At every job that I’ve worked at, the idea that working longer hours always produces better work is at the forefront of the way of thinking in the organization. 8 straight hours a day is normal. Working late ishonorable. It’s just the way you do things, right?
Work is a sensitive, complex issue to people. Its something we divide our time between hanging out with our best friends. Or having dinner with our dearest family members. Or reading that book you always wanted to read. What about that painting you never finished?
Often the biggest irony of work is that its doing things you don’t love to do, in order to make room in life for the things you love. But even that mentality is changing, due to a little more flexibility in some companies’ work hours and social situations, such as raising families or being caretakers. As we see more companies and people engaging in this mentality - to care about your job - I think its only a matter of time until we see some big changes in the policies we’re under right now.
That being said, it still hasn’t changed for most of us. So for the last couple of years, I’ve taken the Sheryl Sandberg approach to dividing the work hours in my life. She’s famous always leaves at 5:30pm, which helps keep the work stuff at work and the personal things outside of the office. Doing this was pretty different from my past jobs, where I was often expected to be on-call at most times of the day - thanks to the smartphone. So I had no real mental separation between work and home, and I’d feel incredibly busy all the time. For getting the job I have now, that was actually a big requirement for me - to have clear work hours in a contract. That way, even though they’re not entirely flexible - it states where my work begins and ends for the day.
Of course, the occasional situation comes up where I’ve had to work longer hours. To help with that, I divide the time that I have at work into pieces I know I can handle. I’ll throw anything I have to do into a task manager, so I can cross them off and know how much I have to complete by the day’s end. And I’ll be honest to my coworkers about the time I need to finish something. That way there’s not as many chances to hold grudges over not working long enough.
The big thing for me is being confident and honest with myself in what I want and how I feel about the hours I put into work. Like if those hours are really long, I’m not enjoying where they go, and I know someone else can fill my place easily - maybe its time for something new. There’s always a beautiful view behind the challenges I have managing my days - I just have to change how I think about things, even if it’s just a little.