A study earlier this year discovered that the work limit for a healthy life should be set 39 hours a week, although it’s reasonable, or even respectable to put in those extra hours to excel at what you do. But what happens when those few hours morph from a monthly bad habit into your daily grind? The reality is, the expectation of your work quality grows with the hours you put in and it’s a difficult cycle to break. And hey, those additional hours can be a security blanket for some. After all, our dollars are the currency of freedom and the key to a decent lifestyle, and it’s downright competitive no matter what industry you’re talking about.

So, if the way we're working doesn't work, it’s time to shift our paradigms about work and beat it at its own game. 

Reclaim lunch breaks
Do you find yourself eating your sandwich at your desk because you feel this strange magnetic pull of guilt for stepping away? It’s understandable if you’re ‘in the zone’, but don’t wait until you’re at the absolute bottom of your mental barrel to take those 20-30 minutes of personal time from the rest of your hours designed by someone else. You could easily wind up as one of those employees working an extra 40 hours a year due to skipped breaks. Take that lunch break and recharge your cognitive batteries.

Build those bridges
Many of us are likely in a situation where we roll our eyes when it comes to getting to know the people we work with – but they might just be our saving grace. Investing in relationships with your team can actually make work fun. We’re all in the same boat, so we may as well share our victories and misfortunes with one another, and potentially reduce stress in the shared environment. Make those mundane tasks enjoyable!

Screen free zones
Do the words on your screen occasionally blur into one big Times New Roman mess? It’s time to step away from the screen, first and foremost, for your productivity. The ‘blur’ habitually transcends into your time-waster go-tos. If you actually tracked your time at work, you would find those lost minutes to procrastination, quickly add up to hours of, well, you staring candidly at your phone or a blank wall. People often waste time because they’re disengaged, tired – or both. If leaving work at a decent hour means taking a strategic walk around the block or 100 jumping jacks on the spot; go for it, no one will judge you (at least not to your face).        

Priority rules
It’s no secret those with strong prioritisation skills generally win at life. Your time is valuable, so if you find yourself questioning your inclusion in another one of ‘those’ meetings, or saying ‘yes’ to tasks that have no relevance to your role, stand up and put yourself first – especially if the above adds absolutely no value to your productivity. Setting clear expectations with a team member or someone that sits higher up on the food chain is a difficult obstacle to overcome, but it’s usually one of the first steps to prioritising your tasks and helping you work smarter.

Don’t be a martyr
Remember, it’s not about the hours you’ve worked, but the outcomes you’ve achieved. Work martyrdom helps no one. Millennials are more likely to display this trait due to budding careers and a desire to climb the ranks. The self-induced pressure and stress simply isn’t worth it. It also tends to follow you home, and it’s quite obvious what that can do to your ‘balance.’    

Ask for help
Don’t let that looming deadline get the better of your wits, ask the people around you for help. Multiple minds are usually better than one, and you never know what fresh eyes can bring to the table. If that isn’t an option, tap into your support system outside of work. There’s nothing like a good pep talk from mum or your best mate to re-energise your mind and get you back on track.