When I say people shouldn’t work more than 8 hours per day, they usually look at me, scared. It happens all the time. Especially when I talk about it while I’m at work. I just don’t believe we should work more than 8 hours per day.
Do I work 9–12 hours per day sometimes? Definitely. Sometimes we have deadlines and need to work late to get things done or we don’t have much to do besides work, right!?
At a certain point, it can be counterproductive to work long hours. Instead of risking burn out, why not change how we look at overtime?
The 8-hour workday was created during the industrial revolution in an effort to cut down on the number of hours of manual labor that workers were forced to endure on the factory floor. This breakthrough was a more humane approach to what work was like 200 years ago, but it doesn’t make much sense in today’s work environment.
Here are some good reasons why we shouldn’t work overtime very often:
We know it’s unhealthy to routinely work long hours. Did you know that working more than 10 hours a day can cause a 60% jump in risk of cardiovascular issues?
Think about your health and the health of your loved ones. Ten percent of those working 50 to 60 hours a week report they are having relationship problems. The rate increases to 30% if you’re working more than 60 hours a week.
How about depression? People working 11 hours or more a day have an increased risk of depression risk.
Working long hours can even be hazardous to your health. Injury rates increase as work hours increase! Those who work 60 hours per week have a 23% higher injury rate. Working too much can disturb your sleep, appetite, blood pressure, immune system function, memory, cognition, mood, and a lot of other issues.
Productivity is not linear
Working twice the hours results in twice the output, right? WRONG! You are not a machine! This type of thinking is really problematic and can be quite toxic. There is little productive work that occurs after you reach 50 hours of work per week. In the end, we are still human and susceptible to problems, unhappiness, comfits, fatigue, insecurities, and burnout!
There is little productive work that occurs after you reach the 50 hours per week mark!
I would provide at least three reasons why we shouldn’t work much overtime. e.g., management might wonder why you can’t get your work done during work day, your effective pay rate after considering uncompensated overtime would shock you, your boss might get used to your working all the time and expect it, etc.
I find myself studying and finding ways to have a better work-life balance because of these facts. Here are some tips I have learned:
1 — Give Yourself Breaks
Your brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy followed by spurts of low energy. Use calendar blocking to make sure you have a 15–20 minutes break between every hour. People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work. I quite often use the Pomodoro technique, using my time cube. It works pretty well. You should try it!
2 — Know Yourself (and also your team)
You need to know more about yourself. It’s true! Most people don’t actually know about their own bodies. You need to know if you’re more productive in the mornings or afternoons and what time your productivity diminishes. Do you what time of day you are most productive?
Plan your day based on your constraints and also your team’s limitations. As a Project Manager, you have some control of scheduled activities like meetings and deadlines. What if you plan your day with that in mind? Try to get the best productivity based on your constraints and those of your team.
For example, I usually don’t schedule important meetings or kickoff meetings on Fridays — especially on Fridays afternoons. Why is that you ask? With the weekend ahead, why risk making the team forget important things said during a Friday afternoon meeting when they are tired and anticipating the weekend? Consider this when you’re planning your timelines and deliverables!
3 — Divide and Conquer
My work day is super busy, and some days I literally don’t have much time to have my tea (I love tea, and I drink it all the time, even when it’s hot outside). I find it useful to create a schedule where I divide my work into chunks of work instead of trying to accomplish multiple things at the same time. What if you block out your time to 1 hour where you have a break for 15 minutes and you make sure you’re not going to multitask during the remaining 45 minutes? You’ll be 100% focused on achieving the task/goal you set for that time period. Use Calendar Blocking + your time cube and voilá!
4 — Free Meeting Day
At RAPP San Francisco we have a meeting-free day. I don’t know how to describe the awesomeness of this. When I’m planning my week, I tend to set some important deadlines for Thursdays because I know I’ll have plenty of time to work on projects and won’t be disturbed by scheduled meetings. My calendar is blocked out on Thursday, and I personally make sure we’re not scheduling any meetings on that day. How awesome is that, huh!?
Tip: If you find it’s too hard to block the entire day, maybe just block the afternoon? Think about it!
5 — Effective Measurement
How do you measure productivity? Do you compare your productivity when you’re rested versus when you multitask, and also when you’re tired? Do you think this is fair? If you don’t measure output correctly, how will you know how you’re progressing? How do you know you are creating realistic timelines? Effective measurement is everything!
6 — PM it Right!
We should plan projects effectively, meaning we shouldn’t overestimate our team’s capabilities. Let’s be realistic when we plan, and let’s also avoid scope creep. We should control the timelines, and overtime needn’t be the only solution to most cases!
Have your daily Scrum meeting and make sure the team is aligned with the overall project and process. Get your team to buy into the project, and ask them to approve the deadlines proposed, and avoid scope creep at all costs, please!
7 — Remove Everything that is Unnecessary
Remove anything that is not important. This may be the most difficult thing because it includes anything. It’s related to personal things, clothes, objects, and even people. I started to strive for a more minimalist life. In 2016 I started to donate a bunch of stuff I had at home. I basically had too many things in my place, too many apps on my phone, and also too many things that didn’t add joy to my life. Why do we need to keep them all? This year I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and The Spark Joy by Marie Kondo, and BOOM… she was right. Everything makes so much sense now. As Project Managers, we remove impediments to our projects and clarify the PRD so why shouldn’t we do the same in our personal lives? Remember, the best day to start is today!
8 — Have a Positive Mindset
Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s not enough to be the sane mind in the midst of the chaos. You also need to be a positive influence on your team. Let’s be problem solvers rather than complainers. What if we do as much as possible to change our attitude toward problems? Let’s fix some problems and conduct the symphony together!
Of course, it’s impossible to be that person when you’re insanely busy and tired. Again, this only reinforces the importance of having extra time to dedicate to the things that actually matter and excite you. Make sure to block out your calendar (this again, I’m sorry) to have the proper time to do your job. If you want to check some hacks, here are 10 things you should do to be more productive.
How do you feel about it? Share your thoughts with me. You can also send me your thoughts by private message if you prefer. I’d love to hear what you think!
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