THE BLOG
10/02/2015 07:12 GMT | Updated 11/04/2015 06:59 BST

Is Working More Than 40 hours a Week a Good Idea?

A friend was telling me last week how at the moment he has so much added responsibility at work that he is working more than 15 hours a day, seven days a week. While this is temporary, how many of us actually love our job or commit to work so much that we tend to have very full days? Sometimes because we have to, many times simply because we have become used to it.

We live in a world where working long hours with enthusiasm is particularly celebrated and if on top of that we are lucky enough to be doing what we love, we cannot go wrong, can we? Well, in fact, we can!

Studies show that working more than 40 hours a week actually decreases productivity and if you keep doing it for more than three or four weeks, your productivity then turns negative! Not to mention extreme exhaustion and potential burnout. Of course, the length of time you have been overworking is key, overdoing it for a few weeks will not have the same effect as doing it for years. Some of us are also more resistant but we do all have limits and it is better to know where they are rather than crash unexpectedly into them as so many of my clients have discovered very painfully.

But let's focus today on the occasional overwork. While being careful not to overdo the overload for too long, if you have to work extra hard for a while here are a few simple tips that can make all the difference.

Starting the day: The alarm clock goes: take time to breathe deeply and stretch fully before you get up. Breakfast? Even if yours is short and sweet, taste it, savour it, enjoy it! And that goes for anything you will be eating during the day!

Transport: Can you believe that you can actually use that time to relax? Sitting in the train? Waiting at the traffic light? Use any waiting time during your day as compulsory relaxation time! That can also be at the coffee machine, or waiting for your computer to start. Breathe, drop your shoulders, check there are no tensions here and there in your body and if there are, try to let them relax gently.

At work: take a break before you are tired. You will restore your energy much more quickly and be effective and alert much longer. Sit down, close your eyes, unclench your jaw, relax your shoulders, concentrate on the contact of your feet with the floor and breathe out deeply. Then rub yours hands, open your eyes again and off you go. You think you have no time for this? Even 30 seconds will be enough but try to do it several times during the day.

If you find you cannot focus as well as you would like, instead of reaching for an extra cup of coffee to keep you awake, try this instead: breathe in, wait, breathe out, wait, all four equal times, counting them in your head, for about one minute or two.

Back home: If you have been working for more than 10 hours, your mind may still be buzzing and although your body is tired, you may find it hard to unwind and "switch off" to go to sleep. Allow for at least 30 minutes to relax without TV, any screen or any work-related activity before going to bed. Then once in bed, if sleep is eluding you, go for these:

Breathe in and gently tense the muscles in your whole body. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then breathe out loudly, let go and completely relax the muscles. Do this three times.

Count up to three in your mind as you breathe in, count up to four as you breathe out and count up to two while you hold your breath, your lungs empty and then start all over again. Do this gently, at your own pace and change the counts if you need to but keep it as regular as you can.

Have a nice day!