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A former manager of mine once half-jokingly told me that he was tempted to reject my timesheet that week. I was a little embarrassed if I’m honest, because I knew why he was saying this. I’d put in such a ridiculous amount of overtime, he was probably wondering what I actually do with my life.

He was also a rare gem of a manager and wanted to help me avoid the same situation in the future.

Admittedly, it was at a time when a colleague had, frankly, left me sailing single-handedly up that proverbial creek. I had a lot of slack to pick up. But, in the spirit of aforementioned honesty, it was also because at that time I was the definition of a ‘yes’ girl. 

So keen was I to be seen as a respected and proactive member of my office environment – you know, the one you go to when you need to get stuff done – that I would say yes to pretty much anything. 

Forgetting that I was there as an internal comms bod, I would take on extra duties, design work, writing meeting notes – all this stuff and more that I was absolutely not paid to do. I fell into the trap of believing that if you’re the first in and last one out of the office, you’re the most dedicated. And if you’re doing the most work, you’re probably the best at your job. This just isn’t true. 

I loved my job back then, and I wanted to do well but I soon realised after my timesheet debacle that this was a messed-up way of proving it. I vowed I wouldn’t let it get that ridiculous again and went about taking my time back, in spite of the raised eyebrows and snarky comments every time I left the office on time.

I wanted to be able to do a productive eight-hour day rather than a frantic (and likely substandard) 11-hour one. This is something I’ve taken into my work as a freelancer.

When I’m working in a client’s office, I’m always sure to take my lunch break and leave on time – unless it’s absolutely necessary to stay later. It never hurts to go the extra mile, but I also don’t believe that working overtime should be a given. 

But this is what works for me. 

I don’t thrive on stress, I like managing my time so that I’m free to pursue other creative interests and I want to enjoy my personal life. No matter how much I enjoy my work – and I’m very lucky to love what I do – I’ve learned that there is so much more to life than racking up numbers on a spreadsheet.

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