Feature Article: Face Time: When You Canít Stay Past Five

ďNow what should I do?Ē a reader laments. ďIíve instituted many of your productivity techniques, and now Iím getting out of the office on time. I arrive before my boss does in the morning, so she doesnít see how hard I work when I start my day. Now that Iím leaving by 5:00, she thinks Iím slacking. But Iím actually getting more work done than ever before!Ē

Though some companies understand the realities of time constraints due to day care, most are still measuring employees the old-fashioned wayóby the clock. The truth is the more indispensable you are and the more you can distinguish yourself, the more likely it is that you can gain some flexibility. Here are some ideas on how you can draw attention to the work you do in the morning hours:

1. Speak up. If you have a conflict that forces you to leave earlier than most people each day, talk to your supervisor. Have an open conversation, explaining how important it is for you to be productive and do a good job, and why you must leave on time each day. Point out that youíre the first one to arrive each day and how much you get done without people interrupting you. One hour of uninterrupted work can equate to three hours with frequent interruptions.

2. Use email as proof of performance. Send an email to your boss about a business issue as soon as you arrive at the office. The time displayed on the message is proof you were working early. Similarly, email will also document the late night or evening hours you worked yesterday from home.

3. Think inside the box. Drop completed work in her in-box by 8:00 a.m. with a message and the time written on a sticky note.

4. Just say Joe. Start the office coffee pot before others show up. They slyly ask your boss if she enjoyed the special Kona coffee you brewed. After all, you are the first one in to the office each day, so you have to get the Joe going.

5. Track your time. Use a time log consistently, so you can prove how much youíre getting done in the early-morning hours. Track your accomplishments as you go, so that you have good material for your performance review. 

6. Become indispensable. Just because someone works longer hours than you doesnít mean that person is more productive. The truth is the more indispensable you are, the more you can distinguish yourself, and the more likely it is you can gain some flexibility and still move ahead.

7. Use metrics. Devise a way with your boss to measure your results and value, not simply the number of hours you are at your desk. Explain how you often work in the evenings at home after the kids are in bed, using your Internet connection to check and respond to email. When you consistently accomplish your performance objectives, your boss will care less about when and how you get your work done.

8. Develop a reputation. Be the one people can always count on. No matter what, leaving on time does not affect your ability to get your work done, on time, every time.

9. Stay visible. Volunteer for special committees, especially those involving other departments. Make it a point to talk about the value you add to the committees youíre on, and the projects youíre doing. Soon, people will look to you when new projects come down the pike.

10. Focus on outcome. Write out a list of the top ten responsibilities you have and rank them in priority order. Have your boss do the same. Compare the two lists. Are you working on activities and tasks that arenít valued by your boss? Are you spending too much time on tasks that donít move the companyís main agenda forward? If something has to drop off your plate, make sure itís something less important. Once youíre completely focused on outcomes, face time is less important.

11. Keep your nose to the grindstone. Politely let chatty co-workers know that you have a limited time to work today, since you must get out on time. Show your manager how committed you are to your job by truly working hard all day and not engaging in excessive socializing. When you demonstrate that kind of clear-cut dedication to getting the job done, co-workers are less likely to questions your productivity. 

12. Use technology to your advantage. Clearly communicate, ďI leave at 5:00 p.m. every day to go pick up my child from daycare. However, that doesnít mean Iím out of touch. If you need me, my cell phone is on until 6:00 or you can leave me a voicemail or email. Be willing to do what it takes to stay on top of business that is conducted after you leave the office.

In the long run, the workplace will inevitably move away from the concept of face time to a more flexible, results-oriented workplace. Until then, try one of the tips above to beat the clock-watchers.

Make it a productive day! ô

(C) Copyright 2004 Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. All rights reserved. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted in your organization or association newsletter, provided the following credit line is present:

"Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is "The Productivity Pro"ģ and the author of Leave the Office Earlier. She presents keynotes and seminars on time management, information overload, and personal productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or [email protected]."