Why overworking does not make you more productive

We all tend to get trapped in negative beliefs that sound something like this:

  • If I put in more hours, I'll be more productive.

  • I'm successful because I put in 50+ hours per week at work.

  • If I had more time, I'd get more work done.

But these thoughts often lead us to results we don't actually want.

Here's an example:

Circumstance - Your calendar for the month

Thought - If I had more time, I'd get more work done.

Feeling - Frustrated

Actions - Reading blog posts like this one, looking for more time, avoiding actual work to find more time

Result - No time to get more work done.

The thought led to the result in this model.

Your calendar is neutral.

You choose to think thoughts about it. And in this case, it wasn't a helpful thought. It didn't lead to any more time or any more work getting done.

The thoughts that lead us to overwork are sneaky like that. It seems like a helpful thought until you actually live it.

Here's a different thought that completely changes that model:

Circumstance - Your calendar for the month

Thought - I can plan out my work time efficiently.

Feeling - Motivated

Actions - Blocking out time on the calendar, reflecting on time needed for each task, blocking out time for interruptions and surprises

Result - Planned out work time for efficiency.

See how different that model turns out because of a different thought?

If you're interested in learning more about models, please check out The Life Coach School.

I can hear you now. You're saying, "But Caitlin, you don't understand. I HAVE to work 50+ hours in my job. I just have to."

As a life coach, my job is to hold space for you and stay out of your thought swimming pool.

You tell me that you have to work 50+ hours, but I don't believe you until you show me evidence.

It's more likely a thought you're choosing to think.

Why are you choosing to think that you have to work 50+ hours per week?

In a free one-hour session, we can examine your beliefs, up close. We'll separate those thoughts out from the circumstances and work towards purposeful productivity.

For now, let's look at some common behaviors that occur during our work time.

First, are you reading this post when you say you're supposed to be working?

Letting yourself get caught up in distractions is so easy to do.

It's easy to respond to the pings and notifications that show up in our lives.

It's easy to do anything else other than the actual work we're supposed to be doing.

We have to create environments for ourselves where there aren't temptations.

Think about it this way. If you were on a mission to not eat sugar, would you stock your pantry full of sweets? Nope. You'd remove all the sugar opportunities that you could.

The same thing needs to happen with overworking.

Remove the temptations to distract yourself.

  • Hide your phone or or put it in Do Not Disturb mode.

  • Download a browser extension that doesn't let you browse the internet. I like StayFocusd for Chrome.

  • Keep your office door closed or create a distraction free zone in your cubicle.

  • Tell others you will be available during certain time frames and only those time frames.

  • Keep your email closed, except during scheduled times to read and respond.

See this article for help in setting boundaries with your boss.

You've probably heard these tips before. But are you actually implementing them?

Next, I recommend tracking times you are working.

And this isn't just "Oh yeah, 9-5 each day." Don't give me the, "Yeah, I tried that once. Meh." Be very specific:

  • What time of day is it?

  • What was the task?

  • How long did it take?

  • Did you get interrupted? Why?

Creating that simple log will give you a lot of amazing data to look back on in one day and one week.

You'll be able to identify what's going well and what isn't. It won't be vague anymore. It will be specific.

Create the list of results you want, instead of hours you want to work.

If you give yourself 8 hours to write that report, guess how long it will take?

8 hours, maybe 10-12 if you choose thoughts to overwork.

Instead, I recommend creating a result like, "Report written and submitted to boss." Put it on your calendar with a specific time frame.

Refer back to some of your time tracking data if you have it. How long has it taken you to write reports like this in the past?

Stick to the plan you create. You must write that report in the time given.

Choose thoughts like:

  • I can do my work in exactly the time I've allowed myself.

  • Focusing now on my work will pay off in the future.

  • I'm a person who sticks to my plan.

  • I know I can get this report done in the time I've allowed.

  • I'm committed to this plan I've created.

Then you'll end up with a report written in exactly the time you've allowed. Instead of overworking and being exhausted at the end of the process.

Try these steps with your next task and report back!

I'd love to hear what comes up for you. And all about your results.