We were all taught the value of hard work when we were kids, and some of us became industrious to excel in school, be admitted into the university of our choice, and get our dream job (or be closer to it). But simply working hard will take a toll on all of us. We’ll risk burning out at a young age, we’ll feel tired and overworked all the time, and we’re giving up precious time that could be spent on ourselves and our friends and family doing things that will make us laugh and feel alive inside.
On a work-related standpoint, hard work doesn’t easily equate to better results (that is, more productivity). For instance, in Greece, the average employee works for 2,017 hours a year—that’s eight hours from Monday to Friday, but they’ve been in a financial crisis for about four years now. In Germany, employees work for an average of 1,408 hours a year—only seven hours in those five days—and they get 24 paid vacation days; but Germany’s productivity is so high that it’s the leading manufacturer of goods (also known as the industrial powerhouse) in Europe.
The point is that you also have to be efficient when you work hard so you can do your tasks properly, finish them on time (or early), impress your superiors, and still have hours left for yourself. If you were never the hard worker, be the smart worker at the very least:
1. Take breaks during work hours.
You need to take breaks to keep your brain focused on your tasks. Your brain can only keep its focus for an average of one hour and thirty minutes, and resting for about 15 minutes lets your brain renew itself before intensely working once again.
You don’t have to follow the numbers strictly. Just don’t forget to take short breaks when you’re feeling drained. The quality of your work and your health depends on your breaks.
2. Take naps.
Naps help you retain and recall information. When a piece of information is recorded in the brain, it can still be easily forgotten especially when additional information is being put. Napping apparently pushes these information or memories into that part of your brain in charge of permanent storage. So if burnout is getting to you due to information overload, nap.
3. Schedule your tasks.
This helps you know things you should do and have time for, and things you shouldn’t do hence shouldn’t even make time for. You won’t waste any moment wondering what you should be doing or being confused and rattled about the things you should have accomplished before going to the next task.
4. Know your priorities.
What is it that you want in your life and what should you do to get there? If you want your life to revolve around your work, you can go ahead and spend your supposed downtime working. But if you have other goals and other passions, get to them when you can. It’s not a lot of time especially if you only have weekends for your interests and hobbies, but it’s better than no time for them at all. They’ll still make you happy and grow, and that’s good.
5. Work based on your energy.
There’s no point doing something mentally tedious if you don’t feel like thinking. You’re better off doing something brainless then, and the important taxing work when your energy is high.
6. Have a notebook and pen with you for your ideas.
If your work requires you to be creative or resourceful, carry a notebook and pen with you, or whatever you can make notes with. Chances are ideas will come to you when you’re outside of work so take them down so you won’t forget them. You just saved time brainstorming on your own in the office or trying to recall that brilliant idea that came to you when you were commuting.