12-Hour Shifts – How to Make a 12-Hour Shift Go By Faster

Many jobs routinely require 12-hour shifts, like nurses, truck drivers, warehouse employees, or dispatchers. If you’re entering one of them you’re probably wondering how are you going to survive?

Not by watching the clock, that’s for sure. It doesn’t help much in the 9-5 world, but for those who work 12-hour shifts, it’s a complete nightmare to keep looking at the clock, willing the time to go faster. There are more efficient ways to make time fly or at least seem like it does.

Pace Your Work

When you’re entering a 12-hour shift you might be tempted to deal with your workload in the first few hours, when you feel full of energy. It’s a trick your mind plays on you, making you believe that most of your work is done your shift is almost ended. It isn’t! It’s still 12 hours and the only thing you’ll achieve is feeling exhausted. And bored, because there’s nothing left to do!

Pace yourself, do some of the work, take a break, focus on another task and so. A good idea is to deal with the annoying parts of your job, paperwork for instance, at the beginning of the shift when you’re full of energy and leave the more enjoyable tasks for later on. 

Keep yourself busy all day or night to make time go faster.

Give Yourself a Break!

That’s one of the golden rules of surviving long shifts – take all the breaks you’re allowed and use them wisely. Sitting at your desk and checking your social media is not the best solution. On the contrary, you might be irritated to see some of your friends are having fun while you’re stuck at work.

There are better ways to relax, like going for a quick walk around the building to get a bit of fresh air. Listen to your favorite music while you walk and clear your mind of anything work-related.

Long shifts are dangerous for your mental wellness if you spend 12 hours focusing continuously on work issues. Use your breaks to find a quiet spot where you can practice meditation or read a chapter from a good book.

If you insist on using the phone, find something relaxing to watch, like a comedian on YouTube, anything to distract your mind.

Try to Exercise: Even During your 12-Hour Shifts

If you’re a nurse running around all day, you’re probably looking forward to the next break to be able to sit down a bit. However, after 15 minutes of sitting down, you’ll probably hate the idea of getting up and resuming your duties.

If your company provides any sort of exercise equipment, as it should, do yourself a favor and use one of your breaks to get a little exercise, which improves not only your physical condition but also your morale and alertness. Even 10 minutes on a treadmill or a stationary bike will do the trick. Some helpful guides:

Interact with Co-Workers and Patients

12 hours is a lot of time to be spending inside your head. If you want to survive long shifts be friendly and sociable. Make new friends at work. Stop for a quick chat with a colleague, share a joke with another, anything that might break the routine will help. Time does fly faster when you’re feeling good. 

If you’re a nurse, 12 hours means plenty of time to talk to some of the patients and a little light-hearted banter will help you as much as it helps them. After all, you get to go home after your shift, they don’t.

Educate Yourself

Some people love their job so much working long shifts doesn’t bother them. However, many of those starting to work long shifts have a shock when they realize they might be doing this for the foreseeable future. If you fall into this second category, use every spare moment of your 12-hour shift to further your education. Learn new skills and study for an online or offline course which will allow you to get a better job, maybe within the same company, but one with decent work hours. 

If you feel those long hours are well spent and the effort will help you down the line, you will be motivated and time will seem to fly. 

Take a Nap: 12-Hour Shifts

No, I don’t mean sleeping on the job because this might get you fired. However, if you have a 30-minute break you might want to use it to take a quick nap.

A 20-minute power nap is a good way to combat sleep deprivation and you will wake up refreshed, ready to function at full capacity for the rest of your shift. Experts say a power nap is preferable over a cup of coffee. Caffeine keeps awake but at a cost, as it decreases memory performance, whereas a little sleep helps you stay alert and focused.

Many people have problems falling right asleep, but you can train your body by maintaining a nap schedule and making yourself comfortable. An eye mask and a blanket kept in a drawer are all that you need to catch a little shut-eye during a break.

Eat Right on 12-Hour Shifts

One of the health problems associated with long shifts is obesity. Many employees probably consider that since they work abnormally long hours, they’re allowed to eat abnormally. Exhaustion or sheer boredom surely warrant a treat, often in the form of a sugary snack from the vending machine or a greasy burger. Sinking your teeth in a chocolate bar only provides momentary pleasure, but as you probably know sugar is addictive and your brain will demand more of those treats. 

If you’re just starting long shifts don’t fall into this trap. When the food choice at your workplace is limited, it’s better to pack a healthy lunch. Go for whole foods guaranteed to provide you with the energy you need and make sure to include some healthy snacks, such as fruit or a bag of peanuts. Also, keep in mind that a sugary snack will provide you with a short energy burst, followed by the inevitable sugar crash, which will leave you sluggish. 

Don’t overeat! Working long shifts doesn’t overrule biology laws and those seemingly innocuous snacks will turn into rolls of fat on your waist!

Give Yourself a Boost for 12-Hour Shifts

No matter how you look at them 12-hour shifts are very taxing on the body, so you need all the help you can get to stay strong. Boost your immune system and your energy levels with multivitamin supplements, particularly vitamin D and all the Bs. Many people are vitamin D deficient and working long shifts can only make matters worse. Whether you work day shifts or night shifts, it’s obvious you don’t get much time in the sun to recharge your batteries. If you’re feeling energized you won’t be looking at the clock so often as your body won’t be begging for some sleep.

Final Remarks:

Surviving 12-hour shifts is not easy, but try not to dwell on the negative parts. Instead of brooding over the long hours, you have to work, focus on the good parts. There must be something you like about your job, focus on that, and think of what you’ll do on the next break.

Also, remember why you’re doing it, especially the paycheck. To keep yourself motivated use a little of that hard-earned money to pamper yourself, buy yourself something nice, go to a spa or take the kids to an amusement park. You will be able to tolerate long hours better when you know why you’re doing it. 

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