Workaholics: Please spill your secrets!
June 19, 2011 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Dear Workaholics, How have you organized your life so that you’re spending maximum time at the office?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to start spending way more time at the office so that I can finish all my work.

Right now, I usually start work at 8:30 am and finish around 6:00 pm and I usually take about 30 or 40 minutes for lunch. I also usually come in on Saturday and Sunday and do about another 6 hours total. So, this comes out to about 50 hours over seven days.

I keep hearing about people working 60, 70, and 80 hours per week. If you’re one of these people, I’d like to hear about how you’ve organized your life so that you’re able to work this much.

I’m especially interested in people who work in an office (as opposed to working from home).

For example, do you exercise? How long do you sleep for? Do you ever cook at home or do you eat out all the time? When do you do your laundry? How do you stay comfortable while wearing dress shoes, dress pants, and a tie for such long periods of time? How do you get over the feeling that you’re missing out on social activities? How do you deal with fatigue?

Any insights, tips, and tricks are appreciated.

posted by Jasper Friendly Bear to Work & Money (37 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to start spending way more time at the office so that I can finish all my work.

As a threshold issue, are you using your time at the office efficiently? I suspect that for most people, it's not the number of hours spent at the office that equals the amount of work done, but the number of hours spent actually working and not screwing around on the internet or talking to coworkers.
posted by amro at 11:33 AM on June 19, 2011 [12 favorites]

I keep hearing about people working 60, 70, and 80 hours per week

Keep in mind that people will tend to overreport this number, e.g. giving an absolute maximum worst-case hell-week figure as their average working week.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:54 AM on June 19, 2011 [10 favorites]

Keep in mind that people will tend to overreport this number, e.g. giving an absolute maximum worst-case hell-week figure as their average working week.

People definitely overreport the number.

You have lots of people who will claim driving to a dinner meeting, having the meeting, then driving back as 3 hours of work.

You also have people like me who work 8 hours during the day, come home and take care of supper and the dog, then hack until midnight. So, if you took the entire sweep of time between when I started working and when I finally stopped working, it'd be something like 16 hours a day. In reality, though, there was a 4 hour hole in the middle while I took care of the stuff you ask about.

And I don't know anybody who actually manages to keep up with that level of work for more than a few weeks at a time.
posted by Netzapper at 11:57 AM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

are you using your time at the office efficiently?

This - Are you a lot more productive when you go in at the weekend? That would be indicative of the fact that it goes wrong somewhere during the week. Do you spend too much time chatting with your co-workers? Do you get distracted because the phone rings all the time or because your role is to support others but also requires you to produce tangible outputs and you spend too much time 'supporting' and not enough time 'doing'?

And why would you go into the office for an extra 2-3 hrs twice over the weekend? Surely doing an extra hr every day would get you there or 5 hrs in one go over the weekend?

In my experience you sometimes just need to keep your head down and get on with doing the work. If your role makes that difficult you need to work our how you manage others' expectations differently so you can spend time 'doing' as well. If your own behaviour (chatting, internet etc) makes it difficult to be productive change that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:59 AM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Cook bulk over the weekend (e.g., chili, roast chicken, banana bread) and store for easily packable lunches / dinners. I also find that cooking in bulk is great stress relief. Pick up groceries on the way home or on the way from the gym.

To vary up home-cooked meals, find a few good, reliable takeout / delivery places, which can actually be a nice routine.

Bring layers if you're sensitive to AC. Sitting for a long time slows circulation. People recommend office exercises - stretching, chair yoga, jumping jacks, and the like - and while I prefer to take a solid hour+ off for the gym (within walking distance for me), those sound like great warmups / refreshers.

If the additional work you're doing is bringing in extra income, invest in home pick-up / drop-off laundry service, available in most major cities.

Take off at least one half-day off every weekend, preferably two. And schedule a meal or two each week for a friend -- but make it lunch instead of dinner.

All this is assuming you want to / need to stick to a workaholic schedule. It's not the healthiest, but yeah, sometimes we need to get stuff done and the office environment is just more conducive.
posted by taramosalata at 11:59 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is a crazy-ass question, but back when I was working 9 AM to 9 PM days (though I almost never went to the office on weekends), let's see....

- Ate b'fast at home, a big lunch out, a (purchased) snack around 5 PM, dinner at home around 10:30
- Exercised only on weekends (which is how I gained 15 pounds and got totally out of shape)
- Planned stuff with friends around the work demands, e.g., on the more relaxed days, or "let's meet at 8 pm so I have to leave the office 'early.'" I always felt guilty for not being able to hang out, so I tried to find places to fit in social events
- Bonded with the other late-working coworker so that I did not feel lonely or left out of fun

I never did get over the emotional side of it, like when I'd leave at 11 pm and think "why is this the first time in fifteen hours when I saw the sky?????"

All in all, I cannot recommend this plan. The only thing I really did right was have a great coworker and feel too guilty to blow off my friends.

Here are some things that made it slightly healthier: ate better meals at work by making a batch of lunches on the weekends or just bringing a grocery bag full of soups, bread, peanut butter, baby carrots in on Mondays, got a gym membership near work, commuted by bike, and got set up to work from home so that I could at least do a little laundry in my breaks.
posted by salvia at 12:01 PM on June 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

dfriedman: maybe you've never had a job that required really working that many hours, but i assure you that i work very efficiently, and can still work upwards of 50 or 60 hours a week. how about not assuming the OP is wasting his/her time and actually answer the question?

Jasper Friendly Bear: i am probably not the best person to answer this since i don't sleep as much as i should/is average, and because i don't have to wear dress clothes to work, but there are a lot of shortcuts and helpful things you can do to increase your time at work.

when i am working 50+ hours a week, i usually go in really early, because i find that being in the office before everyone else is the best time to get things done without being interrupted. if you're able to go in earlier, that might help.

as for other things - i do my laundry when i have to be at home doing other things. i love multi-tasking, so i will throw in a load of laundry while i answer personal e-mails, bake a birthday cake for a friend, catch up with someone over Skype, or do my banking for the week/month. during particularly hectic weeks, i don't bother to get groceries, and just grab lunch and dinner from places near home/near the office. bringing fresh fruit with me to work is always helpful.

i love that you asked this question. i'm eager to read the responses!
posted by gursky at 12:02 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's no way to work those hours without paying a price, and fatigue is definitely part of that. So is the feeling that you're missing out on other things.

If money is available, you can use it to solve some of your other problems. Having others do your laundry, clean your house, etc. can buy you more time to spend at work. Eating/ordering out has the same effect.

I am surprised that you come in both on Saturday and on Sunday for a combined total of merely six hours. Is there a reason you're not picking one day and working for the full six hours on that day? It can be easier to work one ten-hour day and take a full day off than to do two five-hour days in a row.

The single best thing you can do is adjust your expectations. If you expect to stay at work until 11 pm and redefine that as your new normal, it's less disappointing to actually do that. But this kind of punishing schedule is usually not sustainable in the long term.

Seriously, speaking as someone who once worked 50 hours in a row (not in a week, in a row), consider not doing this.
posted by prefpara at 12:03 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding bulk cooking. And then you can bring both lunch and dinner everyday, which only take 15 minutes each if you eat at your desk.

Also, if you're upping your hours to 60+ a week, be sure to budget time for therapy. I sure had to.
posted by Durin's Bane at 12:05 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I usually end up with a "60" hour work week, including a few hours coming in on the weekends. In reality, during the week I come in at 10am, take a break for an hour or two in the afternoon while it's still nice outside, and then usually again right around dinner. A lot of people in my office will go to the gym in the middle of the day, go home for dinner & come back, take an afternoon off once a week, etc., which usually means they come in for at least a few hours over the weekend or stay late a few nights a week. It gives the impression that everyone's slaving away at work, but that's not actually the case on an individual level.

Maybe try just taking some more personal time during the day?
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:10 PM on June 19, 2011

I work a lot and I love my job. Here's how I do some of things you asked about.

I cook dinner at home almost exclusively. At least once a week I will get home after 9, start dinner and sit down to eat at like 9:45 or 10. Sometimes that feels a little depressing.

I don't have a car or a monthly transit pass so I walk everywhere. To and from work, to the grocery store, to social activities. That's pretty much it for exercise right now.

My office is pretty casual but even still I keep a pair of yoga pants in my filing cabinet, a pair of socks in my purse and a pair sandals under my desk. That way I am pretty much always ready to downgrade my outfit after the rest of the office has gone home or whatever.

I do my laundry at night! So, in the example above, when I got home and 9 and started dinner? I also threw in a load of laundry first thing and then it was ready to go in the dryer by the time I was done with dinner. And I'll put in a load before I go to bed and throw it in the dryer when I get up.

I have struggled with insomnia since I was a toddler so I don't feel qualified to answer the question about sleep.

I work with people that I absolutely adore (for the most part) and like I said above, I really love my work. That means my drive to succeed is pretty high and that makes long days much more palatable than they might be otherwise. Even factoring that in, though, taking time off, leaving the office at 4 PM once in a while and that kind of thing really help to restore and feed me, so make sure you're doing that too. There's no need to grind yourself down unnecessarily.
posted by kate blank at 12:13 PM on June 19, 2011

First and foremost, as alluded to above: "Working" != "at the office," and don't ever forget it. Figure out which one you want, and then go for it. If it's "working," then ask about telecommuting, even if only after 5 and on the weekends. But it can also be "at the office," and that's okay too.

Live as close as you possibly can to your office. Like, walking-distance close. And then walk to work. This takes care of your exercise question as well -- if you have bathing facilities at the office (a real shower, not a sink with a large basin), then you pick out an appropriate distance that starts at your door and ends at your office and you run to work that way. But don't live "running distance" away (e.g. two miles), because then if you don't have time, it's too far to walk. If you don't have bathing facilities, then run home after work.

Sleep is incredibly subjective. I can sleep five hours a night for months at a time with no ill effect. I don't have a secret -- I just can. Lots of people can't. Find your optimum amount of sleep, and then force yourself to get that much. If you do nothing else to preserve your own health while you're on this schedule, get enough sleep.

Large-scale cooking (like taramosalata speaks of) is good if you like cooking. If you don't, microwave meals and raw fruits and vegetables are your friends. Don't trade multiple snacks for a meal -- chips aren't enough. Eating out takes too long, costs too much and isn't generally that good for you.

For clothes, keep extras at the office. Don't underestimate the value of changing into sweats while at the office -- if you don't need to be in dress clothes, then don't be. Don't think of laundry as something you do for an hour -- it only takes two minutes, and then the machine does the work. Put the clothes in the washer, go to bed, then put them in the dryer when you wake up. Fluff for a few minutes after you get home, or deal with a few wrinkles. If you don't have your own washer and dryer, find a laundry service or dry cleaner. As prefpara points out, you can outsource a lot of your other minor tasks, and that makes things easier.

Social activities? Nope. Sorry. Unless you fence off time for it, it won't happen. But surely there's some reason you're maximizing your office time. If it's worth losing your social life, then you're fine. If not, then find another job or limit yourself to this one.

In that vein, fence off time. Whether it's forcing yourself to watch Colbert every night or forcing yourself to go to church Sunday morning, give yourself some block of regular, absolutely unencroachable time at least once per week. And give yourself a longer block every few months, even if it's just a four-day weekend. These blocks give you something to look forward to and help break up the hours and days and weeks and months.

And for the love of whatever gods you happen to worship, make sure there's an end date on this schedule. If that's "June 30th, 2014" or "$3 million in the bank," then fine. If that's "I make partner," then give yourself a timeline there as well, because otherwise your company might just decide they'd rather have you 90 hours a week, thanks.
posted by Etrigan at 12:16 PM on June 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

My husband fairly routinely works 60-hour weeks (he litigates). Some things he does:

*Go in earlier. Like 6 a.m. earlier. You can clock 12 hours by 6 p.m. You still have the whole evening free. You get a lot done in the early-morning hours before people start arriving.

*If this is a permanent lifestyle choice (like you've chosen a profession where very long hours are the norm), live close to work. My husband's commute is 10-15 minutes. (Working in the "exercise" part, he usually bikes to work.) If you're losing two hours a day to commuting, you can't be a workaholic AND have an outside life AND get enough sleep.

*Be married. To someone who doesn't have such long hours. He gets home-cooked meals, clean laundry, new shirts ... but he's not the one cooking, laundering, or shopping. (Also note that many of the long-hours professions are still male-dominated and still, clearly, rely on a spouse that manages the home. Or else they employ young people who can still live on Red Vines and Mountain Dew and require little sleep.) In the alternative, hire out some of these functions, whether that's by eating out all the time or by finding your local fluff 'n' fold.

*Wear dress clothes that fit. Then they will be comfortable. Visit a tailor if necessary.

*Work from home when necessary (if possible). Often my husband will go in at 6 a.m., come home around 4:30 p.m., play with the toddler, spend time with me, and then go back to work after the toddler goes to bed. He can work on the couch while I read or grade papers or whatever.

Our social life is mostly other professionals in their 30s who work long hours and have little kids, so we don't feel deprived since we're all more or less on the same schedule. (Friday nights, Saturdays, Sundays.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:16 PM on June 19, 2011 [11 favorites]

There's a huge difference between 50 or 60 hours and 70 or 80 hours. You could add an hour a day and 5 on Saturday easily enough without affecting your life, but another 10 or 20 on top of that is a lot.

To do that (70-80 hrs), you have to give up something. Not exercising and not cooking are common. You will be fatigued (coffee plus ignoring it and powering through), and you will feel like you're missing out.

If you have to be at the office, bring slippers - and maybe other comfortable clothes - for after business hours.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:44 PM on June 19, 2011

Similar to the slippers and sweat pants after hours, another great one was the occasional beer. (This was on the rare occasions that our office fridge had a few left over from some event.) Nothing helped me stave off bitterness from 6-9:30 PM on a Friday night than sipping on one beer.
posted by salvia at 12:47 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

forgot the words "more than"
posted by salvia at 12:47 PM on June 19, 2011

You are going in way too late to work (seriously). Those who are workaholics will start work way before anyone else does, typically 6am or 6:30am, and not bother with lunch at all, only a 5-10 minute break for something healthy mid-day (whenever they can squeeze that in) and then plow straight ahead until 9pm or later.

People with this kind of capacity to work typically are at the C-level of fast-growing companies, and from what I know of this elite group their techniques run the gamut of minimal sleep (if you can handle that, 5-6h seems to be the norm), outsourcing all 'maintenance tasks' (whether dry cleaning, house cleaning, whatever errands you can imagine) and having a spouse full-time taking care of the domestic front.

In answer to the missing out on the social life concern, at this level their business and social life overlap extensively, so they certainly do not miss out. (Also high end dining and adult beverages are a business staple.)

But if you just need to work longer hours to finish all your work, that may not be worth it. It is worth it for the C-level executive with huge equity upsides they have, not so much at the 'producer' level (with some exceptions, for example with some sales organizations). Thus the work smarter vs. harder debate, as well as whether working more efficiently with the 50 hours you currently have could benefit much more than just expanding to 70 hours. Should you put in five 6am - 8pm days with very limited time with breaks, that's your 70 hours right there, should your situation warrant it.
posted by scooterdog at 12:52 PM on June 19, 2011

I've been in both places (50 hour weeks, 70 hour weeks) and learned that I'm not a workaholic. In fact, I learned that the psychological breakdown you can go through can be pretty insidious. People around you give you lots of personal reinforcement since you are getting so much done, while at the same time you are losing touch. At least that is what 70 hour weeks felt like to me. So, be careful.

A modest increase in hours is be accommodated by deciding if you want to be an early riser or a late worker. You'll find you can get more done without distractions either before start of regular work day or well after. This may need to coordinate with a close teammate, but is generally a personal decision. For me, I would work later to get things done. Like midnight later if necessary.

If this is long term, definitely try to find a way to trade commute for working time.

Hopefully you'll be getting compensation for the extra work. Use it to hire a maid service, laundry service or whatever chore it is that both you and your spouse are least interested in doing.

Make time for your social and hobby activities. As in, schedule time for them and stick to it. Once you are committing yourself to this much work you don't owe more in 'being always available'. You need to recharge.

Get exercise, even if it is just a fifteen minute walk break in the mid-afternoon each day.

Personally, I think that if you are going much over X hour weeks (you'll need to decide, for myself it seems to be 45 or so) you need an endgame plan as well. Unless you get into it and decide this is really what you want to do for a long time, figure out a way to start the right conversations, build the right skills, and get the right help so that you can be back out of workaholic mode at some definite time in the not too distant future.
posted by meinvt at 12:54 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I did the longer week, I did not take the start early approach. Instead, I took a late start (10 am), departed at 6:45 PM. I was home at 7:05 to prepare a 7:30 PM dinner. After dinner, kid gets bath and bed, then I worked the 9 PM - midnight shift at home. On Fridays, I skipped the 9PM shift in favour of a similar Sunday night shift. This allows you to clock 11-12 hours a day for a 60 hour total.

The late start has several advantages. First, it reduces commute time as you are driving off hours. Second, it allows time for quality morning activities. You could exercise, but I used this to spend time with my child and eat a peaceful breakfast. Finally, you can work until midnight and still get a good night's sleep.

The batch shopping/batch cooking technique is essential. Weekends are for exercise and socializing. I didn't have much of a social life, but we did get in outdoor events as a family. My husband did laundry and cleaning.

I agree with end game plan, these hours are life sapping and chronic late evening work focus made my sleep less restful. I did some ruthless prioritizing, downgraded my career expectations, took my vacations, and reduced hours during downtime to compensate for the hours above. I did that for 6 months, now I work 40 hours again and I'm much happier.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:57 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Jasper Friendly Bear: "Right now, I usually start work at 8:30 am and finish around 6:00 pm and I usually take about 30 or 40 minutes for lunch. I also usually come in on Saturday and Sunday and do about another 6 hours total. So, this comes out to about 50 hours over seven days."

Don't take lunch. I really don't understand the idea or logic behind taking a lunch break. It's a time suck for me.

I usually arrive around 9a and try to leave by 8p. Any sooner or any later and I'm not as productive. 7 is preferable but not always feasible. I won't go into the office on weekends though. That's my time. I have a blackberry and will check that.

I either walk to/from office for exercise (easiest in spring/fall as it's about 2.5 miles) or find tme for the gym. Luckily my gym is 24 hours during the week and has AC which is a gem when I can't sleep because it's too hot. I cook at home on the weekends for the week. Not fool proof but it works.

Yes, I'm a workaholic but it's necessary in my industry. Working 10-11 or more hour days isn't easy, but it gives me my weekends which I consider sacred. Not sure how this would work if I had a family.
posted by TravellingCari at 1:12 PM on June 19, 2011

I have only worked CRAZY long hours for a week or so at a time. On a week like that I go in at 7 or 7:30, leave around 8:30 or 9, and also work a full day (9-5) on Saturday. I put off laundry, exercise, everything. The weekend before the madness starts I cook up two big batches of food, something for lunch and something for dinner (usually I am sick of both of these things by Friday, so I end up buying a lunch or something). I eat at my desk.

As a more general, sustainable lifestyle I recommend the following changes for you:
1. Stop going in twice on the weekend. One 6-hour day will be more productive, and you lose less time commuting.
2. Go in earlier. An hour or so earlier is not really that much in terms of changes to your sleep schedule, but I find that going in way early is MUCH easier than staying past 5, psychologically speaking (but see also #3).
3. Get used to leaving late. As in, mentally prepare yourself that 7pm is your "leaving the office" time. Seriously, a few days in a row of this and you'll be so used to it that it won't seem difficult. For me, eating dinner at work is important for this, because I CANNOT wait until 8pm to eat something, so I just sit there watching the clock and starving. If I have my dinner handy, I just pop it in the microwave at 6 and I'm good to go for another hour or two.
4. Getting home at 7:30pm is really not so late. Still plenty of time to watch a movie, or do some laundry, or meet a friend for drinks. You can still be in bed by 10:30 if you want (all that much easier to be in to the office by 7!).

If you do all 4 steps, you'll be working ~63 hours a week and I bet you'll still have lots of time for socializing, chores, and sleep. Seriously, as long as you don't have kids to wrangle/spend time with, it is EASY to spend 60+ hours at work.
posted by Bebo at 1:14 PM on June 19, 2011

gursky: "when i am working 50+ hours a week, i usually go in really early, because i find that being in the office before everyone else is the best time to get things done without being interrupted. if you're able to go in earlier, that might help. "

I'm the counter to gursky here, 6-8 pm is far more productive for me than 6-8a would be and it's the same level of quiet. I can answer an email and get it off my to do list without the recipient immediately answering and having it land back on my to do list.

I don't think it's always about inefficiency or overreporting. Am I a robot? No. Therefore I'm not 100% efficient, but I think I do pretty well. Some industries require the hours.
posted by TravellingCari at 1:15 PM on June 19, 2011

Oh dear, as the wife of a work-a-holic who works probably 70 hours a week, I can safely assure you that even an extra 10 or 20 hours will STILL not let you ever be finished with your work. You will not be compensated for your extra work time (if salaried) and you probably won't get the satisfaction of being done often enough to make the effort worth your while. There is always more work...
I know you didn't ask for this advice, but I suggest you keep your current time schedule or at least find the hours in the day in which you are most productive and only work those so that you can have a LIFE outside of work. Somehow you need to disengage your thoughts from work when not there so you won't be stressed about the work still to be done.
Work to live, not live to work. (unless you love your job more than what you are giving up for it)
posted by LilBit at 1:29 PM on June 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi Everyone,

Thanks so much for your answers and advice! There are many great ideas here, and I’d love to hear more.

I’ll try to answer a few questions that have come up.

Koahiatamadl: Are you a lot more productive when you go in at the weekend? That would be indicative of the fact that it goes wrong somewhere during the week. Do you spend too much time chatting with your co-workers? Do you get distracted because the phone rings all the time or because your role is to support others but also requires you to produce tangible outputs and you spend too much time 'supporting' and not enough time 'doing'?

This very much describes my situation. I’m fairly efficient at work. I almost never check personal e-mail, surf the web, or spend time talking about non-work issues. However, I supervise six people and I have to spend a lot of time helping them with things. I also end up spending a lot of time in meetings, and so I often don’t get time to work on the stuff I’m supposed to produce (or even respond to e-mails and phone calls) until the workday is already over. I am much more productive on the weekend, because I know I won’t be interrupted. I really feel that the only solution is to put in more hours.

Prefpara: I am surprised that you come in both on Saturday and on Sunday for a combined total of merely six hours. Is there a reason you're not picking one day and working for the full six hours on that day? It can be easier to work one ten-hour day and take a full day off than to do two five-hour days in a row.

The reason I come in on Saturday and Sunday is that working from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on both days feels like I still have the majority of both days off. Otherwise, I feel like I only have one day off each week. But, I will try working longer on Saturday and not coming in on Sunday.

I do think I need to bring in more comfortable shoes (and perhaps some other clothes) that I can slip into at the office once the regular workday is over. The suggestions to bulk cook on the weekends is great. I would struggle with being able to do this though. I do think I can definitely try to go to work earlier though.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 2:22 PM on June 19, 2011

Based on your follow up - I know your pain, having spent many a day coming into work early and getting to 4 or 5pm without having touched any of the things on my to do list for that day because I was dragged into non stop calls, meetings and helping my team tasks.

But you can manage that to a degree. The key is to set up your schedule so your and your team's schedule overlaps but is not the same. So you're there an hr or two earlier or later than they are. In addition to that actively schedule time when you are not available for meetings/to support people (unless it is a major emergency), i.e. schedule some time do produce your outputs, work through your inbox or whatever and stick to that time.

Make some rules for that time. Supervising several people means supporting them when they are stuck and cannot go on without your input and perhaps reviewing their work. It does not mean that they cannot ask each other for support in the first instance during your "productive time" or work on other tasks until you are available again if they really are stuck.

That way you can be a bit more productive during your normal hrs. I find having a short lunch break does help my productivity in the afternoon so my advice would be to take one. But if your team all take lunch at a specific time consider taking your lunch before or after them so you get to have their lunch break as time with minimal interruptions, too.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:04 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to have an insane work schedule. I would come into the office around 8:30, work until 5:30, then work again from 7 until nearly midnight most nights. On the weekends I worked one day from about 12-5:30, then 7-11 or so.

I kept this up for a couple of years without it destroying me. In answer to the OP's questions:

For example, do you exercise?

I went to the gym on campus (I work at a university). Usually around 11am-12, followed by wolfing down a quick lunch. So I'd take just over an hour for lunch, but get away from my computer screen and get some exercise. Sometimes I'd go around 4pm instead, depending on whether I had deadlines that day that made me feel like I couldn't leave the office earlier.

How long do you sleep for?

I used to make sure I was in bed shortly after midnight, and get up at 8am. A short commute (10 minutes by bicycle) and skipping breakfast made those hours work. Sleep is very important to me. I'd sleep late on Saturdays (hence not starting work until 12 that day).

Do you ever cook at home or do you eat out all the time?

I almost never ate out, being money-poor as well as time-poor (Oh, academia, I love you). I would skip breakfast, but had snacks (oatmeal, fruit, toast) in my office that I'd eat just before going to the gym. I packed lunch (leftovers from dinner, or stuff like soup cooked and frozen on my day off). My husband cooked dinner most nights (yay!) and I tried generally to come home at 5:30 and most commonly did my evening's work at home. A couple of nights a week I'd stay at the office instead and then I'd usually just bring double lunch portions, or eat my emergency oatmeal.

When do you do your laundry?

Sunday. You can get away with doing laundry once a week.

How do you stay comfortable while wearing dress shoes, dress pants, and a tie for such long periods of time?

Can't help you with that. Academia.

How do you get over the feeling that you’re missing out on social activities?

I was friends with other workaholics, and we were often ALL in our respective offices in the evening or weekend. So it felt kind of social anyway... But I usually managed to take one evening out per week to socialize. Or I'd have a coffee with someone for half an hour during the day once a fortnight or so. I'm not very sociable, so I didn't mind missing parties and so on.

How do you deal with fatigue?

By sleeping a lot, as mentioned above. During the day when I got fatigued, I'd generally just push through it and keep working anyway - but in reality that is probably not the best strategy. You're probably more efficient if you can step away from the desk for 15 minutes and get some air, then come back and work better for it afterwards.
posted by lollusc at 3:15 PM on June 19, 2011

Many have suggested bulk cooking. You said you could have s hard time with that. The site that I have found the most helpful with bulk cooking is . There are several menus to choose from, they are tested and it is free. Many sites like this charge.
posted by nimsey lou at 3:40 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

The people I know who do this function by outsourcing everything nonwork - takeout, laundry service, housekeeper. Or they have a housewife. If you don't have the cash to do this, then ask yourself very seriously what the point is. Oh, and they are generally difficult friends or family members. Everything comes second to the job, so you just get squeezed in as convenient. the caveat is that they can maintain a relationship with a spouse, but only if the spouse is ok with being subordinated to the job. Which, see above about the cash factor ...n
posted by yarly at 4:25 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I will offer this tip but some people will yell at me. I am getting upwards of 150 emails a day right now. I know people who get 200+. Anyway, if I read every one of those emails I would get nowhere with my day. I have simply put a filter on my email in Outlook that shows emails in red that are solely to me, blue for those where I am in the To: field, and black for those where I am in the CC field. Most stuff I am CC'ed in on doesn't get read if the subject line doesn't grab me. If it is really important, someone will let me know. I am saving a lot of time doing this and I don't believe the quality of my work is suffering at all. This may save you some time to get on with the important stuff. Email is getting WAY out of control these days.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:01 PM on June 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

There was a period of time when I worked 7 days a week, sometimes 12-18 hours a day. I think it works best if you maximize your work time, so you need to spend less time in the office, then set about maximizing the outside work time. Here are some tricks I learned:

During work:

Get to work 30 minutes or 1 hour ahead of everyone. This uninterrupted time is golden.

Make a daily schedule with goals. Carve out times where you don't check work e-mail or answer your phone if your work is such that you can do that. Return calls/e-mails during breaks between tasks. This helps you not get behind and also helps you figure out what things tend to run over schedule and plan accordingly.

Prioritize. Not everything gets dealt with as it comes up.

If you're not getting anything done, that's a good time to hit the gym, check the e-mail, etc., but give yourself a limit -- 1 hour, 30 minutes, etc.

Sleep and hydration are key. I always had Emergen-C on hand to combat fatigue.

Outside work:

Agree with outsourcing. Cleaning service, lawn service, grocery delivery, prepared foods, etc.

Multitask. Catch up on phone calls while you bulk cook, do laundry, open the mail. Watch TV at the gym. I tended to work out on my way in/out of work on the weekends because it would reset my brain.

Have friends who are always out, so you can join them after work for whatever they're doing. Also, make friends at work.

Have a "uniform." If you're female, dresses are handy and cut down time to get ready. If you're male, dark pants, light shirt or whatever combo you like.

Live near work.

Plan your exit strategy. This isn't an awesome way to live.
posted by *s at 6:06 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

My uncle has a job (and a merger going on right now) that is high stressed, 60-70 houra a week, probably 80 now. He outsources everything he can and he does his exercising when he can either late at night or weekends (even though he works most weekends to some capacity). I will add, his job has ruined relationships (as he laments about being single at 37 and can't seem to put two and two together) as well as having had to drop out of university when he complains everyone else in, above and below have at least a bachelors degree. He eats out almost always and drops all of his laundry off at the cleaners.
He's mentioned that it isn't a way to live, but has mentioned he has nothing else so why the he'll not? He's pretty sucessful by any economic measure (do what he wants, buy anything he wants, travel anywhere he wants, when he wants), but he's mentioned his loneliness at moments of high stressed or him breaking up with his fiance. There are prices to pay (which I assume you know), just remember we all get old, ugly and diseased at some point.
posted by handbanana at 6:23 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

koahiatamadl: "i.e. schedule some time do produce your outputs, work through your inbox or whatever and stick to that time. "

This is something someone on our team does for us - and I love it. She blocks out "work time" and absent strict deadlines or true emergencies, that's treated like any other meeting and not moved/interrupted.
posted by TravellingCari at 6:40 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Similar to TracellingCari's friend, I sometimes make up fake appointments and put them in my calendar when I need to get something done and don't want anyone calling or skyping or emailing me. Then I turn on DND on my phone, close out of email and skype- these are very important!- and crank it out.
posted by rmless at 6:52 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I get in earlier and make sure I work on one important task before I even start up email. That way if I do get interruptions, then I've accomplished one thing even if the day is shot with meetings.
I also block time out during the day for me to do work and stick to them. If someone comes in without it being planned, depending on the importance, I may send them away but book them in later in the day/week so my workflow isn't broken.
I eat shorter lunches unless with clients, but make a point of eating away from my desk so I get the break. I also block out time for gym so I don't fall off the exercise wagon.
Drink water, at least one glass for every cup of tea/coffee.
Email - don't check/send immediately. I reserve auto check/send for 1 hr intervals. This allows me to focus on what I'm working on; also disable the "ping" for new mail and new mail alert in your task bar. The delayed send also helps with the forgotten attachment problem, and helps you catch errors. Don't reply to every single email you receive.
posted by arcticseal at 9:14 PM on June 19, 2011

I worked insane hours over the last year, between 60 and 75 hours per week, sometimes for a month and a half at a stretch on the high end. That's an honest statement - I had to log every hour. I was known for my efficiency and productivity and was not in front of a computer most of that working time.

Four things made this possible (in order of importance):

1. staying single, and not making social commitments, ever.
2. not having pets.
3. being an early riser (I get up at 6 or earlier most days).
4. not cooking very much/eating out daily.

Those aren't recommendations, really.
posted by fake at 9:31 PM on June 19, 2011

Sorry, long answer.

Food: premade "fresh" food, at Trader Joe's or upmarket grocery stores. Veggies that you just throw the whole bag in the microwave and they steam in their own juice. No chopping, no anything. Eating healthily will improve your stamina. Research various diets/eating plans and choose one (not necessarily strict, just a theme) that you like the sound of. I try to go with a "Zone-ish" diet -- less starches, more veggies. Not to lose weight, but for performance. Gives me more mental endurance. But choose one that works for you.

Cleaning service (my cleaning lady does my laundry too).
Buy more socks/underwear/etc so you can go longer without doing laundry.

Drive your "to work" route slowly one day, carefully noticing all the stores along the way. Try switching to that cleaners, that takeout place, that drug store, that gas station, etc.

Get doctor/dentist/hair cutter etc. close to work.

Get one of those very expensive ergonomic chairs. Like Aeron or Relax the Back. Your body will thank you. And glasses properly calibrated for the computer monitor, if you wear glasses. And a really cool wireless mouse and keyboard that fit your body, bigger/dual monitors, etc. Whatever it takes to make sitting there more pleasant.

Interruptions: You could work at home (or wherever) in the morning for a few hours - easy way to avoid interruptions and triage the email/voicemail in your pajamas.

Good idea above to offset your schedule from your team, if they're the main source of your interruptions.

I know you didn't ask about productivity techniques, so sorry about the minor derail, but read "Getting Things Done" by David Allen, if your issue is finding time to get stuff done, rather than logging billable hours or some equivalent.

Consider screening your calls, and return calls when it makes sense in YOUR day (not THEIR day). May not be possible, depending on your position.

Establish a routine with your team. Our boss the workaholic tends to call his minions to his office one by one at the end of the day -- my slot is usually around 5. He then goes over everything he has for me or returns work he has looked at or gives new assignments - all at once. So he only has to talk to me once a day, other than emails that he returns at his convenience, and I know to save all my questions for then. Since I have the expectation that I'll have some time with him at the end of the day most days, I don't bother him during the day. Maybe you could set up something like that.

Another email trick -- emails from the boss show up red. Emails from your team could be blue/red/pink/whatever color? You could train them how you wanted them to use the "!" flag, so that you could use this too.
posted by bluesky78987 at 9:43 PM on June 19, 2011

For example, do you exercise?

Find a gym near your office. Go exercise, go to work again. Works very well. And if you put more than 40 hours a week then you should also be able to make your own working shedule.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:48 PM on June 22, 2011

« Older Help me open the vintage store of my dreams.   |   Time-killer websites? More like bloody massacre Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.