The United States is currently experiencing huge problems with depression, workforce burnout, and employees who are just plain unsatisfied with their jobs. It's becoming more and more obvious that working your butt off and having no personal life does not actually make you better at your job - in fact it could be the thing that is holding you back from reaching your full potential.
It would be awesome if we could all land a dream job at Google - but what about those of us who are stuck working for traditional companies where it's the norm to work an 80-hour work week? Is it possible to succeed in this type of work environment and also have a kickass personal life? How do the four-hour-work-weekers and Tim Ferrisses of the world manage to succeed in business and have time to have a hobby or two? Well, they fake it. By faking it, I don't mean lying on time sheets or snoozing under desks. Rather, they amp up their productivity, get more done in less time, and convey their accomplishments effectively so they get due credit for their hard work.
If you're tired of working late but still want to climb the corporate ladder, here are 15 ways to fake being a workaholic:
1. Wake Up Early
Multiple studies show that waking up early can make you more productive throughout the day. One reason is that you aren't rushed -- you have more time to exercise, eat breakfast, and prepare for work rather than just throw on clothes and grab a bagel on your way out the door. Allow yourself some "me" time in the morning, whether it's practicing yoga, going for a run, making a healthy breakfast, or enjoying a cup of coffee.
Additionally, being the first person in the office every morning makes it a heck of a lot harder for your coworkers to have a problem with you leaving on time at the end of the day. Showing up just 5 minutes before the rest of the office gives the impression that you are dedicated to your role, are putting in your fair share of effort, and are willing to go the extra mile - even if you really just spend this time making coffee.
2. Avoid Chronic Multi-tasking
Trying to focus on more than one task at a time causes a 40% drop in productivity, essentially the equivalent of losing a night of sleep. Most people cannot effectively multitask, no matter how intelligent and organized they may be, so do yourself a huge favor and try to focus on one task at a time. If your office allows headphones, turn on some focus-inspiring music and ignore the world until you've finished your task. Not only will you look busier, but you'll also make it harder for your coworkers to interrupt your work with distracting questions or workplace gossip.
3. Create "To Do" and "To Don't" Lists
Each morning, write down your three most important tasks of the day as well as a list of things you shouldn't do because you know they make you less productive. This helps ensure you complete your critical tasks on time. Do you know that you spend too much time answering emails from that clerk in accounting who thinks you are her personal Google Search bar? Just. Say. No.
4. Color Code Your Calendar
Color coding is your best friend, and it will change your life! Researchers have proven that color helps with attention and memory performance, and it can assist you in categorizing everything from your email to the priority of tasks you need to accomplish in your day. Use red for critical projects that must be completed by a specific date. Gray is a good color for your least important tasks. Try green for repeatable tasks, and orange for meetings.
5. Look the Part
Anyone who says that looking fashionable and put-together on the job is unimportant is lying through their teeth. Looking like you mean serious business often puts you on the path to greater success and helps you earn the respect you deserve. People are judgmental creatures, and they are sometimes more willing to forgive a mistake or grant more time on a project if you are a polished, professional-looking employee. If you dress like a slob, they may form the opinion that you're slacking as much in your career as you are in your wardrobe or hygiene.
6. Outsource Small Tasks
Sometimes the smallest tasks take up the most time. You may not have the budget for a personal assistant, but that doesn't mean you can't pass off little tasks to other people. Check out businesses like Elance and Taskrabbit for freelance assistance with small projects you don't have time for, from blog writing to shipping packages at UPS.
7. Schedule Local Client Meetings Back-to-Back
If you often travel to meetings, line up your local clients on the same day and schedule them before or after rush hour to avoid wasted driving time. You can often knock out 4 local meetings in one afternoon if you plan intelligently, and having them scheduled back-to-back allows you enough time to schmooze, but also gives you a handy excuse to bow out on time if you have an excessively chatty client.
8. Keep Your Notes in One Place
Throughout your day, you probably use multiple notepads, sticky notes, and even photos on your phone to capture your thoughts. Keep them organized in one place with an app like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote. These digital notepads syncs with the Cloud so you can access your notes anywhere, and even allow you to save voice messages and images. Nothing screams "workaholic-level professionalism" like being able to answer any question in moments without having to shuffle through a load of papers or emails.
9. Set Boundaries
Too often, we say "yes" to our boss and coworkers because we want to be able to do everything and don't want to let anyone down. If you say yes to everything, your employer will probably just assume that you can handle this intense workload, and are comfortable doing the job of three people. This is your fault.
Know when to say "no" and when to request more time to complete a project properly. While you don't want to make a habit of turning down projects or requesting an extended deadline, it's better to ask for what you need than to deliver a sub-par result, or become burnt out because you are constantly working overtime trying to catch up with the unrealistic expectations of your employer. If you don't tell your boss that you can't manage something, how will they know?
10. Clean Your Desk
Your workspace not only affects your coworkers' impressions of you, but also greatly impacts your ability to work efficiently and complete important tasks. Keep papers organized, don't let sticky notes pile up, and don't clutter your desk with random files. Perception is nine tenths of the law, and the tidiness of your work space does matter.
11. Take Frequent Breaks
On average, the brain can focus for only 90 minutes before it needs 20 minutes of rest. Use this time to meditate, take a walk around the office, or grab a cup of coffee and chat with a coworker. These short breaks help you sustain concentration and energy levels throughout your day. If you can't swing 20 minutes, aim for a 5 minute break or plan a short walk around your building during your lunch hour to recharge your batteries.
12. Keep Track of Time
Track the time it takes to complete projects by using a program like Toggl. By understanding how much time you spend on tasks, you can see what projects are taking up too much time in your day and how to manage them more effectively.
13. Use a Password Manager
You'd be surprised at how much time we waste every day looking up passwords to log into different accounts. Use a secure password manager, like LastPass, so you can instantly log in to your accounts. Applications like this also help you find a secure password and encryption process so you can avoid being the reason for a damaging data breach, which are becoming a serious risk.
14. Automate Tasks
No one enjoys mind-numbing tasks like scheduling social media posts, but they can help you establish yourself as an authority in your industry, and make you look great to your bosses and coworkers. Use programs like HootSuite and Sprout Social to bulk upload posts and schedule them all at once. These tools have the added bonus of making it look like you're working even when you're not.
15. Coordinate Your Apps
A simple tool like IFTTT can make multiple related tasks simpler. IFTTT stands for "If This, Then That." "This" is the trigger event and "That" is the action that follows. You can create your own IFTTT "recipes" or use pre-made ones. The options are endless, from automatically responding to blog comments to sending out a tweet when the stock market dips by a certain percentage. You can appear to be doing much more work than you realistically have time to do with minimal effort.
Success doesn't taste as sweet if you have no time to share it with those you love. It may not always feel like it, but it is completely possible to seem like a workaholic and still have plenty of time and energy for a kickass home life. Use these 15 tips to increase your productivity, find creative ways to cut corners, and use technology to help you with day-to-day tasks, and you'll impress your boss and your family -- without losing your mind.