We’re oh so lucky to live in a time in which so many people have a strong opinion and they all consider their opinion to be gospel. You’ll find a huge amount of content about the correct way to use your time. Apparently it is impossible to be a billionaire without waking up at 4am, going to bed at 10pm and working for at least 20 hours a day. And if you’re really not interested in becoming a billionaire (you shouldn’t be), there’ll still be plenty of tips on the correct amount to work. These tend to range from the ‘Only ever work normal office hours otherwise you’re a terrible human and aren’t good enough’, to ‘Never switch on your out of office and be available at all times otherwise you’re a terrible human and aren’t good enough’.
I don’t have the correct answer. Literally no one has the correct answer as it doesn’t exist.
Maybe you’re a point in your life or career in which you have to put in more effort. I’ve most certainly been there. I’ve been underqualified for a job that didn’t require a huge amount of qualifications and felt the need to prove my worth. It paid off. I’m not saying it was the correct thing to do, but rather what I chose to do. I was also able to recognise when it was getting too much and it was time to dial it back a bit and move on. Luckily by then I had picked up some skills that had enabled me to take a step up. But even if I hadn’t picked up these skills, I would have recognised that I was pushing it too hard and eased up. If by that point my employer hadn’t recognised that I had a good work ethic and was a valuable member of staff, then they never would.
In my current role I work in a number of ways which would be both praised and vilified by the multitude of LinkedIn and business influencers. I rarely stay in the office after 18:00. I switch on my Out of Office notifications. I never check my emails during vacation time. I sometimes do a bit of extra work on weekend or the odd evening after my kids and wife are asleep. Sometimes I sit up until 01:00 catching up on new information so I keep my knowledge up to date. The point is I absolutely don’t care how others (other than my boss) perceive my working hours. Yes, I am extremely lucky to have a job I enjoy, and a boss who is very flexible and relaxed. But despite all the blog posts and people who refer to themselves as business ‘experts’ on their social media profiles, who made 100 Billion dollars within a year of almost going bankrupt simply by changing their daily routine, there is no right and wrong answer.
The hours that you work can depend very much on your personality, your life situation and your job. The most important thing to know is yourself. If you feel yourself even begin to approach exhaustion, a burnout, or things start to feel too much, turn it down a notch and give yourself a breather for a while. My biggest turning point was getting home from work after a long day in a hard week in a terrible month, walking past my wife and kids to sit on the bed and cry. Maybe my breaking point was lower than others. It doesn’t matter, everyone is different. I learnt from that experience that I had a limit and that I needed to pay attention to how I felt, not just to how much I had to do. So ignore all the advice of how to manage your day, and just do the best you can in your circumstances as you strive to achieve whatever it is you need or want to achieve.