A lot is written – including here – about how to work harder, be more productive and get more done. But it's just as important to keep in mind that working too much is bad for your mental and physical health and does not do much for your job performance either. Overwork lead to underperformance.
There is, in fact, a large body of research that suggests that – regardless of our reasons for working long hours – overwork does NOT help us. Consider this:
Numerous studies by Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health indicate that overwork and the resulting stress can lead to all sorts of health problems, including impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory, and heart disease.
In a study of consultants by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University’s School of Business, managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to. This seems to indicate, to me at least, that working harder does not necessarily mean working smarter. Or at least not working better.
Finally, even if you enjoy your work and the long hours are self-induced, a 2006 study shows that the fatigue still takes its toll: only 1-3% of the population can sleep 5-6 hours a night without any impact on performance.
For the 97-99% of the rest of us, that impact manifests itself in more errors, mistakes, work accidents, along with the less measurable but definite negative impact on judgment and decision-making.
So switching off at the end of the day is a must. For many that has always been harder, but remote work makes it even harder. Your work station is not across town, it's just feet from your couch, leading to many working hours and hours longer than they would if their physical office was open. Which may or may not be good for their company but it certainly isn't good for them.
That's why a daily shutdown routine is a must. Here's a look at a good one to follow, whether you are still working remotely or are back in the office proper.
Declutter Your Desk
A cluttered desk makes it hard to leave work in the evenings and even harder to get started the next morning. That’s why you should always try to completely clear your desk at the end of each day. Everything should either be put in drawers or filed away, even if you know you’ll need it the next day.
This does two things: First, it cues your brain that work is over and it’s time to shift out of work mode. Second, having nothing on your desk in the morning makes it less likely that you'll end up procrastinating before getting to work.
Review Emails and Texts
This step is super quick. Scan your inbox and recent text messages to make sure you haven’t missed anything that needs immediate action before you call it a day. Even if you are 99.9% sure there isn’t anything you need to do, the act of reviewing your inbox and messages signals to your brain that you are closing the email/text loop until the next day.
Set Your Top 3 Priorities for Tomorrow
Based on your inbox/text scan, place a sticky note on your desk and jot down the three most important things you want to get done the next day. That will help ensure they are immediately brought back to your attention in the morning, making it more likely they'll get done.
Set Your Evening Intention
While the first steps are about ending your current workday and making it easier to get started working the next morning, the final step will help you be more present and relaxed 'off the clock'.
Make a mental note- or even write down – one or two small intentions you have for your evening. It does not matter what they are, as long as they don't involve work.
Our outside socializing options are limited right now, but you can still get out and go for a walk with the dog and/or kids, block some time for date time with your significant other or even just to finish watching Tiger King on Netflix.
By spending the last five minutes of your workday “shutting down,” you'll become more intentional and engaged both at work and at home. It’s a win-win in just five minutes.