How to Survive Working Long Hours

Survive Long Work Hours

In the last podcast episode, I talked about why I think it’s biblically acceptable to occasionally work long hours. A lot of people may initially bristle when they hear that, so I encourage you to go take a listen.

I wanted to continue that subject today with some practical tips on how to keep the rest of our lives intact when we do have to work long hours.

With a little wisdom, we can do our best to avoid any damage to our relationships, our physical health, or our other priorities.

Assess

My premise in the podcast was that it’s OK to work long hours when it’s due to a temporary season of busyness. We don’t want long hours of work to be our pattern, but we don’t need to beat ourselves up either when it’s a short burst.

But we’re really good at tricking ourselves into thinking our situation is just a temporary season when it’s not.

The first and most important step is to soberly and truthfully determine whether this is merely a season of busyness or whether this is more of a long term situation.

If these long hours are a long term problem, then you’ll have to deal with them. You’ll never dig out from under your workload. You’ll never “get caught up.”

You need to look for a long-term cure, such as reducing your level of commitment, delegating more, or brainstorming with your team about ways to reduce your collective workloads.

Employing these short-term strategies will be like applying a band-aid when you need surgery.

Communicate

This is one I learned the hard way.

Communicate with other people, particularly your family, that you’re very busy and will be working longer hours than normal. Maybe even explain the situation to your spouse.

I’ve found family is very understanding when you communicate – but do not assume they are aware of what’s going on. That was my mistake.

Prepare them for the situation, let them know it’s temporary, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable about your own stress level.

What Will You Give Up?

The worst thing you can do is try and cram more work into your already crowded schedule. If you need to work longer hours for  a season, be very intentional about what you’re going to give up in order to make room in your day.

It may help for you to schedule out your day in a little bit of detail so that you can envision where the hours will go.

Consider on the front end what activities you will give up in order to accommodate for the longer hours. Think also about what you will still keep as a priority.

You may slice out tasks. You may decide to uniformly reduce the time allotted to many tasks. Your solution will be highly personal.

What I Do

For me, I’ve found that I don’t do well giving up too much sleep. I can get away with it for a few days, but then it takes a toll.

I tend to first cut out a lot of my entertainment and leisure – such as reading or the occasional movie. Recently, I’ve changed some commitments I had with other people, such as getting together for fellowship.

I’ve been spending less time with my family in the evenings – and that may sound like sacrilege to some. But I work from home and have been able to still see them during breaks throughout the day.

What are some strategies that help you manage long work hours in the short term?

Photo Credit: Jesse! S? (Creative Commons)

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