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No One Will Tell You How Much Time You Should Work Every Day, So I Will

No One Will Tell You How Much Time You Should Work Every Day, So I Will

Here is a well researched fact of life. The more you work, the less productive you become! The secret is to work smarter and take lots of breaks.

Let us look at the research to see if this is really true. A social networking company tested their new app called Desk Time. Guess what? The top 10% most productive people were not even working 8 hour days. Their recipe for success? They took regular breaks of 17 minutes for every 52 minutes of work.

A University of Toronto study showed very similar results. The leader of the study, John Trougakos says:

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 “All efforts to control behavior, to perform and to focus draw on that pool of psychological energy. Once that energy source is depleted, we become less effective at everything that we do.”

Our brains are not designed for long, intense hours of focus. Work intensively for short bursts, then rest up.

But the 52 minute work and 17 minute break may not work for you. The secret is of course to take the breaks when you feel that you need them. Interrupting concentration by following a clock may ruin a train of thought. If I am on a roll and producing really good work, I want to continue so a break could be counterproductive.

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It might not work if you are dealing with restless customers who are waiting in line to be served. This principle may work better for mindless and repetitive tasks which do not require a high level of focus. But certainly it is worth experimenting with this and see how you can actually reduce the number of working hours and work smarter. Here are 7 practical suggestions so that you can do just that.

1. Don’t let presenteeism take over your life.

We have all heard of absenteeism but what about presenteeism? You have finished all the day’s tasks, yet you feel compelled to stay at your desk. You end up working longer hours than you really need. If you have the freedom to choose, just go home. There are lots of things waiting for you there. You can relax and spend time with the family or significant other. When you come back to work the next day, you are much more likely to get more creative and faster work done. Your body and brain need recharging.

2. Try working shorter hours with lots of breaks.

It may be time to experiment. Larry Page of Google wants to abolish the 40 hour working week . The Swedish government introduced a six hour working day as an experiment in the city of Gothenburg last April. The test group will work six hour days while the control group will work the standard 8 hours. Both groups will be paid the same. Will it reduce absenteeism and increase productivity? We are still waiting on the results as they are leaving it run for a year.

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3. Learn how to say no.

Stop giving away your time when you find that you are overwhelmed. The range of requests for help, collaboration, invitations and meetings seem never ending and if you find that your real work is lagging behind, then it is time to call a halt. The best advice I have found on this one is to take time before answering. You are more likely to say no and it will save you tons of time and energy when you say yes and have to backtrack later! Remember that ‘no’ is a complete sentence!

4. Breaks are more productive than you think.

If you think that your mind switches off entirely as you walk around the block or grab a coffee, then you are wrong. It is in these relaxing moments that the mind can produce some very creative ideas. It is not a waste of time. Albert Einstein, when asked how he came up with idea of relativity, said:

“I thought of that while riding my bike.” – Albert Einstein

5. Set yourself realistic deadlines.

There are lots of studies which show that people generally work better when there are time restrictions. In fact, pressure to complete tasks within a deadline can yield fruitful results, if the person sees it as a challenge. If, on the other hand, they see it as a threat, it may well be counterproductive having a tough deadline to meet. You have to decide how you react to deadlines and set them accordingly.

 6. Don’t overdo the breaks.

You have to find the right balance because having too many breaks can be an ally in procrastination. I cannot do that now as I have to have a break! If this is taken to its logical conclusion, then very little work will get done.

7. Don’t forget your body.

Switching off for a break might involve a nap, a walk or checking your Facebook status. Google was one of the first major companies to introduce nap rooms to help employees recharge mind and body. If you are not lucky enough to work in one of these companies, you may have to content yourself with taking a walk, stretching or doing something else to give your wrists, arms and fingers a rest. You can avoid the rather painful RSI (repetitive strain injury) by using software such as Workrave which will alert you with an alarm to tell you when to get up and move around.

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Let us know in the comments if you have successfully managed to work a shorter week and how you achieved that.

Featured photo credit: New books from AdLibris/Peter Hellberg via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

Physical Signs

Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

Mental Signs

One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

  • The tension in your neck
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • High anxiety
  • Depression

If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

Desire for an Increase of Salary

The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

Overnight Decision

Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

Rejected for a Promotion

I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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Bored at Work

Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

  • How long have you worked in your career?
  • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
  • Do you receive recognition?
  • Can you consider working in a new department?

If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

  • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
  • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
  • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

How to Make a Career Change Successfully

The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

1. Write a Career Plan

A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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You can learn how to set your career plan here.

2. Weigh Your Options

If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

  • Economic factors
  • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
  • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
  • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
  • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

    A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

    4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

    A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

    • What is required to be successful in the role?
    • What certification or educational development is needed?
    • What are the challenges of the role?
    • Is there potential for career advancement?

    A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

    Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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    5. Research Salary

    Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

    It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

    6. Be Realistic

    If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

    For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

    Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

    7. Volunteer First

    A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

    Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

    Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

    8. Prepare Your Career Tools

    I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

    • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
    • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
    • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
    • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

    Bottom Line

    It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

    Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

    More About Career Change

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
    [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
    [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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