Working long hours can make any job feel draining. Even if you love what you do, long shifts can drive a wedge between you and any positive feelings you have about your job. 40-hour work weeks used to be normal for a full-time job. Now, many people are working anywhere from 50-80 hours a week! Thankfully, there are things you can do to help you get through long hours on the job.
Working long hours means you’re ‘paying your dues.’ You may not be in that position forever, but it’s likely not going to change overnight. For other people, long shifts are a part of the career. Either way, it can start to get exhausting after a while.
Many jobs that make their employees work long hours have to do with manual labor or customer service. If you’re on your feet a lot, which can make it even harder to make it through a shift.
It’s important to know some tips for working long hours on your feet. But, even if you’re sitting at a desk or doing something with a computer 50+ hours a week, it can feel just as draining. If you don’t want to change careers, then learning how to survive long shifts can make your job easier.
How to Get Through a Long Shift at Work
This guide will offer 20 tips you can use to get through long shifts at work. Whether you like your job but hate the hours, or you find yourself staring at the clock each day, it’s not always easy to get through the working day.
Before you use these tips, think about your job itself. For some people, the long hours are just a part of the career path. For others, they’re working for a paycheck. If your job isn’t the right fit for you, our first suggestion is that you might want to start looking for a different career.
But, long hours aren’t always a bad thing. They usually lead to a higher salary and even more significant benefits. So, if you’re having trouble getting through a long shift, use the tips listed here to make your workdays a little easier.
Wake Up Earlier
After a long day at work, there is nothing that sounds better than getting a good night’s sleep. For a lot of people, that means sleeping in until the last possible second the next day. You might even find yourself hitting the snooze button on your alarm as often as you can. Waking up earlier might sound like a nightmare! Won’t you be tired during the day?
Waking up a little earlier before work can make a big difference. It doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of time. Even waking up 15-20 minutes earlier can be beneficial. Why? You can use that time to do something for yourself. Read a few chapters of a book, catch up on the news, go for a jog, etc.
Think of something you enjoy doing and take that bit of extra time in the morning to do it. Don’t use this time to do anything work-related. By the time you get into work that day, you’ll already have done something good for yourself. That can make a difference in your attitude and help you to get through your shift feeling a sense of accomplishment.
Don’t Sleep Right Away
Again, it can be tempting to crawl right into bed after a long day on the job. But, this tip goes hand-in-hand with the one above. Give yourself some time to unwind after work instead of going to bed right away. Do something for yourself. It doesn’t have to take long. If you can do something for an hour, that’s great. If it’s just for 15 minutes, it’s better than nothing!
Whatever you do, it should be something that takes your mind off work and helps you relax. Sleep is essential if you’re working long hours. So, try to find something that will make it easier to fall asleep. Reading, watching an episode of your favorite TV show, or listening to music can all be helpful.
Pack Your Own Snacks
If you’re in the middle of a long shift and you need a break, it’s so easy to walk over to the nearest vending machine. Indulging in a sugary treat or something salty and greasy might give you a pick-me-up for a few minutes. Unfortunately, it can leave you feeling sluggish and lethargic.
Most of the snacks available in workplace environments don’t have a reputation for being too healthy. You might get a quick burst of energy from something sugary. But, it won’t take long to crash. That can make a long shift feel even longer!
By bringing your own snacks with you, you can determine which foods make you feel good and give you energy. Pack several snacks to get you through the day. They should be portable, easy to eat, and healthy. Things like an apple with a bit of peanut butter or a handful of almonds are a great option. You can also opt for fat-free yogurt or a banana if you’re looking for something naturally-sweet.
Get Enough Sleep
Even though we’ve suggested waking up earlier and taking time for yourself before bed, that doesn’t mean you should give up on precious sleep. If you don’t get enough rest, it’s hard to catch up, and it can leave you feeling sluggish and unmotivated for days.
For some people, setting a bedtime routine and following it is the best way to ensure they get enough sleep each night. Otherwise, it can be too tempting to binge watch your favorite show or spend hours online, until you’ve wasted half your night!
It can be hard to get an afternoon nap in if you’re working many hours. So, getting as much rest as possible at night is vital. Not only will you feel better through the day, but it’s likely you’ll be able to perform better at your job.
Take Better Breaks
If you’re working long shifts, there’s a good chance you’ll get several breaks throughout the day. You can make a difference in how you feel by using these breaks wisely, and to your advantage! Breaks should be used to reduce the mental and emotional stress that can come from working a lot.
With that in mind, try to do things that keep you calm and relaxed. Take a short walk and listen to the sounds of nature or calming music. Try to find a quiet space and focus on some deep-breathing exercises or meditation.
Things to avoid? Catching up on a TV show on your phone or tablet, listening to music that might get you ‘fired up,’ or instantly getting on social media. These are all things that can further stimulate your mind and make you feel more on edge when you get back to work. If you take a few minutes to do something that clears your head, you can get back to your job feeling refreshed.
Stay Connected to Your Friends
When you work a lot, you may not feel like you have enough time to spend with your family or friends. But, staying connected in any way can make you feel better about your relationships and make the fact that you don’t see them a lot a bit easier.
Thankfully, it’s easier to stay connected to people you care about than ever before. Take 15-20 minutes each day to call or video chat with someone close to you. Sending a text message is easy, but it doesn’t often give you that real feeling of connection. Hearing someone’s voice or seeing their face can lift your spirits.
Don’t Be Afraid to Vent
While you’re connecting with those friends and family, don’t be afraid to talk about your life. This means covering both the good and the bad things. Loved ones don’t mind hearing about what’s going on in your life, even if it isn’t perfect.
Working long hours and keeping those feelings of exhaustion locked away can be damaging. You don’t have to complain about what you’re doing constantly, but it’s a good idea to let out any frustrations you might be holding onto. Even talking about your problems for a few minutes a day can make a difference in how you feel.
It’s great to have people who will listen, but when you let out these problems, the people who care about you can help you to manage them better. They may be able to make you laugh or give you advice. Either way, letting things go and not letting them bottle up inside will make it easier to get through each day at work.
Complete That Daunting Task First
Often, we can dread a work day because there’s something on our to-do list that is looming over us. Maybe it’s an email you’ve been putting off sending. Perhaps it’s a project that needs to get started or finished up. We tend to procrastinate on tasks we don’t want to do.
The problem with that is the longer you leave the task alone, the more pressing it will become. That can end up causing a lot of unnecessary stress.
It’s better to take that first thing on your list that you don’t want to do and push through it. The sooner you get it done, the less you’ll have to worry about it. Getting something like this done first thing in the morning can make the entire day feel different.
It likely won’t drag on, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and productivity. When your workday is filled with more things you want to do, it can help to make time feel like it’s going by a little faster.
Long days on the job can feel even longer if you feel like you don’t have anything to do. Some people frown at the idea of ‘busy work’ as though it isn’t useful. It can end up adding a lot of productivity to your day. It also helps to work as a distraction. If you get yourself wrapped up in some busy work, a couple of hours could go by before you know it!
Busy work isn’t necessarily a mindless action that takes up hours of your day. It should have a purpose and should benefit you and/or your job in some way. But, once you’ve crossed some of the big things off your list, think about what needs to get done that doesn’t take a lot of effort or focus.
Some good examples are:
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- Answering emails/clearing out your inbox
- Organizing your filing system
- Cleaning out documents
- Maintenance on any machinery you might be using
Your busy work might be different every day, but it’s a great way to get some things done that might otherwise be ignored. Plus, working this way helps to break up the monotony of a long shift.
Look Forward to Food
We’ve already talked about the importance of healthy snacks. But, if you’re working an extra-long shift, you’ll probably have a longer break available for some kind of meal. Or, maybe you’re allowed to eat at your desk while you’re on the clock.
Either way, pack a meal that becomes something you can look forward to. It might seem silly at first, to look forward to the food. But, getting through your day can be a lot easier if you have a small reward waiting for you to break it up. If you can choose a time to have your meal, you should try to think about when you need a pick-me-up the most throughout the day. Also, try not to make it too early in the day. That way, you have more hours available when you’re looking forward to it!
You can use your meal as motivation, too, or even give yourself a pep talk. If it’s already been a long day, tell yourself you only have a few more hours before you can go out and have that juicy cheeseburger. Or, maybe you’ve brought your favorite meal from home. It’s okay to treat yourself every once in awhile. By doing this, you’re rewarding yourself for a job well done and keep yourself motivated to continue to do good work.
Take a Stretch
If you have a desk job or any career where you’re sitting down most of the day, it’s essential to get up every once in a while and stretch. Simply put, sitting for too long isn’t good. Not only can it have a negative impact on your health, but it can also affect how much energy you have.
It’s probably no big surprise that stretching is a good idea. Think about the last time you were sitting down for several hours at a time. When you stood up again, it probably felt good to stretch out a little, right? Why not take that concept and use it throughout your day?
Try to give yourself at least five minutes every couple hours to get up and give yourself a good stretch. You can look up specific stretches if you’d like. This is especially effective if you have areas of the body that seem to be sore or hurting after awhile. But, any type of stretching can be helpful. Not only will you feel looser and limber, but it should give you a quick burst of energy.
Even if you work on your feet all day, it’s still important to stretch – especially your legs! Keeping your muscles warm and stretching can help your legs and feet not to hurt so much at the end of a long day.
Drink More Water
It’s just as important to stay hydrated throughout your day as it is to eat healthy, nutritious meals. In fact, it may even be more important to drink more water. Staying hydrated will help you to have more energy. But, it also helps your brain to function properly.
Just as your body gets dehydrated, your brain can too! When it does, you might find that you have trouble concentrating. Or, maybe it’s not as easy to come up with cognitive answers to simple questions. Drinking more water throughout the day can help you from falling into an afternoon slump. It can also make you more productive when it comes to getting your work done.
Don’t like the taste of plain water? Jazz it up with refreshing cucumber slices for added refreshment. Or, add a few pieces of fruit or a squeeze of lemon. Try different combinations to keep your daily water intake from becoming boring.
Drink Less Caffeine
Besides drinking more water, you should also try to cut back on your caffeine intake. This might seem counterproductive. After all, caffeine is supposed to give you more energy, right? It can work for a while, but the effects don’t last that long unless you’re always reaching for a soda or coffee.
Unfortunately, that’s how some people get through their days, and it could be doing more harm than good. Too much caffeine can cause you to become jittery. It can also lead to stomach problems. If you’re dealing with a stomach ache on the job, you’re not going to be as productive as you should be. Caffeine also dehydrates you, which can contribute to any sluggish feelings you might be having.
We don’t mean you have to give up your daily cup (or two!) of coffee. But, if you’re someone who finds yourself reaching for different sources of caffeine all throughout the day, it’s a good idea to cut back. You can start slowly and ween your way down to a cup or two a day. Replace your caffeinated beverages with water and healthy snacks. You’ll feel just as energized without the negative after-effects.
Get Rid of Your Distractions at Work
No matter how many hours you’re logging per week, you’ll feel better about a long shift if you know you’re getting things done. Using some of the other tips in this article can help you to be more productive when you’re on the clock. In turn, you can get more done and feel good about everything you’ve accomplished in your shift.
Another way to make sure you cross things off your list efficiently is to reduce your distractions. Whether you work in a busy hospital, an office, or a factory, there are always going to be things that distract you from the task at hand. Try to get rid of as many of these distractions as possible. If you need to find a quiet place to do your work or get something done, do it!
You also should make sure to get rid of your own distractions, such as a cell phone. Hide your phone away until you’ve completed something you want to get done, then give yourself a break to check it for a few minutes before moving onto the next task.
Distractions are nothing but time-wasters. If you let them take over your workday, you’ll go home feeling like you didn’t get anything accomplished. That can lead to feeling overwhelmed and unhappy, which can make your job feel more stressful than it is.
Keep Your Weekends Free
One of the best things you can do to feel recharged and ready to go is to keep your weekends to yourself. Not everyone has traditional ‘weekends,’ but most jobs allow for at least one or two days off each week. Make sure you use these days to do things you want to do, and things you need to do. You can catch up on laundry or housework, but you should also make some time for a little bit of fun with friends and family.
One thing to avoid is doing work on your days off! It can be easy to think about something you’ll have to do when you get back or something you should finish up while you’ve got the time. But, if you start to drag work into your free time, you’ll feel as though you never really get a break. Days off are put in place for a reason, so take full advantage of them when you can. When you work long shifts, whole days of freedom can make a big difference in how you feel when you go back to work.
Prepare the Night Before
If you have a long shift ahead of you, one of the worst things you can do is rush around in the morning to get to work on time. We’ve already talked about the importance of waking up a bit early to do something for yourself. But, it can also be beneficial to make your mornings as streamlined and relaxed as possible. If you feel rushed and flustered, that attitude can stay with you for the rest of your day.
Select what clothes you’re going to wear for work the night before. If you have a uniform, make sure it’s clean and ready to go. Pack a lunch and snacks the night before, too. The more you can do to reduce stress when you wake up, the better. Your tone and attitude when you wake up will set the mood for your day. So, make it as relaxing and stress-free as possible.
Wear the Right Clothes
When you’re preparing yourself the night before, always make sure you pick out clothes that are appropriate for the work you do. This means more than just following a company dress code.
If you’re going to be working 12+ hours, you want to be comfortable. If you’re going to be moving around all day, wear something breathable that makes it easy to move. Try to avoid tight clothing that can feel constricting and will get uncomfortable after a while.
Even business attire should be somewhat comfortable. Ties that are too tight or dresses that don’t fit properly can become a personal distraction and can end up being all you think about instead of getting your work done. It’s okay to want to be fashionable, as long as what you wear is also functional for your job.
Wear the Right Shoes
A tip that might be even more important than wearing the right clothes is wearing the right shoes!
No matter what type of job you have, taking care of your feet is essential. If you work in a hospital, comfortable sneakers that can withstand a lot of walking are your best bet. If you work in an office, don’t choose dress shoes that will pinch your toes or cause pain. Not only will it be irritating, but it can lead to problems like bunions and blisters.
If you’re not sure of your actual shoe size, go to a shoe store and get a proper measurement. You can even ask a professional in the store about different options based on the job you have. Whether you walk around all day or sit behind a desk, the right shoes are important. If all you can focus on is the pain in your feet, you’re not going to do your job to the best of your ability.
Shoes might not seem like a big deal at first, but it won’t take long wearing uncomfortable footwear to make you realize just how much of an impact they can make!
Enjoy Who You Work With
One of the best ways to make a long shift more enjoyable is to get along with the people you work with. Your co-workers don’t have to be your best friends. But, when you’re spending so much time with someone each day, it can make for a better experience for everyone if you enjoy each other’s company. Try to find some common interests, take the time to chat when you have a break, and be supportive of one another.
Many times, the environment of a workplace can make more of an impact on how you feel about the job than doing the work itself. People are what makes the difference. So, do what you can to enjoy the company of your co-workers. If you’re all working the same long shifts, you’re in a unique situation that only your small group can understand. Use that to your advantage and get the motivation and support you need.
Think Each Day as it Comes
If long shifts are starting to get to you, there are two things you can do. First, just take it one day at a time. There’s a good chance you won’t be in this situation forever. Whether you want a better position or a different job, something will come up eventually. Or, you’ll ‘pay your dues’ with these long shifts to get promoted.
Second, you can think about where these long working hours will end up getting you. Think about the big picture and what you want out of your career. Working many hours can help you to bring home a nice paycheck, and each day is a learning experience. It’s unlikely you’ll be working such long shifts for the rest of your life. So, take each day as it comes, and it won’t feel so overwhelming.
The 40-hour work week is becoming less common for many different industries. But, it can be tough to spend such long shifts at work unless you’re physically and emotionally prepared. The thing to keep in mind is that the payoff can be worth it.
We hope this tips in this guide will help to make your next long shift just a little easier. It can take some time to find a comfort zone when working many hours a week. But, making a few simple changes can make a big difference!