With phrases such as “do more with less”, we all feel the pressure to measure up to some superhero standards at work. How do we do it? Cram as much stuff as possible into our days. What we don’t realize though is that many of our work habits we believe to be productive are actually hurting our productivity–and our health. Take a quick detour if you want to learn more about the effects of our overscheduled lives.
Here are 5 popular work habits to say goodbye to pronto:
1. Working through lunch
If you’re still debating if you should skip or eat lunch, read this blog. To eliminate the suspense, I’m going to tell you that a nourishing, well-proportioned lunch prevents the mid-afternoon energy crash. Not only will you be more energized in the second half of the day, but your creative juices will flow better, too.
Ideally, you’ll want to focus on the act of eating so that all your attention can go to the digestive process. Therefore, you should try to limit working lunch meetings as much as you can. I know! It may be hard at times.
2. No breaks during the day
Whether it’s because of your back-to-back meetings or your intense focus on your project, plowing through your day without any substantial breaks will hurt you. Especially if it happens repeatedly.
For one, if you’re stuck in back-to-backs, you won’t be able to get any “real work” done at work, pushing you to work in the evening. More on this in the “Working late” section.
In addition, there comes a point when your productivity drops if you don’t take a break, at least every 60 to 90 minutes (more frequent breaks are better). Your ability to make the right decision will suffer and your error rate will go up.
In fact, you’re probably only productive for about 3 hours a day. When you get to the point of productivity loss, you’ll find yourself hovering on the same sentence or thought, or self-disrupting in other ways. Self-disruption is more common than you may think: 44% of workers interrupted themselves in a research study.
I admit: my calendar is packed so I can really relate to this. Even with a packed calendar, I block time for lunch, walk frequently to the kitchen to get hot water, take the stairs between meetings and adjust my commute times to build breaks into my day. When I feel that my productivity is dropping, I walk away. And I make time for rest when I’m away from the office.
3. Working while commuting
Ok, so you get a lot done on your way to and from the office. You take work calls, return emails and so on. With the rise of voice-activated cell phones, it’s become easier than ever before to craft texts, emails and messages when we’re on the move.
Look at your day holistically. Is your commute the only time you get for yourself? Is your commute the only time you have to catch up with friends? Is your commute the only time you have for peace and quiet? Will you be doing work again when you get home? You get the idea.
If the answer is yes, treasure your commute time. I learned to really value this time, especially on my way home. Set aside any work activities and use this opportunity to reset your day mentally. Taking breaks is not just a physical act, it’s also a mental one.Take breaks physically, mentally and emotionally Click To Tweet
4. Working late
This work habit messes with your circadian rhythm. People think of sleep when they hear the term “circadian rhythm”, but it’s so much more. Your body needs sleep in order to perform critical cleansing processes for your physical, mental, emotional and sensory health. Melatonin levels, a hormone that helps you sleep, naturally start rising in your body around 8PM. When you are working or sitting in front of blue screen late, you’re interfering with your body’s melatonin production.
And if you think that 6 hours of sleep will make you just as productive as if you got more zzz’s, then this research by the University of Pennsylvania and Washington State University may just leave you speechless. The mental and physical performance of participants who slept 6 hours a night for 2 weeks fell to the same level as if they had stayed awake for 48 hours straight, even though they believed that their performance levels were unaffected by the reduced sleep.
The quality and quantity of sleep you get, and when you get it, affect the physiological processes your body goes through every day to maintain your health and well-being. Ill-timed or insufficient sleep over an extended period of time may create imbalances in your body.
5. Working on your vacation
I wrote about 5 Scary Facts About American’s Vacation Habits That Will Blow Your Mind before. When we finally decide to take time off, we prepare physically for our vacation, but not mentally. And we should. Disconnect completely—mind, body and soul. Do a full “work detox” and come back refreshed with new ideas, enthusiasm and better productivity.
In this day and age, work never stops. We could go 24/7 and still not be done. But we need breaks. It’s our responsibility to build healthy work habits and stop.
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