The American poet Robert Frost once said that ‘by working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be the boss and work twelve hours a day’.
For years I would get to my desk by 8am and not leave until at least 7pm. Weekends and holidays were also spent constantly checking emails and answering calls. I was addicted to work!
Recently I’ve made some life changes to prevent work for work’s sake, and to do the minimum necessary for maximum effective. This has not been easy and sometimes I feel my Scottish protestant work ethic battling against any idea that there is more to life than working long and hard. So I wanted to share with you the six rules I now apply in the office to ensure that my work absorbs me but doesn’t control me.
1. Review and prioritize the next days tasks at the end of the day. You should always know which three tasks you want to get completed that day. If you only completed three tasks today what would they be?
2. I check emails twice per day, once at 11am and again at 4pm. I never check emails first thing in the morning but instead look to complement my most important task (MIT) before lunch.
3. As much as possible I try to batch tasks together (e.g. doing all my in-person meetings on Wednesdays) to avoid time and mental costs involved in constantly switching from one type of task to another.
4. If you spend lots of time sitting down or in front of a computer screen it’s super important that you take regular intervals to move and give your eyes a rest.
5. Out of the office by 6pm. This was a hard one for me because I come from a culture where presenteeism is highly valued. I now make it a point of getting out and taking a long walk or cycle at 6pm to clear my mind.
6. Drink lots of water. I’m still working on reducing my caffeine consumption (down to two cups a day) and increasing how much water I drink each day. The easiest way of doing this is to always ensure that you have a big bottle of water sitting on your desk. Easier said than done I know!
So what rules do you try and apply when working? Would love to read your comments below….