It should come as no surprise that all work and no play makes for a depressed and unhealthy society.
While Americans pride themselves on a strong work ethic, many are working themselves into an early grave.
Working hard versus burning out: where is the line?
In the United States, the standard work week is 40 hours. However, many people are working for much longer and sometimes sacrificing sleep, personal enjoyment, and time with loved ones in the process.
Over in the United Kingdom, entrepreneurs put in an average of 52 hours per week. In Japan, 50-hour workweeks are common, and some employees put in hours of overtime each night, resulting in working 100 hours a week or more, and sometimes passing out in the streets from exhaustion. While the dedication of these hard workers is admirable, it’s clearly too much.
That said, working shorter days and taking more time off simply isn’t an option for some people. Maybe you have bills to pay or kids to support, or maybe you’re just interested in the finer things in life and willing to work hard for them.
There is nothing wrong with working hard, but it’s important to make sure that we’re caring for ourselves. That way, we can avoid burning out and ending up with health problems that will hold us back in our careers as well as our personal lives.
Staying balanced during hard work: tips for a productive week.
1. Make sure you get exercise.
Working long hours can be exhausting, but it isn’t necessarily tiring your physical body, especially if you sit at a desk all day. While your mind might be spent, it’s important to force yourself to exercise each day.
If you’re too tired after work, consider getting up a half hour early to enjoy a run, a trip to the gym, or a simple yoga session each morning. You’ll wake up your body and mind to prepare for the work day, and you’ll also burn some calories in the process.
2. Handle meal prep on the weekends.
If you only get one day off each week, you likely won’t want to spend it cooking, but luckily, preparing a week’s worth of meals doesn’t have to take all day. With just an hour or two in the kitchen, you can prepare simple healthy foods like meat, rice, and vegetables, helping you avoid spending too much money and harming your health with calorie-laden fast food.
The trick to meal prep is ensuring that the food lasts throughout the week. Freezing makes the most sense, because it both preserves the food and allows for spontaneity if an opportunity to go out to dinner with friends or colleagues comes up during the week. The USDA recommends adding an additional layer of plastic wrap to your freshly cooked meats to ensure they stay fresh and avoid freezer burn.
3. Get up and move around.
One of the biggest issues with long work hours is that most jobs require sitting at a desk. In recent years, the bad news about sitting has made its way into headlines. An Annals of Internal Medicine study of over 8000 participants found that the more you sit, the more likely it is that you’ll experience an early death—even if you exercise regularly.
As disturbing as this news is, you can neutralize the issue by getting up and moving around your office at least once every 30 minutes throughout the duration of your workday. An even better option is getting a desk that allows you to stand while working. You might assume this will be uncomfortable, but many office workers prefer this option.
4. Avoid too much caffeine.
Caffeine gives us a nice buzz, and it’s tempting to want to keep that buzz going throughout your day. However, drinking too much coffee can interfere with sleep and lead to a nasty cycle where you’re returning to work the next morning without proper rest, requiring you to drink even more coffee.
Hard as it is, try to limit yourself to one or two cups at the start of your day. When you get the urge to drink more, go for a refreshing cold water instead. It will keep you hydrated and alert without burning out your system.
Enduring long work hours can be tough, but if your career is important to you, there is no other option.
With a little dedication and some smart planning, you can get the job done without destroying yourself in the process.