This is the perfect topic for the first month of a brand new year!
Staying late started innocently enough: ?If I just stay a little later
today, I can catch up? on this work I haven?t been able to get to.? Eight
hours went to nine. It became a habit. Then: ?If I just take this reading
home with me, I can ?catch up? after the kids go to bed.? Nine hours went to
ten. You did this on a regular basis; 60-hour weeks became the norm. Sure,
if you?re starting a new business or have an important short-term project,
you?ll have to put in some extra hours. But if years later you?re still
working those hours, it?s now a habit. You have forgotten what it?s like to
have a free weeknight or weekend.
Where do we draw the line when it comes to life balance? Is the worker
the one who draws it? Does that task belong to our companies or to society?
It?s difficult to define where personal responsibility ends and companies?
responsibility begins. I think both share it. In the final analysis,
responsibility for your life is yours alone. You must draw the line and
insist on leaving work on time to create the balance for yourself. If you
don?t, you will perpetually chase the clock.
I?ve studied many successful people and discovered they place a high
priority on not working extreme hours and striking a healthy balance between
work and home. Here are some strategies to help you draw the line and leave
work on time:
? Stop participating in the cultural rules. Commit to getting out the
door on time. Who decided that you should work until 7:00 PM? Are you
getting paid for 40 hours or 60 hours? How much is the time ?you?re devoting
because you?re a salaried employee and obligated to do what it takes to get
the job done? worth?
? Start meetings before 4:00 PM. If you have some say or control
regarding meeting times, schedule them to end by 4:30. Preferably, start
meetings right after lunch. Block out your calendar beginning at 4:00 every
day, so people can?t schedule with you. Set a good example and encourage
others to do the same. If you have an assistant or a team that reports to
you, don?t ask people to begin projects at 4:45 PM. Respect their right to a
? Be assertive. Don?t be afraid to tell others, ?I leave work at 5:00, on
time, every day. I have a 5:30 commitment I must adhere to.? It?s none of
their business that your commitment is with yourself or your family. People
tend to support others when their goals are made public.
? Schedule fixed office hours. If you have an assistant, block off
certain hours a few days a week to accept appointments. Perhaps Monday,
Wednesday, and Friday, you take appointments from 9:00 to 10:30 and 2:00 to
3:30. This way, you don?t have interruptions overlapping the time you?re
trying to leave the office.
? Make preparations to leave. Gather up your coat and put it in a visible
spot so others can see you?re closing shop. Close your door a few minutes
before quitting time so people will think you?re busy or already gone.
Whatever they want, it can wait until tomorrow.
? Challenge your assumptions. Long hours aren?t ?the way it is.? To
reduce the time pressure you feel, decide to reclaim your day?not by working
longer, but to finish your work within the workday. Don?t focus on ?catching
up.? You will never catch up. There will always be more things to do than
there is time to do them. People have a tendency to create work to fill up
any amount of time they have. They?ll accomplish the same amount of work in
a 45- minute meeting as a 90-minute meeting. When working late is a habit,
you tend to slack off a little. By being more productive during the day, you
?ll get the same amount of work done?and leave earlier.
? Start small. Think about how productive you are right before you go on
vacation. Everything inside of you supports your desire to leave! The
unimportant things magically disappear, and you focus on higher-value
activities. Similarly, you can pick a single day, perhaps Thursdays, to be
?the? day you leave work on time. To support this decision, you will
automatically begin to be more productive on Thursdays and work your day
more carefully. Even though you work a normal workday on Thursday, you don?t
get any less work done. After you sense what it?s like to have Thursday
nights to yourself, you benefit from a system of self-reinforcement, because
you enjoy the rewards you created. Then add another day, like Monday, and do
the same thing. Keep working on productivity skills and adding more days,
until you?re working your 40-hour workweek again and accomplishing even
Keep in mind, the problem is not a shortage of time. The problem is your
habits, which collectively create decreased productivity. Don?t unwittingly
fall into the trap of throwing more time at problems.
Remember: Work isn?t life! You are working to live, not living to work.
Yes, you want to be productive. You want to enjoy your work and get raises
and promotions. But you need a worthwhile life in the process. Become a role
model for others to seek equilibrium and find a life of their own?something
worth leaving the office earlier for.
Make it a productive day!