Do you see long work hours as a sign of character? A badge of honor? Do you feel like you have to show your face at the office to be perceived as working hard? Do you feel needed when you come back to your desk and find 20 voicemails and 150 emails? Do you feel compelled to be seen at the office, otherwise, you could be mistaken for a part-timer?
Ladies, working like crazy no longer guarantees a job for life. How many times have you heard about the dedicated 20+ year employee who got laid off? Working yourself to death does not guarantee a raise, a bonus, or even a promotion. What it does guarantee is not seeing your family very much.
I used to be there but have learned from my mistakes.
One of the problems working mothers face is that we don’t have very many role models to look up to. Instead, we emulate people we think are successful. Looks can be deceiving. That person we think is succeeding is working 24/7, trading office time for family time, and is constantly stressed out. Are long hours really the hallmark of a successful working mother? The answer is no.
The good news is that the world is changing and the expectations about working, hours, and face time in the office is changing too. I now have great success with my career, I have dinner with my family most nights, have some wonderful friendships, and even carve out time for outside activities like this wonderful site and the occasional exercise class.
How do I do it? I stay focused and set boundaries.
Change Your Thinking: Work more effectively for less time- After almost 20 years of working long hours, unnecessary travel, and unproductive office time, I finally realized something. If you do your job, and do it well, you will get ahead even if you don’t arrive at 5:30 am, and stay until after dark. Your biggest enemy is not your work schedule, your email box, or even an unsupportive manager… it’s the way you think about work. Stop assuming that working a lot means you are effective- they are two very different things. Ask yourself the following question every single day: am I being productive?
Demand Evaluations Based Upon Accomplishments (not hours worked)- I run a sales team. At the end of a long day, all that really matters is if we make our goals. If this can be accomplished in 60 hours per week or 2, it makes no difference. It is a dramatic example but the idea is the same for all professions (not just sales). When you are making a profit for your company, when you close a new account, or when you help to get major goals completed, this is much more valuable than office time spent reviewing email, chatting with co-workers, or filing reports. Make the time you are in the office count for both you and your employer.
Teach them how to work with you: “Hey, can you have this ready for me tomorrow morning?” “Can you make the sales meeting at 6:30 tonight?”
In my early years, I would work all night to meet deadlines, often even sleeping at my desk. I was always the first into the office and the last to leave. I would never miss evening meetings. But then I had kids. Life changed and so did my priorities.
Consider this radical idea: rather than just hopping to everything and killing yourself in the process, tell your co-workers how to work with you, not the other way around. Simply say that you want to give the project your best effort and will need four days to complete it – set a deadline that works for you. Or for that evening meeting, respond that it doesn’t work for you and give them a more realistic time (that doesn’t interrupt family time).
When you do this an amazing, almost magical thing happens: 99% of the time, they listen and adjust. Don’t assume they understand your schedule. They don’t.
Enlist the partner in your life- the importance of a real partnership– We spend a lot of time talking about this at PWM. Dual career families are now the single largest group of families in the workplace. If you add in single parent homes you now have the majority of the workforce- not kidding. When we all support each other, we can build a new model (eventually a more popular one) of dual parenting, high productivity, and reasonable hours.