14 tips to survive working long hours and stay productive

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Typically, your regular schedule may only require that you spend eight hours per day at work. Still, working overtime may be necessary when you want to complete an important project or support your colleague as they work on a complex task. Learning the strategies to cope with long hours at work can help you stay productive even during long workdays. In this article, we share tips for dealing with working long hours.

14 ways to cope with working long hours

You may find yourself working long hours when there's a deal approaching or when your team is understaffed. Staying at work during long shifts is also a standard in some professions and learning how to remain productive throughout those shifts can help you perform well. Here are some tips you can use to thrive while working a long workday:

1. Create a to-do list

To prepare for a long day at work, you may start by creating a detailed to-do list. It's a simple but effective tool that helps you visualise how much you want to accomplish and see your progress throughout the day. Depending on your work style, there are different ways to approach writing to-do lists. For example, some people prefer writing lists on a piece of paper and others choose to do it in apps that sync data from their phones and computers.

You can also organise your list by workflow, priority or due date. After completing a few tasks, consider reorganising it to determine if you're still satisfied with the order of tasks you've established in the morning. When inputting information, use strong verbs to describe tasks. For example, you can write 'develop social media calendar' instead of 'social media calendar' to give your task a more profound meaning and help you visualise the action you're about to perform.

Related: What is a checklist app? (Plus popular checklist apps)

2. Time block your day

Time blocking is a good productivity management method that lets you divide your workday into several blocks of time. The purpose of each block is to focus on one particular task that you want to complete that day. Unlike a to-do list, time blocking not only tells you what to do but also when to do it. This technique is especially useful for people whose role requires working with others and participating in many meetings, as it tells co-workers when not to interrupt you at work.

Related: What is time management? (Importance and how to improve it)

3. Use automation tools

Task automation can help you reduce organisational waste and save time during long days at the office. Initially, automation tools serve to complete repetitive tasks on your behalf, like cold emailing prospects or entering data into the system. As a result, you can focus on more important assignments that require your undivided attention, such as conceptualising projects or doing creative work.

Related: What is workflow automation? (Plus benefits and how-to)

4. Take breaks

Although it may seem like taking a break is the last thing you want to do when working overtime, it can benefit your focus and productivity. By going on a quick walk or taking a power nap, you can reset your thoughts and help your body and mind relax. Additionally, it can reduce the stress that you may be experiencing when rushing to complete a project.

Related: A guide to the Pomodoro technique and how to use it

5. Limit distractions

How you organise your environment and surroundings can positively impact your performance and results at work. One way to do that is to avoid distractions that make it harder for you to concentrate. Common distractions include using your phone while working or sitting next to noisy co-workers. To ensure these don't interrupt your focus, remember to keep personal communication during your breaks. It's also beneficial to avoid multitasking and close the doors to your office while you're working.

Related: How to stay focused: comprehensive strategies and tips

6. Reward yourself

Coping with staying at work overtime may be easier when you decide to reward yourself for the effort you put in that day. How you do that depends on what motivates you. For example, you may go out for lunch during your break, plan a fun evening after work or sleep in during the weekend.

Related: Managing a 7-day work week (plus benefits and tips)

7. Eat a healthy snack

Food is a great source of energy, which can work to your advantage when you're working long hours. Whenever it's necessary to stay in the office overtime, make sure to eat a light and healthy snack. This can elevate your mood and prepare your body for spending some more time at work without feeling heavy in your stomach.

8. Drink water

Just like taking breaks, drinking water improves concentration productivity. This is because it keeps your body hydrated, which increases your energy levels. If working intensely for extended periods gives you headaches, water can sometimes work as a natural remedy that helps with that.

9. Simplify your routine

To effectively handle additional responsibilities at work during a long day, it's often beneficial that you simplify your routine. To do that, analyse what you normally do throughout the day and eliminate tasks that wouldn't contribute to the project on which you'd like to focus. For example, instead of having breakfast at a cafe, prepare your meals the day before and take them to work.

Related: How to create an effective work routine (with tips)

10. Get enough sleep

Developing a sleep schedule that works for you is one of the most important hacks that help with your focus. Sleep-deprived people often lack productivity and may struggle with performing up to their own expectations. To adjust to a regular sleep schedule, consider creating an evening routine to help your body relax. It's also beneficial that you avoid drinking caffeine a few hours before bed.

Related: How to wake up early in the morning (and why it's good)

11. Remind yourself about your end goal

To motivate yourself throughout the day, think about the end goal you want to accomplish. Reflecting on the bigger picture can make individual tasks you're handling feel less intimidating. For example, if you're staying at work after hours to complete a presentation for a client, think about how accomplished and happy you'd feel if the next day's meeting goes well.

Related: How to achieve goals in a work environment (11 steps)

12. Set work-life boundaries

When you're working hard to accomplish something, it's important that you don't let your personal life get in the way. Learning to detach and only focus on your work is a valuable skill that can help you cope with staying at work long hours. To set healthy work-life boundaries, you can turn off your private phone when you're at work. It's also helpful to inform your friends and family about this so that they don't worry and know how to contact you in case of an emergency.

Related: Work-life balance: what it means and its effect

13. Start with the most difficult tasks

When your to-do list is longer than usual, it's important to consider your natural resources and internal clock to put all the tasks in the right order. Usually, starting the day with the most difficult and time-consuming assignments allows you to complete them while you still have plenty of energy to spare. If you have a flexible work schedule and find yourself the most creative in the afternoon or evening, you may consider coming to work later if working evenings is an option for you.

14. Ask for help when it's necessary

Working overtime can be demanding and learning to ask for help may cause you to do that less. There are many reasons for working longer than usual. For example, you may find that you don't have enough resources to complete all your tasks within standard time frames. This could refer to working in a team that's too small or not having access to the right software tools. Asking your supervisor to fix that can improve the quality of your work and allow you to maintain your standard routine.

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