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After a few years with quite some overtime, I decided to get rid of my 'staying late' habit. That was never that excessive, but the hours add up. While staying late and doing overtime is a bit of a norm in the company, it's not my biggest problem so far. For some reason, I find it hard to leave early when my coworkers are still working. Here's the things I did recently to change my working habits:

  • Be early - I'm usually the first in my team by one or two hours
  • Set an alarm half an hour before it's time to go, so I have time to finish my stuff with some structure and set up my todos for the next day
  • I try to cultivate the mental image that working overtime that doesnt get paid anyway makes about as much sense as stapling 50€ bills to the office walls, as a present for the company
  • Talk, when the subject fits, to the coworkers I deal with most often about my times and that I want to spend some time with my kids in the evening - so that when I have to ask them to accomodate my schedule, they allready know why

I found that I'm actually more productive, as the thought of leaving early helps me to focus on the tasks at hand. So far I had no problems with my boss, I'll face that when it comes.

However. I know, intellectually, that I'm not doing myself a favor with staying late, and only a small one to the company. But still, I feel strange powering down my compiuter when my coworkers are still in the midst of their tasks. I also feel like its an aggressive act of me, that I have to explain, to leave early, when in fact I also started early. Apparantly I'm not very assertive. I think if I manage to keep up the habits above for a few months, this will be my new normal and easier to maintain. But is there anything that can help me to change my mindset away from presentism in the meantime?

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Clear with your boss that you are a morning person. I am an early morning riser myself and I prefer to get much of my work done before 9 AM.

As long as you coordinate with your boss, that you leave at a predictable, regular time, your boss and your colleagues can optimize around your schedule. If they know that you always leave at 4 PM, they'll know to reach out to you before 4 PM or wait until the next day. Because you conditioned them to do that.

You screw up when they have an inkling that you are trying to get out early but since they see you often enough working late, they won't have any internal objections to ask you to do tasks on the spur of the moment that will cause you to stay late. And if they see you staying late, they'll be sure to ask you at the last possible minute to do stuff for them that will cause you to stay late. Remember, if they see you break your own rule, you just conditioned them to break your rule, too.

If you are leaving at your usual time, unless it's urgent and it has to be done tonight and it can be done by none other than you, tell them that you'll take care of it before they get to the office tomorrow. If you build this kind of credibility, there is no reason why they shouldn't give you plenty of slack regarding times of arrival and departures. The key to success is that you show and convince them that you coordinate with them effectively despite your disparate schedules.

  • Accept because the second paragraph is exactly my problem that I need to activly. – mart Mar 27 '15 at 20:56
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You ask how to change your mindset, so I would suggest you consider that what you are doing when you power down at an appropriate time is

  • setting a good example for your coworkers of work life balance
  • establishing appropriate boundaries so people know what they should expect from you
  • preventing burnout and resentment, which is in the company's interest as well as your own

By leaving at an appropriate time, you give others permission to do the same. If you overwork, others may feel they have to follow suit.

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