this stereotype is true or not, research is beginning to support this style of working – working hard does not automatically translate to productivity. Here are 6 reasons to explain why less may actually be more.

1. Working Long Hours Decreases Productivity

Working from “dawn to dusk” has been a norm for thousands of years. Yet it was until Henry Ford’s study in 1926 that people’s conception of work began to change.

Henry Ford discovered that by reducing the working hours to 8 and the working days to 5, workers would become more productive. His studies did not fall on deaf ears. His study contributed to laws regulating the number of working days and working hours. Employers were hence required to to pay for overtime work.

More recent studies by the U.S. military show that losing sleep and working longer hours will adversely affect cognition – the ability to learn, think, and reason – over time. So, if you are one of those people who are used to working long after everyone else has left the office, you should be aware that your productivity and your ability to think and reason will be reduced accordingly as well. (along with your joie de vivre).

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2. Promotion is not Based on the Number of Hours You Have Worked

The traditional thinking goes: “If I really work hard; if I stay late at the office every night; if I keep busy all day and don’t “chat around the water cooler” like the others, my boss will notice that. Then, when an opening for a promotion comes, I’ll be selected.” If you think in this way, unfortunately, you may be misguided.

This is what your boss may be thinking: “Bob is a hard worker. I really appreciate his dedication to getting that project finished by the deadline. On the other hand, why is it taking him so many more hours? Jane seems to get the same types of projects completed during normal working hours, and hers are just as complete and of the same quality level.”

When it is time for promotion, your boss may also think: “Bob is such a hard worker. I know that he will work even harder with this promotion, but how many more hours can he work? Jane seems to manage time better and get more done in a shorter period of time. She can handle more responsibilities. Jane is the best pick.”

The message is sad, but true – the number of hours you work is not important to your bosses.

3.  It is More Important to Prioritise than to Execute

It seems that the more we work, the more chances we have to perform, and the more we will receive gratitudes and thanks. Again, this is not necessarily true.

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What happens may actually be this: People may just find you for all the unimportant tasks because you never refuse.

It is important to set priorities and say “no” to those requests that are just time-wasters. Turn people down assertively but appropriately. Say, “I’m sorry. I don’t have the time to do that.” As Warren Buffet once said: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

4. Refusing to Succumb to “Down-Time” at Work Doesn’t Make You More Admirable

We call these people “workaholics.” They refuse to participate in “down-time” activities at work because they are either obsessively driven or they believe that it wastes the company’s time. Besides, staying at one’s desk “looks” better to bosses.

You may “brown bag” your lunch and eat at your desk. You may refuse invitations to take a break with others in the staff lounge. All of this does not make you admired. You are seen by co-workers as unfriendly and perhaps a “brown-noser”.

Refusing to allow yourself some down time meaning you become less productive as the day wears on, and if there is really critical work for your afternoon, you will lack the energy to attack it well. Then you stay late or go home with work. It’s a vicious cycle.

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You will not be any less thought of if you take down time. Even the most successful minds of this world need to relax. For instance:

  • Winston Churchill took a nap every afternoon and no one was allowed to disturb that. He insisted that he had a much more productive work day because of it.
  • Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Reagan all took afternoon naps. Kennedy had lunch in bed and slept afterward.
  • John D. Rockefeller took a nap every day in his office.

A number of smart people take down time to engage in personal activities that are totally unrelated to work at all, just to put their brains on something else and because they have other interests. One executive had quite a portfolio with SEIS Investment, and used his downtime to study market trends and contemplate any new investments he might want to make. This was “fun” for him. Identify what is “fun” or relaxing for you and schedule some time in the middle of your workday for that.

Bottom line – having down-time isn’t unproductive or makes you look “worse”. It’s the necessary activity (or lack of such) that your brain needs!

5. Doing Everything Yourself, and Putting in Long Hours to do that, Doesn’t Breed Admiration

Every organization has these types of people. Their basic approach to tasks and projects is this:

  • To get something done right, they will need to do it all themselves.
  • They need to control every detail of a project from start to finish
  • They cannot trust others to complete their parts well and on time
  • Asking for help makes them look weak and less capable
  • If they do it all themselves, they will have more admiration and respect

If this sounds like you, understand that inability to delegate or micro-managing every detail of a project is two things: – exhausting and a real “negative” to subordinates, co-workers and to bosses.

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Subordinates believe that you do not trust them. Co-workers believe that you are a “glory-seeker” and bosses believe that you are not executive material. If you are trying to impress everyone with your dedication to every detail of a project, understand that you are really getting the opposite!

6. Being a Perfectionist Means Long Hours without Reward

We all want our work to be right. And we want it to be approved of by our superiors. When we carry this to an extreme, however, this is what happens:

  • We continue to second-guess ourselves, creating our own stress
  • We continue to re-work, re-write, re-do because our attitude is that it can always be better
  • We believe that perfection is actually attainable, if we just put in more hours, work a bit longer and harder
  • A perfect work product means that we will have admiration and respect that will move us forward on our career ladder

The truth is this:

  • The more time we spend seeking perfection, the less productive we are
  • Superiors wonder what is taking so long and begin to wonder if the “job” is just too much for you
  • Perfection is a nice goal but is never really achieved. The goal is to complete a project that meets the goals of the project and the organization. Spending hours of time re-writing every sentence of a proposal or report; continuing to seek additional research to back up the great research you already have; these things are just unproductive and time-wasters.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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