Knowing you have a long workday ahead of you can feel discouraging or overwhelming, even before you start. However, you can use the time beforehand to plan for optimal success. Here are a few tips to make your long workday a little easier.
Make a Meal Plan
Plan your meals for the day ahead of time — soon enough to buy groceries and prep what you can. This step can save you from wondering at 2 p.m. what you're having for supper and let you focus on work instead.
Plan for a healthy breakfast to start your day right. Include low-fat proteins such as eggs, skim milk or lean meats, whole grains such as oatmeal carbs or whole-wheat toast, and fresh fruit. A lunch with chicken, fish, tofu or other low-fat protein balanced with a salad, vegetable soup and fruit slices will fuel you without weighing you down. Once your day is over, enjoy a supper that isn't heavy — again, stick with lean protein and lots of vegetables and fruits.
Get Enough Sleep
Starting your long workday with inadequate sleep is a surefire way to make it more difficult. If you can, turn in earlier the night before to give yourself time to unwind. Avoid screens for an hour before bed and stick to relaxing activities, such as taking a warm bath or sipping herbal tea.
If you can't fall asleep, try not to worry too much about it. Ironically, stressing out about not sleeping is a good way to keep you awake. Rather than toss and turn, get out of bed and do something monotonous that doesn't involve screens. Try some slow, controlled breathing. Keep in mind that it's normal for you to have many thoughts about the day ahead; knowing this can put your mind at ease and help you relax.
Tackle Important Tasks First
For many people, the most productive hours of the day are mid-morning, around 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Research demonstrates that jobs requiring short-term memory are best performed early in the day. However, studies also show that older adults reach peak memory and cognitive inhibition tasks early in the day, while young adults do better in the afternoon. You know your peak time of day better than anyone, though. Plan important activities for that time slot. If you can, avoid less-important tasks that can take away your attention, such as checking email, sitting in meetings or answering the phone.
Thinking about what you need to accomplish during the long day ahead can make you forget everyday tasks. It may seem silly, but consider writing down small but essential details. Write a note to yourself to grab your lunch from the fridge, check the cat's water bowl and put your phone in your pocket. Even if you think you'd never forget to do routine tasks, your focus can change when you have things on your mind that are out of the ordinary.
Create a Game Plan
While you're writing down important tasks, take some time to make a game plan for the day ahead. Include the jobs you need to accomplish, and the estimated amount of time they will take. Be sure to add in some extra time in case your plans get off track.
If you are interrupted, or a duty takes longer than you expected, you don't want it to mess up your whole day. Make it a priority to schedule some breaks. To perform at your best, you need to give your body and mind some downtime, especially on a long day. Stepping away from your work area for 15 minutes can do wonders for your mood and productivity. Getting outside is even better. Spending time in green spaces reduces your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, while boosting endorphins and dopamine, hormones that promote happiness.
Mentally Review Your Day
After you've created your game plan, mentally review the tasks ahead and ensure you have what you need to accomplish them. It's no fun — and certainly not productive — to scramble for the notes you need for a meeting or your laptop charger if you're traveling. Pack up everything ahead of time and have it ready when you walk out the door.
Wear Comfortable Clothes
While you may need to wear a uniform or dress up for your long day, try to not to choose the most uncomfortable outfit in your closet. Wear clothing that isn't too tight or constricting, and avoid that pair of socks that always needs adjusting. Comfortable shoes are a must, especially if you'll be on your feet. You have enough on your plate already; uncomfortable clothing doesn't have to add to your stress.
Long workdays can be arduous, but they don't have to be unbearable. Taking some time to plan can help make the day as smooth as possible. You may even be encouraged to plan for the not-so-long workdays.