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You're working too hard and wasting your time

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When was the last time you left the office at 5pm on the dot? For around 60% of Irish employees that day was a long time ago.

According to the latest Cpl Employment Monitor, just under 40% of Irish employees work only their allotted hours – the rest of us put in extra time every week. More than 10% do seven or more extra hours.

In other words we’re all working way too hard and, more importantly, we’re wasting our time.

It’s killing your creativity

You are at your most creative when you have the time and space to wander onto ideas. Think of the last time you had a great idea; I’ll bet it was just before you went to bed, on the bus or in the shower. This doesn’t happen because of any kind of magical atmosphere in your bathroom. It’s because you had nothing else on your mind at the time. At work you have emails, phone calls, clients, colleagues and other projects all competing for your attention – leaving little or no time for ideas.

Even if you set aside time for ‘creativity’, there is no guarantee that great new ideas will follow that schedule. Ideas can’t subscribe to your Google Calendar. Your mind needs time to breathe – to make connections that you wouldn’t normally see – and that can only happen when you spend less time in the office.

And your productivity

Even if creativity isn’t important to you, productivity probably is and studies indicate that more time at work doesn’t necessarily mean more work done. According to research done by the Business Roundtable, in 1980, found that “increasing a team’s hours in the office by 50 percent does not result in 50 percent more output.” The increase is more like 25-30 percent. If you apply that to a 40 hour week, that means working an extra 20 hours you would only get 10 hours’ worth of work done. In other words half of that extra time at work was wasted. Time you could have been coming up with great ideas or resting gone up in smoke with nothing to show for it.

And it’s burning you out

Which leads to an even more dangerous effect of working too many hours – burn out. In many ways ‘burn out’ is just a buzz word for being really, really tired. A fact that both makes it sound a little less scary and a lot more likely. If you regularly work 11 or more hours a day, that leaves just 13 hours for a commute, meals, personal time and sleep. In other words, it’s unlikely you’ll get a good eight hours and, according to a 2012 study, sleeping less than six hours per night is one of the best predictors of on-the-job burnout.

This isn’t just because people who work a lot are tired but because tiredness at work can become a vicious cycle. When you fall behind at work, the temptation is to work harder or put more hours in to catch up. But then, as we discussed above, extra time at work doesn’t equal extra work done. So you spend more time in work, leave less time for sleep and get less done. You fall further behind, the stress mounts and you feel compelled to put in even more time but get less and less return for the time you put in.  It’s a chain reaction that can become impossible to break.

The only solution is to give yourself a break instead – something over half of us aren’t very good at according to the monitor. Your body wasn’t made to run forever with no rest; no matter how much sugar, coffee or red bull you fill it with. The next time you start to feel yourself fade as it comes close to five, don’t grab a coffee and push yourself to do a few more hours. Go home. If you don’t you’ll just be wasting your time.