Tuesday 15 June 2021

Ways to work smarter, not harder

In our busy lives, making time for ourselves is paramount so that we avoid burnout from working too hard. It’s easy to become so wrapped up in our working lives that we neglect our personal needs. For decades, studies have proven that burnout can have serious effects on both our mental and physical health, including increased risk of heart disease and stroke, poor sleep, anxiety, stress, depression and even suicide in some cases. Not only are we putting our bodies and minds at risk when we overwork ourselves, but we are less likely to perform to the best of our abilities.

So often we think that by putting in longer hours we will gain more respect from our boss, receive pay rises and promotions, or reach higher targets, but this isn’t always the case, and we can damage our health in the process.

The Harvard Medical School recorded the results from a study that reported the links between longer working hours and health issues. It showed that “overwork and work stress are also associated with many cardiac risk factors. Those who work long hours tend to have unhealthy lifestyles, with less exercise, worse diets, and higher consumption of alcohol and tobacco.” Also, those who worked longer hours increased their risk of heart attack and were more likely to suffer from a stroke.

How to be more productive

So how can we work fewer hours and be more productive so that we have more time to focus on our personal lives? These simple tips will help you to work less and achieve more:

  • Prioritise – Switch off your devices (unless you need them for the task at hand) and list all your priority jobs with an achievable deadline. Forget about multi-tasking or having a chat with your colleagues until you have completed the task. It’s very easy to become distracted, especially in a busy work environment, so switch off from everything that’s going on around you.
  • Take breaks – Factor short breaks into your list of deadlines. More regular, shorter breaks ensure that you rest your mind and body so that you don’t become overtired or stressed. When we push ourselves too hard and don’t take breaks, we are much more likely to experience burnout, which can be counter-productive to our work.
  • Stay healthy – Drink plenty of water and eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day. This will keep your brain and body functioning to its full potential, and make sure you don’t skip main mealtimes. Make time for exercise each week, even if it’s just 20 minutes each day as you’ll feel more energised and in a more positive frame of mind.
  • Keep it brief – If you need to make a phone call to a client, attend a meeting or assist a colleague, practise keeping the conversation to a minimum (without being rude, of course). It can be easy to get caught up in unnecessary chit-chat that is neither beneficial to the company or the task you’re working on.
  • Ask for help – If you find yourself spending too much time researching how to do something, why not ask a colleague who has the appropriate experience to show you how it’s done? This can save you lots of time scrolling through the internet searching for solutions or making the same mistakes over again.