Claim back your weekends

Most of us work hard these days. Many of us even work hard on our so-called 'days-off'. Now I think it is OK to occasionally do some work in your free time, but many of us become trapped in a continuous cycle of working 50, 60 or 70 hours or more each week. The dilemma of working too hard for too long is that the stress comes out one way or another - perhaps through health problems, intolerance in our relationships, or out-of-character behaviour. Certainly, you will not be happy living your life out of balance for so long. And neither will your family. So, how do you reclaim your weekends or days-off? Here are my top five tips for doing so.

Number one is simply to schedule other things to do in your free time. It might be pursuing a hobby or interest, something fun to do with your partner or family, or perhaps an activity to take you away from where you usually do your weekend work. Schedule your work for certain days of the week only. And make Friday your deadline for completing work instead of Monday. Many people find if they schedule time both for work as well as free time, they work more productively when in work mode, getting more done in less time.

My second tip is to manage the expectations of others. Maybe you need to let your workplace know when you are unable to be contacted. Or perhaps you need to negotiate with your partner so they are supportive of what you are trying to do.

Third on my list is to change your environment in some way. Some people find they need to get away from their home office or computer so they are not tempted to check their emails or do other work. Others place their home office off-limits for the weekend.

My fourth tip is to find a way of thinking that helps you to find a better balance. It could be, "That's enough for now", "My family is more important than my work" or "Maybe a proper break will help me to work more productively when I restart". As is the case with so many things, we need to be thinking about the choices we are making rather than simply operating on automatic pilot.

Lastly, if you do weaken and start doing work in your free time, at least limit the time you spend doing so. But beware of falling into this trap. Some people find they have good intentions of working for just a couple of hours, but end up doing much more. Others find that even a couple of hours work, puts them in work mode for a much longer period of time. You need to know when you have given enough to your work. If you wait until you have an empty in-basket to ease up on yourself, you might be waiting a long time.

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