I left work at 5:01 PM yesterday, a rarity for me. Pulling out of the parking lot, I realized I was stuck in a traffic jam, at least as bad as traffic gets in Springfield, Illinois. Raised in the country where the nearest neighbor lived a mile away, I hate traffic with a passion.
While I'm no stranger to long days, having worked 36 hours straight and 80 hours in 4 days (and yes I know that's an average of 20 hours a day), these days I don't work nearly that many hours. I don't usually stop working right at five though.
I long ago realized the importance of work-life balance, and make it a priority to spend time with my family, so please don't think I'm telling you to work your life away when reading this article. What I am suggesting is that you stop watching the clock.
Go the Extra Mile and Avoid the Traffic Jam
It's incredible the difference in staying those extra few minutes makes. I can wrap up whatever I am working on, and enjoy a little bit of time without distractions. On top of that, I often have the opportunity to visit with a good friend, the owner of our company, before I leave. It's a good buffer time before I dive into home life with my five kids.
By the time I hit the parking lot, it's usually empty. The traffic is virtually non-existent, and I can buzz right home rather than getting frustrated as I attempt to pull out of our office. Without fighting everyone else on the road, I often arrive home only a few minutes later than I do when stuck in the 5:00 traffic jam.
It's probably important to note that I don't stay for many hours after the end of the workday either. If you're spending most of your life at work, your home life will suffer, and vice-versa.
A Different Mentality
Growing up, I had about an hour of chores feeding and watering animals before and after school every day; that's just what you did as a farm kid. I was done with my work when I got done with it, not when a clock had a certain number on it. Rain, snow, or shine, the animals had to be fed and watered, so you just learned to deal with it and get the job done no matter what.
That mentality has served me well in business. It's why I don't watch the clock, and why I regularly get to visit with the owner who has the same mentality after hours. It's why I'm now the general manager of our company and will likely take it over soon.
Follow the Crowd, Get Stuck in the Traffic Jam
If you want to be like everyone else and get stuck in the traffic jam as you rush home from a job you hate as soon as the minute hand touches five, by all means, continue doing that.
If you want to enjoy your work and drive home a little more, stop watching the clock. You might find that you miss the traffic jam, get known as the person who goes the extra mile in your career, get to spend some time chatting with a friend, and still make it home at about the same time.