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10 Reasons You Should Stop Working Long Hours Today

10 Reasons You Should Stop Working Long Hours Today
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If you have a job in the present challenging economic times, you are probably doing everything you can to hold on to it. If your employer asks you to put in 50 hours of work every week, you likely go further and put in 60 or more hours. You might think you are getting more done by working longer, but in fact every hour you put in over 40 hours a week is making you less productive, both in the short and long term. Studies have found that the “sweet spot” for optimum productivity is 40 hours a week. Here are ten specific reasons you should stop working long hours today if you want to maintain optimum productivity.

1. Reduced productivity

Long work hours are often counterproductive. Ford Motor Company proved this in the 1990s through a series of studies that showed every additional 20 hours of work above the recommended 40 hours resulted in an increase in productivity only for three to four weeks before productivity turned negative. If you consistently work long hours, you get burned out and inevitably start falling behind in your duties. Productivity declines and you have to spend more hours trying to catch up on neglected tasks.

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2. Increased fatigue

Fatigue sets in when you work extended hours over a long period of time. Symptoms of fatigue from extended workdays include sleepiness, weariness, poor concentration, irritability and increased susceptibility to illness. These symptoms are a big hindrance to productivity. If you don’t stop and rest from work, fatigue will increase and become overwhelming.

3. Higher safety risks

When fatigue increases and you become overwhelmed from long workdays, your safety is at risk. Accidents and injuries are more likely to occur in the workplace. This safety hazard, while difficult to clearly support with scientific evidence because fatigue levels are not easy to measure and quantify, is a logical concern that you should not ignore.

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4. Neglected social life

You will find it difficult to maintain a healthy social life when you work 60 or more hours a week. Free time to spend with family and close friends is not adequate with this work schedule. Extended work hours can also reduce the quality of your life by conflicting with quality time for family and time for other responsibilities and needs outside work. Stop working long hours and get a life outside of work.

5. More stress

Odds are when you work long hours you are doing it at the expense of not only your family and close friends, but also your diet, exercise routine and sanity. The more you try to prove you are a passionate and productive team player at work, the more you get forgotten by your kids, spouse and dog; and the more your mind registers stress.

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6. Musculoskeletal damage

Repetitive work when sustained in awkward postures increases the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that damage the body’s muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves. Avoid extended work hours to give your body sufficient time to recover and repair itself each day, otherwise your muscles might just buckle under work pressure.

7. Ergonomic hazards

Depending on where you work, lengthened work hours can expose you to serious ergonomic hazards like chemicals, radiation, vibration, noise, and extreme temperatures. Exposure to these ergonomic hazards can have serious health implications that you are better off avoiding by shortening your workday.

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8. Heart attack

The risk of heart disease increases markedly by 67% for people who work long hours compared to people who work the standard 7-8 hours a day, according to a report by The University College London. Although a number of underlying factors like high blood pressure may make a difference, working long hours does not help your heart. Professor Stephen Holgate of the Medical Research Council says: “This study should make us think twice about the old adage ‘hard work won’t kill you‘.”

9. Brain damage

Another report, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found middle-aged workers who clock upwards of 55 hours a week have poorer mental skills, including short-term memory and reduced ability to recall words, than those who work fewer than 41 hours. The study suggests that prolonged time at work can cause long-term brain damage or dementia. It is not clear why working long hours has an adverse effect on the brain, but this study should give pause for thought to workaholics.

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10. Risk of obesity

Yet another study, by researchers at the University of Maryland School, reported that demanding work schedules can contribute to obesity. Lead researcher Nicole Au, who led a similar study at Monash University in Australia, said, “Extended work hours may reduce the time spent preparing home-cooked meals, exercising and sleeping, which are risk factors for obesity.”

Admittedly, some of these associations between extended work hours, health and safety concerns are not conclusive. However, getting off the 40-plus-hour-a-week treadmill now is definitely a better habit for your overall well-being and productivity.

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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