Sometimes, success at work can have much more to do with what you do outside of working hours, than what you do when you are actually sitting behind your desk. The most successful people seem to manage to fit in a varied and interesting set of hobbies and practises into their personal life without it impacting in a negative way on their job. Could it be that this is actually the secret to their success – rather than the working hours they put in?
It seems that focusing on building your own personal skillset can be highly beneficial to maintaining high levels of success at work, without burning out or letting the stress get to you. If the number of hours you are working each week are preventing you from focusing on yourself, it could result in bad news for your work and for you as a person.
A study carried out at Stanford University in 2014 discovered that the number of working hours can have a huge impact of productivity. In fact for every hour that a person works above 50 per week, their productivity drops off to a level that makes it inefficient. For those of us who think we are doing the right thing in coming into work early, leaving late every night or turning on the laptop on weekends, the answer seems clear – use those extra hours a little more productively.
So how can we apply these principles to becoming successful at work and avoiding the inevitable burnout that seems to affect other people all the time?
Consider your productivity
Most of us know the point in the day when your brain goes on strike. It hits like a ton of bricks and no matter how much coffee you drink, you simply cannot perform any better. This is the time to call it a day – even for a little while. Take a break and recharge by doing something completely unrelated to work.
Another study on basketball players looked into the practise of visualisation and discovered that just one hour of visualising their basketball throwing resulted in better actual results that real life practise did. It is thought that this is due to muscle memory – your mind has taught your muscles what to do. It seems that your brain can actually learn to become more productive and successful at work when you teach yourself how to slow down and think more clearly. By visualising yourself achieving can lead to the exact thing you crave.
Your recharge time can include visualisation as shown above and could result in another spurt of creativity. Or simply read a book, watch TV, go for a walk and switch off from work.
Go home on time at least once a week. Staying late at work every night is a recipe for trouble. You may think that your boss will think it looks good or your workmates will be impressed. But people get pay rises and bonuses based on their output, not their hours of screen time. You will achieve more tomorrow if you rest today.
Do what makes you feel good
Some of us get off the train one stop early and walk, some of us read a book on the bus or listen to music, some of us have a coffee and a Danish at a café and relax before we start the day. Work out what makes you happy and relaxed and focus on that before you start your working day. Give yourself the time in your morning to consider your own personal needs. If it means getting up an hour early – this will actually improve your work day and will not leave you more tired.
This applies to lunch breaks, after work and weekends too. Work isn't everything, but neither are friends and family. It might sound harsh – but you need at least a short amount of time every day that is for you alone. If you are so busy attending to children, doing the school run, rushing to work and then cleaning the house on the weekends, doing DIY ( I am not going to pretend that I do all of that, but I know there is plenty of people who do !) , your work will suffer and actually...your family life will suffer too. Make family time a happy time by being kind to yourself.
Delegate, delegate, delegate
Both in work and out. Tasks that can be done by someone else always should be. If success at work is more important to you than doing your own laundry or washing your own car, then pass those jobs on to an expert who is likely to do a better job in any case.
Knowing your own limitations at work is also a sign of successful individuals. They know when they can't do something or that it might take them longer. So they employ an expert or find someone else in the office who is good at it. Use your resources and allow your own skills to shine.
Personal development is your responsibility
It is all too easy to rely on our work to build our development – but this is very limited as it focuses solely on your work-based skillset. What if you have always wanted to learn to ride a horse or fancy becoming a bonsai expert? Putting time aside on a weekend or during your annual leave to work on your own personal development is essential. Who knows? You may find the key to your every desire and decide that a new career is the path to take. But you will never know if you don't take a gamble.
This also means looking after your health. Eat well, don't drink too much, exercise regularly and surround yourself with good people. Spend time on yourself.
Give yourself the gift of time
If you look at our list so far you will see that it all focuses around the concept of time. Either we are asking you to make more time or to use your time wisely. But how do we make more time when there seems to be so little of it about? This is about priorities. If you want to sleep in – go ahead, in the knowledge that you will have less time in your day. If you like ironing your own shirts, then feel free. If you love to cook elaborate meals then go right ahead. Do what you love and don't do what you hate. Priorities really are as simple as that.
By learning what you love and hate and doing your best to avoid those things you dislike (as best as possible) you are offering yourself the gift of time. Because no one will suggest that time spent doing what you love is a waste of that time. It is a gift to yourself.
What I do
You can’t write an article like this without sharing, so….this is what I do to be successful and stress free.
I make sure I take my lunch hour.
I plan extensively and keep (as much as possible) to my plan. This causes significantly less stress and gives me the feeling of control.
I delegate (I have a nice little 7 point plan if anyone is interested).
I make sure I don’t work late every night.
I try not to work more than 50 hours a week - unless I have to.
I do 3 exercises in the morning for a minute. Press ups for a minute etc.
I go to the gym once a week and I see a Krav Maga instructor (martial arts) at the weekend.
I take a liquid Vitamin B and D supplement and a Co Enzyme 10 tablet every morning. I got this idea from “Play it away” by Charlie Hoehn. I have to say that my energy levels and mental focus has improved since doing so.
I make sure I travel new a location at least once a month.
I have the focus@will app on my iphone which plays some nice calming classical music (actually it’s designed for productivity, but I find it good for de-stressing).
I read a book on the way home (non-work/business related).
I focus on creating a positive language and strong mental outlook.
I use creative visualisation (lots of books on this) to imagine the outcome I would like to achieve.
This quote from Virginia Wolf sums it up for me: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
I will not pretend that I do all of the above all of the time, but I certainly work to ensure that I do.
I believe that success at work and success at home is a symbiotic relationship. One should never take precedence over the other or one will begin to suffer. What you do at home will impact on your work and vice versa – so make sure that the impact it is having is a positive one. Otherwise...what is the point?