How to Survive a 60-Hour Work Week
9 tips to keep your mind and body healthy when working hard
It isn't uncommon for people to have a 60-hour workweek occasionally, but some individuals find themselves repeatedly working these extra-long weeks. If you are one of them, you may feel overworked. It can affect your health, both mentally and physically.
In addition to health problems, long weeks can take a toll on your productivity. One of the most common issues that arise from overwork is job burnout. The irony with burnout is that, at a time when you need to be putting all your energy into your work, burnout can make it feel impossible to chip away at your to-do list.
You may not have another choice. You either put in the time your boss expects or lose your job. While the hours may not be optional, you can choose how you approach your job. Here are some tips to help you survive the 60-hour workweek.
Remember to Take Breaks
Although it is important to stay focused on your work, it is equally crucial to take periodic breaks from it. It may sound counter-intuitive, but taking breaks can actually help you get a project done quicker.
After working on something for a long time, you will find yourself losing focus. Words mesh together on the computer screen. You have to continually remind yourself what you're supposed to be doing. Your error rate increases. All of this ultimately slows down your progress, so it's beneficial to take breaks—even if they're short—to recharge your brain. Take 15 minutes to walk around the block, call a friend, listen to some music, or eat a snack. When you return to work, your ability to concentrate will have improved.
Keep Up With Your Exercise Routine
A particularly busy time at work may not be the best time to begin a new fitness regimen, but if you already work out regularly, don't stop now. Extreme athletes may not have time for their usual 32-mile bike rides, but they should strive to fill their free time with as much of their usual workout routine as they can.
Exercise relieves stress, and if you're working a 60-hour workweek, you probably have plenty of stress that could use relieving. Job stress isn't just annoying, it can cause many health problems, too. Exercise helps your body stay healthy while reducing the stress that threatens to harm your future health. Establish a routine that has you consistently working out either before or after work. If you truly don't have any free time for exercise, you should at least fill any breaks throughout the day with a short walk or exercise routine.
Make Time for Fun
Many people faced with having to work 60 hours a week may envision a schedule that allows for no free time. You go to work, come home, sleep, go back to work, come home, sleep, and so on. You can't allow that to become your reality. You have to fit something pleasurable into your weekly routine, or you will be miserable.
Try to break up your routine at least once or twice a week. Find a couple of hours to go to a movie, take a hike through nature, or enjoy a meal with friends and family. If you don't, you could come to resent your job, and resenting how you spend 60 hours of your week will negatively impact your mental health and work performance.
Drink Plenty of Water
It is imperative to stay well-hydrated, not just for your body, but also for your mind. Healthcare journalist Shereen Lehman calls water an essential aspect of proper brain function. "If you're having trouble concentrating," says Lehman, "it may be time for a water break." Water breaks serve a biological function for your brain and body, and they also help to break up the monotony of the workday.
Those who find water's taste boring can add slices of lemon, orange, or apple (or all three) to it to give it a light flavor without a lot of calories. Chug it. Sip it throughout the day. Do what's necessary to maintain hydration. Your body, mind, and employer will thank you.
Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Workers pulling long shifts regularly turn to drinks like coffee and soda for a caffeine boost, but that isn't a good long-term strategy. While they may help you stay alert for a short time, caffeine is a drug, and too much can cause adverse side effects. If you feel yourself getting jittery or developing gastrointestinal problems, it's time to cut back.
You don't have to completely quit coffee—at least not during this stressful time—but keep a close eye on your use and make sure you aren't overdoing it. It's hard enough to work a 60 hour week without feeling shaky and battling an upset stomach, not to mention the crash you will experience when you come down from that caffeine high (or the sleepless night that will happen if you don't).
Avoid Working Seven Days a Week
When you have a lot to do, it may seem like your best option is to keep going without taking any days off at all. That's a terrible idea. It will be nearly impossible to sustain that kind of schedule without your work and health suffering greatly. You need to take time off.
You may not be able to take two consecutive days off, but you should try to keep at least one full day work-free. The time off refreshes your body and mind. It's worth working a little extra one day to give yourself another day off. When you return to work, you will feel better, and your quality of work will be better.
Don't Overdo It With Junk Food
When you are in the middle of a non-stop work schedule, junk food may seem like your only choice for meals. It's fast and easy, and the stress of your workweek can enhance your cravings for salty and sweet foods.
There are better options. Junk food may satisfy your cravings, and it will fill you up, but it is also full of empty calories. Your body and mind are working hard, and you need nutritious foods to keep your body nourished.
Although you probably won't have time to prepare a full meal on your lunch break, you can plan ahead and prepare several meals at once. A large bowl of salad, for example, will last you for a few days. Add a hardboiled egg, canned tuna, or rotisserie chicken for protein. Hardboiled eggs will keep in your refrigerator for up to a week, and you can buy a prepared rotisserie chicken at your grocery store. Whole fruits and store-bought fruit salads make good snacks to keep you going in between meals. If you stock the fridge with ready-made, healthy food, you won't be as tempted to run through a fast food restaurant on your lunch break.
Get Enough Sleep
Experts believe adults should sleep an average of eight hours each night. It may feel like getting a good night of uninterrupted sleep is an impossible dream, but you should strive for this goal nonetheless. Without it, you will experience fatigue and lack of concentration. You might be able to get by on a few hours of sleep every once in a while, but if short nights become routine, your performance will suffer.
Sleep experts say establishing a routine can help you get your eight hours. Try to get to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Even on your days off, don't stay up or sleep in too late. If you're feeling especially sluggish, a short nap can help refresh you, but don't let yourself sleep for more than 20 minutes. Otherwise, you could throw off your sleep schedule.
Try to Accommodate Your Early Riser or Night Owl Preferences
If you have to spend extra hours working, you might as well play into your natural preferences. Working overtime typically means staying late and working into the evening, but you might be able to work out a different situation with your boss. If you're a morning person, find out if you can instead put in extra hours before the workday starts.
If that option isn't available, you can still use your time efficiently. You might not be able to start your workday at sunrise, but you can still get up early and knock out chores, fit in a workout routine, or enjoy some hobbies that your overtime schedule won't allow you to get to at night.