By Michael Gunther

We are a nation of workaholics – thanks to our smartphones and tablets, we stay connected to work like never before: evenings, weekends, vacations, etc. Actually, 73% of respondents in a recent survey stated that having a day off doesn’t mean not working. They are actually still responding to emails, logging up to two plus hours on their ‘day off’ and feel compelled to do so to keep engaged with their employer. Do all these additional hours actually make us more productive? Not at all: We are actually less productive, more stressed and burned out.

There is also hard evidence to suggest working over 50 hours a week can lead to a 67% increase in heart disease, a three times increased likelihood to develop an alcohol-abuse problem, and a decrease in productivity due to the stress of working more. These long work days tend to also lead to less sleep. Getting six or less hours of sleep for a period of two weeks showed normal cognitive performance deficits equal to going entirely without sleep for three full days.

It is time to take a stand and figure out how to get your work responsibilities accomplished in less than forty hours. I understand some weeks may require some additional hours, but consistently working extended hours is not a sign of being a hard worker. Actually, it is a sign of not being a wise manager of your time. The old adage to ‘work smarter, not harder’ is more appropriate than ever in the current work environment.

Here are 4 simple tactics to get your hours in check.

Save time at work

Assessing how much time you spend on tasks could reduce your work by 20%.

First, evaluate how you spend your day at the office. Are you jumping from email, to telephone, to tasks on the never-ending hamster wheel of connectedness? Block out your time for specific tasks and stick to it.

Assess how much time you are spending on certain tasks. Are you spending more time on a low-level task that will have little impact on your business or are you spending the appropriate amount of time on your larger tasks? I bet 20% of the tasks you are doing could wait or aren’t really that important in the overall scheme of things.

Manage the interruptions throughout the day. Every time you stop to chat with someone or someone pops their head into your office for a quick question, it takes time to reengage with what you were originally doing. This time adds up – if you don’t believe me, begin to track how often you are interrupted in a day or a week.

Keep yourself on a 40-hour work week schedule. If you know you can’t work after hours or on the weekend and had to get everything in your 40 hours – would your work habits change?

Bottom Line

“Work smarter, not harder” truly applies here. Take a few minutes each day to make sure you are set up to have the most productive day and practice some new time management habits.

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