The Myth of the 14 Hour Work Day

Apr 26 2012 Published by under Sarah B.

written by Sarah B.

There seems to be an unwritten rule for some offices where people glorify the insane amount of time that they spend working. Have you heard friends almost bragging about the fact that they stay late every night? It’s those little subtweets about making friends with the night security or those who are constantly talking about how little sleep they’re functioning on- it’s almost like they’re wearing the 14 hour work day as a merit badge. Whenever I hear someone talking like this, I immediately think to myself that they have poor time management skills- not that they’re a hard worker. Are you a card carrying member of the “work too much” club? How do you fix it?

flickr photo by bourgeoisbee

Where does your time really go?
Some people have problems with spending money. They get to the end of the month and wonder what they spent it on. (A quick look at their bank account reveals more midday Starbucks runs than they thought.) Try tracking your time, the same way you track your spending. How much time did you really spend on that project? Was it four hours, or did you check your email 12 times, chat with a coworker for a half hour, and return two phone calls? Did you check Twitter, read a blog, and text your best friend, too? As Millennials, we might think that multitasking is the way to go. Research varies, but it can upwards of five minutes to refocus on a task at hand if you get interrupted. Try to do one thing at a time. The more you get interrupted, the less likely you are to finish a task. If something new comes across your desk, ask yourself if you need to respond to it right away or if you can “park it” on your to do list.

What’s your office culture?
Let’s pretend that you really are a good time manager. Most days, you’ve finished your projects by a reasonable hour… but your boss is still working. Do you stay anyway? It might be hard at first, but don’t stay unless you truly have something pressing. Make sure the quality of your work meets or exceeds the expectations, and then leave for the day. When people launch into “Oh my GOSH, I have been working SO MUCH lately. Let me tell you about how I stayed at the office until the lights went out…” what they’re really saying is “Please, someone tell me I’m working hard and doing a good job.” You can achieve the same praise simply by doing good work- it doesn’t have to take all night. Complaining or bragging about how much you work can actually have a negative effect. If you were a hiring manager, would you want an employee who was stressed out all the time or one who could manage their time well? Try spinning your stories in a different direction: “I finished that project in time to head home for a run.” There will always be an endless amount of tasks for you to complete in your job. That’s why it’s called work. Set realistic daily or weekly goals for yourself and don’t worry so much about the things that you “didn’t have time for.” If you prioritize effectively (with the help of your supervisor), the most important tasks will be done. Let go of the expectation that you’ll be able to do everything every day.

What are you giving up to work?
It’s okay to work long hours during the week leading up to a big deadline or an event. If you’re working too frequently without much of a break, though, there can be a serious strain on your health. Ask yourself how many times you’ve skipped a workout because you’ve been “stuck” at the office. Have you been able to catch up with a friend or call your mom within the last week? If the answer is no because you can’t seem to leave the office before 10 p.m., it’s time to reevaluate. Even the COO of Facebook leaves by 5:30 p.m. You can’t build the relationships you need in your career if you don’t have anything to talk about aside from work. You need time to read a best seller, volunteer, take a weekend trip, or work on your home. Those things make you an interesting, well-rounded person. Consider what you’re trading for what you think is a shot at moving up the ladder.

How do you keep from working TOO much?

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