There are some days that working beyond regular hours is inevitable because we need to finish an important project or deal with a crisis at work. However, when this becomes the norm and you start to lose your work-life balance, you are most likely overworking yourself and risking not only your productivity, but most importantly, your health and personal relationships.
So how can you break free from overworking? Here are some practical tips on how to work more efficiently and gain a good work-life balance.
1) Make a ranked to-do list the night before
Write your to-do list or task list for the next day the night before, and list them according to priority. This will not only help you start the day calmly but also help you visualise your top tasks for the day. Life is unpredictable, and new tasks can come up unexpectedly. Nevertheless, making a ranked list will help you to remain focused and efficiently accomplish the tasks for the work day.
2) Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Time Management Method was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It breaks time into 25-minute intervals where you commit yourself to work on a task or study without any interruption. Set your timer to 25 minutes and begin working on your project. When the timer rings, you can take a 5-minute breather (Ex. stretch, have a snack, listen to a song, etc.) before you start your next Pomodoro session. After you have completed four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break, lasting about 20-30 minutes. Your brain will use this time to assimilate new information and rest before the next round of Pomodoros. Using this technique, you can train your brain to focus, get things done, and save time moving forward.
3) Redefine success
Most of the time, chronic overworking happens because you either want to prove something to the company or you are trying to achieve a career goal, such as a promotion. In this case, you need to redefine your definition or idea of success. Whenever you are working overtime, ask yourself, “Is this my definition of success?”
4) Take time off for rest and recovery
One way to break your chronic overworking is to take time off from work. Not only will this help you recover physically, but also help your brain regain its creative thinking. Avail yourself for an out-of-town trip or spring-cleaning your home — it is healthy to take a break from work. These periodic breaks will help you gain fresh perspective and renewed energy when you return to the office.
5) Create clear boundaries between your personal and professional time
In this age of borderless connectivity and the virtual office, the lines between personal time and professional time have been blurred. With the prevalence of mobile phones and tablets, work can be carried out practically anywhere and at any time. The key is to clearly state your availability to your clients if you are working as a freelancer or contractor, or work within the designated working hours of your company if you are an employee. Beyond those hours, refrain from checking or answering work emails
6) Unplug from gadgets and devices
Before retiring for the day, make sure to switch off your mobile phone and other electronic gadgets at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The overextended use of your mobile phone during bedtime affects the quality of your sleep.
7) Communicate your needs to your work colleagues, family, and friends
A strong support system, both at home and in the office, is critical if one wants to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Nurture meaningful relationships with your colleagues and loved ones. Discuss work or family arrangements with them in order to free up time for your professional and personal activities. Be vocal about your needs but be flexible to accommodate their professional and personal concerns as well.
8) Pursue your interests and hobbies
Outside of work, cultivate your passions and interests. These can range
from creative pursuits like calligraphy, painting, dancing or baking to physical activities like biking, swimming, parkour or martial arts. Apart from such activities, helping out in social enterprises for the elderly, people with disabilities or low-income families can also restore your mental and creative energies.
9) Learn relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques such as breath focus, body scan, guided imagery, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong and repetitive prayers can help you respond to stress in a calmer manner. With practice, you can draw strength and peace from these techniques as the need arises.
10) Avoid multitasking
Many studies have shown already that our brains do not really work well when multitasking. It actually impairs our productivity and makes us inefficient. Complete one task first before you move on to the next. Dedicating your time and full focus on one task will help you accomplish more by the end of the day than switching between a number of them. Also, having a finished task will give you a bigger sense of satisfaction and being in control than looking at several unfinished ones.
Overworking is a fact of life. In fact, sometimes working long hours can feel rewarding especially if we are finishing an important project or trying to beat a deadline. However, pay attention to how it is affecting your life. If it is interfering with your mental, physical, and emotional state, it is time to make adjustments.
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