Avoiding Overtime with Time Management


“Go home, Keira!”, a coworker once chastised in response to seeing me getting cozy at my desk, ready to plug in a few more hours of work after office hours. She probably thought this was my normal, “new job” routine and that I was trying to make a great impression in hopes of a quicker promotion. Couldn’t have been further from the truth. I actually had spent the day exploring the campus and playing with all the perks and amenities. Could you blame anyone who is new to working in a place that has the reputation of an adult’s Chuck E. Cheese? My point is that what may have looked like the fervent adherence of an over-achiever breaking through the limits of productivity and valiantly paving the road to recognition and success, was actually just someone who spent the day goofing off and catching up to meet the next day’s deadlines.

The truth is, more often than not, working overtime is a sign of poor time management, not outstanding work ethic. The lack of proper time management could be from the employee’s procrastination, his or her eagerness to say yes to every new project or idea that is introduced, or even the manager’s inability to delegate tasks that can be accomplished in a set amount of time. More often than not, however, it’s the employee’s responsibility to estimate how long a task will take.

This doesn’t just apply to employees of a company, however. Even if you’re a small business owner, you must ask yourself just how productive are you truly being in those longer nights behind the computer screen? In a Memo to work martyrs, CNBC shared a study published by John Pencavel of Stanford University. The study found that productivity steadily drops after a 50 hour work week. After 55 hours, there’s a sharp plummet. The study also noted that extra hours at work has been linked to absenteeism and employee turnover. You’re also putting your employees and/or yourself at risk for mental exhaustion and burnout.

Fight the perils of overtime by scheduling and timing your tasks. Set aside a “no interruptions” slot with a timekeeper or workflow app and stick to it! Schedule regular 10 minute breaks to goof off or take a breather. Allotting time for interruptions and timing tasks will put you in better control of your time in the office and get rid of the urge to stay after hours. Do it for yourself… and for the coworkers that possibly worry about you!

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