What comes to your mind when you think of a hard-working executive or professional? Is it someone who puts in long hours at the office, even after others have gone home?
We tend to associate really hard work with the hard-driving types of people who seem to always be “on the clock.” They are certainly working hard, but is all of that hard work actually paying off, in terms of steady progress towards their most important goals?
In my experience as a time management and productivity consultant, I have seen that the “always on” approach can be counterproductive. Not only do your mind and body need regular rest, but without them the results you get from any amount of work you do are greatly diminished.
With that in mind, here are three times you definitely shouldn’t be doing – or thinking about – any work:
When you are too sick. It is one thing to push through a case of the sniffles, and another one altogether to try to handle a full (or even partial) workload when you are too ill. For one thing, you should be concentrating your strength and energy on recovering and coming back to work healthy. And for another, you might only make things worse at the office – it’s hard to make great decisions when you are sick, and you won’t make your job any easier by spreading your illness to other coworkers.
When you are on vacation. Everyone needs a mental break now and then, and taking a vacation away from the tasks and projects that normally fill your day can actually lend you a valuable perspective on them. One of the most peculiar – and predictable – quirks of the human mind is that we often reach the greatest insights indirectly, so leave work out of your vacation day.
During family or personal time. At what point in your day are you “finished” and available to give your loved ones undivided attention? You should be able to draw a line somewhere and stick to it. Although there might be occasions where you have to take work home with you or interrupt a planned activity, it is not worth it to destroy your personal relationships just to try to finish a bit more. Besides, problems at home can turn into a bigger distraction that hurt your productivity even more.
Know when to work and when to give your mind and body a break. It might seem counterproductive to “stop working hard” once in a while, but it can actually be the best thing for your productivity, health, and career.