How to take control over your work schedule

Are you a victim of the ‘rise and grind’ mentality? Do you live to work? The idea that we must be constantly proving ourselves by being overachievers and ‘doing it all’ is dangerous. This kind of thinking can lead to regrets later in life. Do you really want to be the kind of person who complains about working too hard and not having lived enough when you’re older?

In this current climate, people who do what their job role requires them to do (and no more) are branded as ‘lazy’. It’s no wonder many of us push ourselves to do more, more, more! We want to feel good about ourselves, to be recognised as valuable, and to be validated by others! But no amount of praise will make up for the time you spend ignoring your mental health and personal desires in the relentless pursuit of ‘success’ (whatever that even means these days).

Are the people who simply do the work that they’re paid to do and no more, lazy? Or, are they intentionally prioritising work/life balance? Are they taking a stance against this toxic work culture and saying “I choose me. I choose a healthy lifestyle.”

We are so much more than our work; we are intelligent, creative, and compassionate individuals.

Hustle culture doesn’t just push us to work too much, it also jeopardises our sense of self. How does anyone establish a clear sense of who they are and what they want from life if they’re constantly immersed in work projects? It just leads you to lose sight of your values and quality of life.

But, we’re better workers and happier people when we save time for self-care, self-exploration, and moments for relaxation. The key is to learn to better manage your time so you can excel at work, but also have moments of true peace and joy in each day. Life is more fulfilling when you’re intentional with your time. 

If you’re ready to regain control over your work schedule, here are some questions to ask yourself to help you achieve better balance.

1. Are you saying yes too much?

Saying yes to every task puts a heavy weight of responsibilities on your back. This load will weigh you down. Ironically, when we say yes too much we end up accomplishing less. Feeling overwhelmed often leads to us feeling unmotivated and lethargic.

Having a long to-do list to complete every day because you struggle to say no is a common dilemma. You’re not alone in shying away from that two-letter word. But you must stand up for yourself and finish the projects you’ve already agreed to do to the best of your ability. 

Saying no when you have a lot of work on is a genuine strength, and it’ll earn the respect and admiration of your colleagues. Protecting yourself from getting overwhelmed by saying ‘no’ more will not only allow you to thrive but it’ll also help you produce higher quality work. 

You’re only human, you can only do so much in a day, so say no more!

Ways to politely and unapologetically say no to people

  • “I’m afraid I can’t fit that in my schedule today.”
  • “I would love to help but I won’t be able to do that at the moment.”
  • “I’m currently focusing on this project, so I can’t take on any more.”

2. When do you do too much? And when do you not do enough?

We all operate uniquely at work, with different strengths and weaknesses. To use your time wisely, it’s beneficial to self-reflect on your current approach. By being mindful of your daily work experience, you can outline the factors prompting your productivity and adjust your work schedule so things flow better.

For instance, in the past, I’ve found myself spending too much time producing resources and not enough time researching and getting inspired. I concluded that I needed to invest more time learning about what I was creating. Knowing this has helped me feel more confident in the work I’m producing and has saved me so much valuable time.

Journal prompts to help you self-reflect

  • What are you spending too much time on?
  • What are you not doing enough of?
  • What time of day do you feel less productive?
  • What environment do you work best in?
  • What helps you be productive? 
  • How do you feel at the end of each work day (why)?
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals?
  • How do you find communicating with your colleagues and superiors?

3. Do you need to stop wasting time?

At the start of each working day, take five minutes to write down what you’re going to do and when. The more specific you can be, the better. To go the extra mile, set timers on your phone to make sure you don’t spend too much time on one activity. Having this audio/visual reminder will encourage you to honour your commitments.

If you’re putting off doing a task and procrastinating, try deciding on a time of day (preferably a point in the day when you commonly feel more motivated) and work on that project for just an hour. Set a timer on your phone to alert you and give it your best. Focus only on this task, and avoid going on your phone. Knowing that you only have to dedicate 60 minutes to this task will make it feel less daunting and it will help you get the ball rolling (sometimes we just need that push to get started).

We can spend hours or even an entire day fretting about initiating a project, or we can dive in for a short duration of time and prove to ourselves that the initial hesitation is, in fact, the hardest part.

Many of us express the intention to go for a walk at lunchtime, yet we end up working over our free period because we “have so much to do”. There’ll always be a perpetual presence of tasks, a constant flow of things to complete. We must accept that we’ll never be done. More work will always materialise, but that is not an excuse to keep going and not take a break. Unless a task is urgent, take some time to pause and rejuvenate!

4. Do you feel guilty when you relax?

Productivity culture = the idea that success necessitates working long hours with little rest, usually at the expense of your well-being. 

You may rarely feel like you deserve a break, feeling the constant pressure to be doing. It’s wise to work on deprogramming ingrained messages about productivity culture because we work more efficiently when we feel empowered to embrace moments of mental and physical stillness.

How to dismantle ingrained productivity culture

Meditate or practice yoga:

Engage in meditation or yoga regularly to instil mindfulness. When we do activities that encourage us to be attentive and purposeful, we counteract the constant rush associated with productivity culture. Embrace being connected to your body, breath, and environment!

Seek like-minded individuals:

Share your struggles and frustrations with the people close to you and the people you work with. Breaking free from the constraints of productivity culture is far easier when you feel you’re not alone on this journey. There are so many people out there who are tired of the unhealthy working dynamic of ‘working hard and playing hard.’ So, if you feel brave, open up and empower others to prioritise happiness and health over relentless productivity.

Develop meaning and purpose outside of work:

If you have passions outside of work, hobbies that you want to invest more time in, or subjects you want to explore more, dedicate time to these fascinations! Having meaning beyond work will enable you to establish a deep sense of self and purpose and this will be a compelling motivator to finish work on time!

You’re not a robot – you are a human being made to love, live, feel, and create. You’re so much more than your work. You’ve done so much in this life; supported people, worked through personal struggles, and contributed to this world! So, grant yourself the permission to feel proud of it all.

If you’d like some professional support to help you take control over your work schedule and regain balance, contact a coach today.

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Written by Alessia Sutherberry
Alessia is a life coach, content creator and writer who cares deeply about making people feel good about themselves. She helps people understand where their self-limiting beliefs stem from so they can foster self-awareness and self-love.
Written by Alessia Sutherberry
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