These three simple changes will make you more productive instantly.
If you’re a career-driven person who thrives on success, it’s easy to get obsessed with working your way to the top. I’ve been there: I used to pull 16-hour days, seven days a week, working myself to the bone to build my business.
The worst part was that I still didn’t feel like I was doing enough – so I kept pushing myself to the point of exhaustion.
Today’s culture is obsessed with the hustle and the need to be available 24/7/365. But I’ve learned that when you burn the candle at both ends, it doesn’t take long until you burn out completely.
And so I made a few minor tweaks to my routine … and these small changes improved my life and career almost instantly.
1. I protect my free time
Recent studies have shown that working more than 39 hours a week not only does nothing for productivity – but it’s also bad for our health, destroying our ability to focus, causing stress and contributing to physical inactivity.
For people who work overtime, the risks become even more extreme. In the early days of my business, I spent so much time at work that I had no time for anything else, including my marriage and my health. Unsurprisingly, both suffered – and so did the company. It wasn’t until I scaled back my hours (big time) that I got myself and the business back on track. If you feel pressured to work overtime, talk to your boss and get realistic about how the extra hours are affecting you, and what you’re actually achieving in this time. Chances are, if you take more time for yourself, you’ll be able to be a stronger, more effective employee.
2. I compartmentalize
How often do you check your work e-mails when you leave the office for the day? How often do you feel pressured to respond instantly to your boss, even if you’re off for the weekend? Thanks to technology, we’re all plugged in all the time.
I used to make myself available 24 hours a day. Anyone on my team could call me at any hour and I’d respond without question. This meant I was putting out fires even when I was at home or on vacation with my family, instead of enjoying my free time. Now, I follow a practice I call “Going Dark”: when I’m out of the office, I unplug from work completely. No e-mails, no calls, no meetings – just real time off. This gives me the space to focus on the other parts of my life that are just as important as (if not more than) work. It might seem tough – but if you prepare properly so that you’re fully covered when you’re away … it is possible!
3. I make sleep a priority
Hustle culture demands that we “rise and grind” and judges us hard if take a morning off. But sleeping more doesn’t make you lazy – it makes you productive. Sleep could be the secret superpower for success.
If you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, though, you’re not alone. I used to have the hardest time waking up. The root of the problem was the night before: I wasn’t taking the value of rest into account. Back then, I’d get home from the office at 10 p.m. – now I’m in bed by 10 p.m. That subtle difference has made a huge impact on how ready I feel to take on each day.
Ironically, your success in life has nothing to do with working more (in fact, the opposite is true). But when you take time to rest and recharge, you’ll be better at your job, whatever that may be. So enjoy your downtime, rest up and never underestimate the power of sleep. You’re guaranteed to be a happier, more productive person.
Brian Scudamore is founder and chief executive of O2E Brands, the parent company of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me and Shack Shine.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
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