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Working Long Hours Now Proven to Kill You: How to Work Smarter, Not Longer

Though putting in long hours at the office may help you climb the corporate ladder, it won't help you travel down the road to health. In fact, working long hours is not working smart ... if you value your health.

Putting in overtime can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, infections and more.

A new study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that working long hours increases your risk of illness and injury, no matter what the job is. Specifically, researchers analyzed over 100,000 job records from close to 11,000 workers. Those who routinely put in long days or worked overtime were at an increased risk of:

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Depression

  • Diabetes

  • Chronic infections

  • General health complaints

  • Death

According to researcher Allard Dembe of the Center for Health Policy and Research at the University of Massachusetts, the study "adds to the growing body of evidence indicating that work schedules involving long hours or overtime substantially increase the risk for occupational injuries."

Researchers noted that, overall, the more hours worked, the greater the risk of injury or illness:

  • Employees who worked overtime were 61 percent more likely to have a work-related injury or illness than those who did not.

  • Those who worked at least 12 hours a day had a 37 percent higher risk of injury or illness.

  • Those who worked at least 60 hours a week had a 23 percent greater risk.

How to Work Smarter

Taking short, planned breaks throughout your day can actually help you be more productive.

It's completely possible to be successful at work and not become blighted by long, stressful hours. The key is to work smarter, not longer.

Take care of yourself. It's impossible to have a productive day if you feel sick, tired or depressed. That's because all of the facets of a healthy person -- a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, exercising, keeping stress to a minimum -- apply also to a productive person. When you feel good you will have the energy, mental capacity and desire to work efficiently. In fact, taking extra time for yourself by preparing healthy food to eat, taking time to exercise and socialize and saving time just for you should be your number one priority.

Relieving stress in your life can be one of the most challenging aspects, as we're all faced with it daily. If you are among the many who find it difficult to relax or fall asleep at the end of the day because of stress, we highly recommend the Pure Relaxation CD, which will calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body, and the Sleep Easy CD, to help you fall asleep faster and feel more rested in the morning.

Organize and prioritize. Make a "To-Do List" of all your tasks for the day. If a task is large, break it down into smaller, manageable ones and list them separately. Once you have all your tasks down, prioritize them. Number them in the order they need to be done. (Tip: Do the task you're dreading most first ... get it out of the way, rather than procrastinating, and your mind will be free of it for the rest of the day.) Then, take satisfaction out of completing and crossing each item off your list.

Organize also applies to your workspace. Keep your desk and work area free from clutter. File papers that you don't need regularly, and throw away those that you won't need again. A good tip is to organize your desk at the end of each day so it's ready to go in the morning.

Relax and Sleep Easy With the Premier Guided Meditation CDs

Pure Relaxation CD

  • The Pure Relaxation CD will calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body. These meditations are unique in that they guide the listener to relax in a natural, effortless way.

Sleep Easy CD

  • The Sleep Easy CD will help you find deep rest and sleep. Users have reported falling asleep faster, waking up less throughout the night, falling back to sleep faster when awakened during the night and feeling more rested the next morning.

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Figure out your best work mode. Do you work best in the morning, afternoon or late at night? Do you need silence or does music help you concentrate? Do you think better sitting at your desk or taking a walk? Answering these types of questions can help you make the most of your day. For most people, the morning is when they work most efficiently. If this applies to you, get started on the most complex, thought-intensive projects first thing, and save the easier tasks for later in the day.

Stay positive. If you have a tough day at work or feel you didn't get all that you should have done, don't worry. Everyone has these days, and the more you fret about them the worse it will make you feel.

Says Julie Morgenstern, author of "Time Management from the Inside Out":

"The worst thing to do is berate yourself for not getting everything done, for periodically procrastinating, or for slowing down from time to time. The time and energy you spend feeling guilty can extend a less-than-productive morning into a less-than-productive day. Even the most energetic and efficient people occasionally have off days. The thing that makes them good time managers is that they realize these are a part of life. They forgive themselves, make the necessary adjustments to their schedules, and move on."

So don't sabotage yourself by working extreme hours or setting unrealistic goals. Only by working smarter, not harder, will you achieve your life goals without sacrificing the most important thing: your health.

Recommended Reading

12 Signs it is REALLY Time to Leave Your Job

The Emotionally Hazardous Work Environment: Is it Worth the Price You Pay?


Occupational and Environmental Medicine September 2005;62:588-597

CBS News August 18, 2005

Mind Tools

Kansas City Star August 24, 2005

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