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Barden Insights: Why Some Men Pretend to Work 80-Hour Weeks...

Welcome to May, and a Bank Holiday!

It may shower or shine this weekend, but either way, it’s our signal that we’re approaching summer; a glorious time of more Bank Holidays, two-week holidays, school holidays…and well, more work.
Whether the child in you screams for joy, or the wise adult in you bows their head with the reality of deadlines, one thing’s for certain: we’ll all need to do just as much work, but in less working days.

It’s easier to work longer hours in the winter, because, quite simply, we have less going on. In the summer, however, even the most dedicated amongst us will want to priorities fitness, family, relationships and hobbies – which all in all means that when our evenings are brighter, those 12 hour days don’t seem so appealing anymore.

I read a fascinating HBR article this week called “Why Some Men Pretend to Work 80-Hour Weeks.” Essentially, the article shatters the idea that successful people work more hours, by illustrating through a case study that some of the most successful professional services leaders “pass” for 80-hour a week workers while actually doing no more than 9-5, through shrewd management of their time, solid customer relationships and effective utilisation of resources. The article also aptly illustrates the still highly prevalent view that if you’re see to want to do something else with your time, i.e., not work 80-hour weeks, that you’re somehow are less committed to your job, hence why these individuals, rated by Partners as “shining stars” had not disclosed their much more sensible level of hours worked outside of their own teams.

As you already know as a finance manager, productivity is key; and as a leader of people, you’ll know enabling people to maintain a work like balance promotes fresh perspectives and reduces burnout. So what steps can we all take, or teach others to take, in moving towards the goal of delivering the same results, but in less time?

#1 Plan your week, in your week
Don’t factor in time to “get it done over the weekend.” Plan carefully, using slots in your calendar to make sure everything you agree to get done, can be done, within your working week. Be strict with yourself; keep yourself to task and to time allocated.

#2 Block Friday afternoon off
Not for fun. Sorry! For making sure you have “spill over” time. Blocking a couple of hours out at the start of the week to frontload work and enable you to shift priorities to take on those “urgent” matters, will stop you eating into your evening, or weekend time.

#3 Prioritise complex matters as early morning tasks
The thought of starting with the chewy issues before your second cup of coffee might sound off putting, but you’ll be much fresher in the morning than after your 3pm slump, where a 20-minute task could take you an hour.

#4 Mark out 30-minute inbox sessions
The biggest time-waster of them all: email. Block off a couple of 30-minute slots in a day, and keep yourself honest. Also consider that it might be quicker to pick up the phone and call than write and re-write a two-paragraph email until you’re happy with it.

#5 Book in those family, social, fitness sessions
You’ll speed up if you know you have to be somewhere at 7.30pm. Of course, this isn’t always practical, but getting into a habit of committing to events instead of “seeing if you have finished” gives you mini-deadlines. And we all work better under pressure.
We’re all socially programmed to work long hours, as it’s seen widely as a characteristic of being dedicated to your job. Even more so if you’ve trained in professional services where hours are directly equated to revenue. But, as numerous studies and leadership articles contend, working long hours is not necessary for high quality work, and the two certainly don’t support each other in the long term. Your performance shouldn’t be measured by hours completed, it should be measured by results.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain all summer!

Read more: Reid, E., “Why Some Men Pretend to Work 80-Hour Weeks” HBR

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