How to Make Working After Hours Bearable
Sometimes 40 hours a week doesn't cut it, and pulling some overtime is required to get the job done. But working after hours doesn't have to be all bad. With some forethought, you can make it downright bearable.
Set a Goal for the Evening
Yes, you must work overtime; no, you don't have to complete your entire to-do list. Unless you're working against a specific deadline, set a manageable goal for that evening's work, decide how long you can reasonably work, and stick to that plan. Once you've accomplished your goal, stop working and head home guilt-free.
Prioritize and Don't Procrastinate
Tackle less-than-desirable tasks first. The sense of accomplishment you feel getting those out of the way will energize you for the rest of your work.
If Possible, Leave the Office
If it's feasible to work after hours from home or a coffee shop, then do so. The change in scenery will keep you from feeling like you live at the office. Plus, you can change into your sweats or yoga pants.
Take a Break
This might seem counterintuitive, but it's a good idea to take a quick break between business hours and after hours. This might be a healthy dinner break (more on this in a minute), or it might be a trip to the gym, a meditation break or a short nap. Think about how much more productive you feel on afternoons when you take lunch instead of eating at your desk; the same is true for a dinner break when you're pulling extra hours.
Tip: Download a meditation app for your smartphone. You'll be amazed at how refreshing a 10- or 15-minute guided meditation can be.
Eat a Healthy Dinner
Especially when the whole team is working long hours, it's easy to indulge in heavy takeout dinners (particularly on the client's dime). After all, dinner might feel like all you have to look forward to, so why not indulge in pizza or Chinese? Think again. The ensuing food coma will hinder your productivity—plus, do you really want to spend your time after busy season trying to lose 10 to 15 pounds?
Named after a tomato-shaped timer (really), the Pomodoro Technique is ideal for powering through long stretches of work. Creator Francesco Cirillo offers clear instructions for this productivity technique on his website. The concept is simple: Work 25 minutes, then take a short break. Congratulations—you've completed a "Pomodoro." Every four Pomodoros, take a longer break (20 to 30 minutes in length). When you think about it, the Pomodoro makes sense: You can tackle anything for 25 minutes! Pomodoro devotees rave about increased productivity and focus, as well as better time management.
Build in Non-Work Time at the Day's End
Don't go home and go straight to bed. You need time to unwind. Give yourself half an hour to watch a favorite TV show, read a good book or take a relaxing bath. (In general, it's not a good idea to make drinks with colleagues the way you end your day—not only do you need a break from these people, but also alcohol and coworkers are be a dangerous combination for many reasons.)
Similarly, if you know it's going to be a late night, get up half an hour earlier so you have a little time to yourself. Your attitude will be improved if every waking minute isn't dedicated to the office.
If you're in control of when you do the extra work, consider whether you're a night owl or an early bird. For some of us, the task that seems impossible at 8 p.m. is completed quickly at 6 a.m.
Plan for a Reward
If you're nonexempt and being paid for your overtime, try to earmark the extra cash for something fun, like a vacation. But even if long hours won't increase your paycheck, plan a treat for yourself so you can see light at the end of the tunnel. If you know working evenings means you can treat yourself to a massage Sunday afternoon, the long hours won't seem so bad.