More and more individuals are reporting increased stress in their lives. For many, this is because they are putting undue pressures on themselves and are working longer hours. After a certain time, different for everyone, the effort that you are putting into your work becomes counter-productive. ...More and more individuals are reporting increased stress in their lives. For many, this is because they are putting undue pressures on themselves and are working longer hours. After a certain time, different for everyone, the effort that you are putting into your work becomes counter-productive. With a little calculation, you can determine your overwork quotient--how many extra hours per day and week you can work before it begins to be counter-productive.

Suppose as a starting base, working an eight hour day is well within your capabilities. Notice then how you felt on days when you work 8.5 hours, 9 hours, 9.5 hours, and perhaps 10 hours. For many people, someplace between 8.5 and 9 hours begins to feel uncomfortable, and certainly beyond 9 to 9.5 results in noticeable differences in energy level, enthusiasm, and joie de vivre.

I begin my work day usually at 7 a.m. and end sometime a little after 5 p.m. During that time I eat a good lunch for 30 to 40 minutes, and usually sleep about 20 minutes. Thus, my average work day is nine hours. On Fridays, it's probably closer to eight hours. Occasionally, I also will work from one to three hours early on a Saturday morning. So, my typical work week is 46 hours. If I average an extra half-hour a day Monday through Thursday, I immediately begin to feel it in terms of energy loss. In other words, while I'm fine at 46 hours, at 48 there's a slight but noticeable difference. At 50 hours, there's a distinct difference. At 50 to 52, or more life takes on a different perspective for me. Working too much upsets the delicate balance that I need to remain happy in both my work and non-working life.

Your situation may be completely different. For you, a 10-hour day may be the norm, five days a week. Hence you're putting in 50 hours, and maybe you're doing some reading on Saturday and Sunday that is work-related for an average of 52 hours a week. Perhaps you can go another four hours with no real downside. I doubt it, but maybe you're special.

Conversely, maybe a 40-hour work week is your cup of tea, and even a half-hour after that throws you out of whack. This isn't to say you're a wimp, or don't have the intestinal fortitude of others. Perhaps you're simply comfortable with a 40-hour work week, do a whale of a job during that time, and don't want to do any more work than that. People in government positions or situations in which they punch the clock could easily fall into this category. After years of working a fixed number of hours per week, your body and temperament has become accustomed to it. It's understandable that a variation in the pattern could result in problems. Working too few hours per week for some people can also cause problems.

I feel good when I've put in a nine-hour day Monday through Thursday and an eight-hour or shorter day on Friday. If I only get six or seven hours of work in during a day, when I intended to do nine, sometimes that's a little stressful. If I only intended to do six or seven in a day and I do the six or seven, that's fine.

Considering start and stop times, lunch, and other breaks, add up your typical number of hours worked per week and then in the coming weeks begin to notice what your overwork quotient is. Your overwork quotient might be as little as 15 minutes a day, although for most people that won't register much on the Richter scale. It's more likely to be between two to four hours per week.

Once you have the number and it's right for you, you can align your days and week so that you stay within the comfortable range for you. Your goal then becomes that of working productively within those hours so that you don't increase stress by trying to get more done with less time, thereby off-setting any gains you achieved in stress reduction by not working the longer work week.

Author's Bio:

Jeff helps organizations and individuals manage the relentless enslaught of information overload. www.BreathingSpace.com discusses Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars including "Managing Information and Communication Overload" and "Prospering in a World of Rapid Change." Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space® Institute; a popular speaker; and the author of numerous books, including:

* The 60 Second Organizer (Adams Media)
* Breathing Space (MasterMedia)
* The Joy of Simple Living (Rodale)
* Complete Idiot's Guide to Managing Your Time (Alpha/Penguin)

To book Jeff for your next meeting call him directly at 800-735-1994.