How to Survive a 10-Hour Workday and Stay Productive

Working 10-hour shifts can be a drag, but not if you’re prepared.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to survive a 10-hour workday

It’s been a long day at work. You’re counting down the hours to finishing up, and can’t wait to get home to lounge on the couch binge-watching Netflix as your energy levels dip. You could even be considering changing your work schedule to lower the number of hours of your workweek to achieve the golden work–life balance everyone talks about. Am I right?

Well, what if I said there are things you can do to make your days go faster so it doesn’t feel like a drag?

Here are 10 tips to help you survive a 10-hour workday — and thrive.

Step 1: Listen to music

Music is the best, isn’t it? If there’s a particular genre that you’re fond of, make yourself a playlist that gets you pumped and motivated. Whether that’s classical or R&B, create something that makes you happy and helps you get through the workday.

When you work long hours, the days can feel monotonous, so bringing a little music into your day can liven you up and help you get through it.

Step 2: Set some goals

If you feel like you’re ambling through the day and just watching the clock tick away, you need to set yourself some goals. It will give you something to aim for, and give your long shift some direction. For example, if you want to move up the career ladder, what could you do to get you there? Start making some achievable goals so you have something to focus on when your mind begins to slip into daydream land.

Step 3: Write a to-do list

Once you’ve decided on some long-term goals, start writing your to-do list for that particular day. We’re not talking a list that covers a month; we’re talking about today. Right now. What do you need to do today? What will make you feel accomplished? If there’s something you’ve been putting off, add that to the top of your list. That way, when you check it off, you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something meaningful.

Step 4: Take your breaks

It might seem tempting to work through your breaks so you can ultimately get home to Netflix a little quicker. However, this isn’t a good idea. You need to use your breaks wisely, as if you continue to work through them, you’ll end up with a serious case of burnout, and you’ll feel a sense of exhaustion begin to wash over you — which definitely won’t help your productivity. Aim for 20-minute breaks, if you can. It will give your mind time to recharge, ready for the rest of your 10-hour workday.

Step 5: Utilize automation

Sometimes you might begin to feel overwhelmed with the amount of work you need to get through. However, there is something that can help with this: automation. This is where you utilize tools that can automate your workload and streamline your processes.

For example, if you want to automatically download attachments in emails, there’s a tool that can help with that. If you want to schedule some work-related social media posts to publish at a particular time, there’s a tool for that, too. Automation can really help you get through your workload (and your shift!).

Step 6: Chat with coworkers

Sometimes work in general can feel overwhelming, and who better understands than your coworkers? If you’re feeling like the day is going really slowly, spend a short amount of time chatting with your work friends about a project. This short break away from your desk can really help liven up your mind and — who knows? — you could end up brainstorming and coming up with something unique while you’re at it.

Step 7: Reward yourself

Everyone loves a little treat, right? Well, imagine if you set yourself a reward for completing a particular task. For example, “When I’ve completed this report, I’m going to grab a chocolate bar from the vending machine”.

While chocolate is a great reward, there are lots of other rewards to award yourself to get you through your 10-hour shift. If there’s a particular book you’ve been dying to read, you could treat yourself and buy it, or if there’s a bubble bath calling your name, it will give you something to look forward to after a long day. By rewarding yourself for small achievements, your productivity will increase, too. Give it a go!

Step 8: Track your time

Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro method? It’s a system where you work for 25 minutes on one project, then take a 5-minute break. After your break, you work for another 25 minutes. You continue in this cycle until you’ve done it 4–5 times, then you take a longer 15- to 30-minute break. This will help you focus for the full 25 minutes and will ultimately increase your productivity, as your brain gets a break from repetitive tasks regularly.

Step 9: Try time-blocking

Following on from tracking your time, you could also try time-blocking. If your mind begins to wander, and you’re wondering how you’re going to get through the rest of your shift, try breaking your day into chunks.

For example, if you have a project with a deadline approaching, you might want to spend two hours on it, while answering and sending emails might only take an hour. Designate certain tasks to a block of time, and when the time has passed, move onto the next task to avoid getting bored.

Step 10: Work in a different location

If possible, try to move locations and work from somewhere different. It’s amazing how this can affect your general mood and improve your efficiency. It can get boring staring at the same four walls each day. If you can, try to work out of the office every now and again, whether that’s at a friend’s house or in a local coffee shop.

A change in surroundings might be just what you need to help you get through your remaining working hours. This is especially important if you work from home, as your workspace is also your space to wind down in at the end of the day. Try separating the two by working elsewhere for a while.

Final thoughts

While it can be tough working long shifts, there are definitely things you can put in place to make it go a little faster. Take extra time for yourself where you can, whether that’s taking a longer break or using the time to do some meditation or exercise. Switching up where you’re working can make a huge difference, too, so make sure you’re breaking up your day into small chunks and changing up your location as often as is allowed.

It’s important to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, both while at work and when you do eventually have some downtime. Work isn’t the be all and end all. You have a life outside of the office, so make sure you utilize the time you do have to create a work–life balance that works for you.

What do you do to get through a 10-hour workday? Let us know in the comments below!


Originally published on July 14, 2015.