The fifteen best and most efficient ways to put in overtime and have a social life. —Alex Daniel
Yes, working on the weekend sucks. But sometimes it’s necessary. Maybe a deadline got suddenly moved up, or maybe your Thursday “happy hour” spilled into Friday morning and you’ve got some serious catching up to do. Whatever the reason, you should never let your thriving career destroy all of the time reserved for your family and friends. In fact, with these fifteen strategies, you can blaze through work on Saturdays and Sundays and still have plenty of time for a life. And while you’re boosting your productivity, don’t miss The 25 Ways the Smartest Men Get Ahead at Work.
1. Make Sure You Need to Work in the First Place
Before you start prepping your home office, stop and ask yourself: “Do I really have to work this weekend at all?” Studies have found that people, especially high earners, often sacrifice their leisure time to get work done—even when their needs and wants are actually met. In other words: you’re actually just working because you want to work, not because anyone is making you. So be honest with yourself and put off anything that isn’t urgent or could be addressed early on Monday morning. And if you’re finding that you have chronic stress these days, here’s how to not let those poisonous thoughts ruin your fun.
2. Give Yourself Warm-Up Time
Don’t bolt out of bed and dive straight into your computer. Give yourself some time to roll into the morning. Take time to shower, enjoy a cup of coffee, and greet the day. Remember: Since you don’t have a commute, you have a bit more of a cushion before your grind needs to begin. “Not only will you be more awake and more alert, but this will also give you the whole day to be able to focus and plough through the work,” says Steve Pritchard, an HR consultant.
Monica Mizzi, a career adviser and résumé expert at ResumeGenius.com, suggests even doing a few small easy tasks around the house first thing—maybe tidy the living room or wash the dishes. “The feeling of completing something, even if it's small, will put you in the right mindset to tackle the more important ones,” says Mizzi. And while you’re upping your productivity, don’t miss our 8 Game-Changing Strategies Every Boss Should Know.
3. Start Working on Friday Night
Alaia Williams, a top business operations and organization consultant, suggests this helpful hack for upping your weekend efficiency: Put in some time on Friday night, even if it’s just 15 minutes. That way, you’ll build momentum and cut down on what needs to be done on Saturday and Sunday. She adds: “Get the work done so you can stop thinking about it and enjoy your weekend.” Once you've got your head start on what needs to be done, here's how to get an amazing night's sleep afterwards.
4. Listen to Music with Foreign Lyrics
“It's a trick I picked up in graduate school and it's one I still use to this day,” says Geoff Scott, career adviser and résumé expert at ResumeCompanion.com. “Classical and jazz are too relaxing, electronic dance music puts me in a nightclub mindset, but music like Perfume’s ‘Laser Beam’ keeps me going at a good, steady pace.”
As Scott explains, “Japanese pop music with synthesizers and poppy dance beats keeps me awake, and doesn't distract me with lyrics because I don't speak a word of Japanese.”
5. Get Dressed Like You’re at Work
Don’t stay in your pajamas. “Loungewear signals your mind to, well, lounge,” says Jamie Novak, a personal organizer and author of Keep This, Toss That. “When you need to be productive, even for a short stint, try wearing pants.” For great style tips, here’s how to look sharper at work and in your home office.
6. Hang a Sign on the Door
A good way to stay in “work mode” is to let others in your household know you’re in work mode. Consider putting up a sign on the door or some other (friendly) signal to those you live with that you’re hunkering down on something and should not be disturbed. “Family may pop in to say hi or they simply forget you are working,” says Novak. “A little sign on the door or near your work space can be a gentle reminder not to interrupt.” And just because you’re working doesn’t mean you should let yourself go—here are 30 smart ways to stay fit while working.
7. Carve Out the Quiet Times
“To maximize efficiency, schedule work time when you are most alert and when the house is quiet,” says Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D., an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and author of Working with Difficult People. “Most of us slump around 3pm each afternoon, so that would not be an ideal time to work, but that may be a good time to drink a beer and catch up on Netflix.”
8. Change Your Browser
You should use two browsers on your computer: one for work, one for your personal life. “This way, I am not logged into private email, Facebook, or any other social media accounts on my work browser,” says Scott. “Honestly I try to keep my work email closed, too, because that can be a major time sink. By doing this, I do my best to avoid Internet rabbit holes and focus on the task at hand.” If you’re finding that technology is taking over your life, here are 11 Easy Ways to Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction.
9. Take Periodic Breaks
While it’s tempting to stay locked in your home office until your work is completed, slaving for hours without a break isn’t as effective as you may think. “Taking periodic breaks will not only help you fight fatigue and boredom, but it will also help you stay motivated throughout the duration of your day,” says Mizzi.
She adds that one of the biggest contributors to office fatigue is the eyestrain from staring at computers too long. “Especially when we are heavily involved in a task, it's all too easy to forget to look away from our screen and give our eyes a break,” says Mizzi.
10. Use Google’s Time Out
Mizzi recommends using the Google extension Time Out to carve out specific times to relax. “You can set it at an interval of your choosing to give you regular reminders to look away from your screen and take a break,” she says. “After working for a long time, you can allow yourself to have a more substantial break, so you can fit in a bit of fun in your day even when you have to work.” Bonus: you’ll have less eyestrain.
11. Batch Tasks Like HIIT
“You know how Burpees are short bursts of exercise followed by a recovery break?” says Novak. “You can time your work to mimic that idea. Group similar tasks together, like replying to emails or writing a report, and then go in full speed with a timer ticking. Give yourself a specific amount of time to start, continue, or finish a project. Challenge yourself to meet your goal by the bell. Then enjoy a recovery break and come back for another intense (but short) round later.”
Treating work like a sprint will help you fly through more repetitive or mundane aspects of the work—and, who knows, you might even enjoy it. And if you need some (real) exercise inspiration, here are the 10 best cardio workouts for men over 40.
12. Create an “Unschedule”
This is a concept created by Neil Fiore, author of *The Now Habit.” To create an “Unschedule,” you first carve off time on your calendar for fun. When that’s done, you decide when you’re going to work. This way, you can prioritize going out with your family in the afternoon—or meeting friends for dinner—and then use the between times for your work. The result will be guilt-free fun when you’re out and more focused energy when you’re in the office.
13. Stock Up on Good Food
One of the advantages, and dangers, of working from home is your close proximity to the kitchen. But if you’re making elaborate meals, you’re likely burning through time precious time that could be used for getting things done.
Instead, stock up on delicious, but light, snacks: nuts, granola, or dried fruit are ideal options, but feel free to get less healthy snacks if it will serve as a reward you can enjoy after wrapping up an hour of solid work. Few incentives are more effective than one that tastes good. Give yourself a mental boost with some of The 10 Best Foods for Your Brain.
14. Reward Yourself
One of the best ways to keep yourself working is to give yourself bonuses throughout the day. “Set yourself targets, such as being able to stop for a coffee every time you write 1,000 words,” says Pritchard. “While you will naturally be in a hurry to get the work finished as possible, breaks are essential in allowing you time to walk away from the work and return with a fresh mind set.”
15. Remove the Shiny Objects
“Sure, we all know to turn off email notifications to avoid being distracted by incoming emails,” says Novak. “But how about all those shiny objects that catch your eye as you work? Clear your space for a better work environment at home.”
Your home office may be cluttered, but your workspace should be clear—even if that means putting your arm on the desk and swiping everything into a box until you can deal with it later. The point is to focus on the task at hand so you can enjoy the rest of your weekend.
And now that you're a more productive worker, learn how to be a better father, athlete, and friend by reading the 50 Ways to Be a (Much) Better Man.
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