20: Leave work when you’re meant to

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned as a product manager.

It took me a while to learn this one, but it’s genuinely helped me to sleep more soundly at night and avoid setting unrealistic expectations about how much I can get done in a given amount of time.

As a line manager, my role is to squeeze every last drop of productivity from my headcount have the best interests of my team at heart.  At the end of each working day, I make a habit of politely encouraging them to stop working and go home.  I know that if I don’t they’ll probably continue to make the place look untidy for at least another couple of hours.

There’s always more to do and product managers are rarely paid overtime

If your line manager doesn’t boot you out each night, bear in mind that there’s always more to do and that product managers are rarely paid overtime.  By working out of hours on a regular basis, you also run the risk of setting unrealistic expectations about how much you can get done in a given amount of time – don’t raise the bar unreasonably high for yourself!

It’s also really important for your peace of mind to switch off after work and get a good night’s rest, particularly when things are more hectic than usual.  So here’s what I’d recommend:

  1. Set your BlackBerry to turn off automatically outside of working hours
  2. Similarly, don’t log into work webmail or remote access
  3. Resist the urge to take your laptop home and do some more work in the evening
  4. Take some exercise after work

On the last point about exercise, after a hard day you may feel tired, but this is generally mental tiredness rather than physical tiredness.  Unless you’ve been overdoing the inter-departmental Nerf gun battles again, or you’ve been running away from the Office Linebacker:

I’m no sleep specialist, but I’ve found that being mentally tired can make it harder for me to switch off at night and get to sleep.  Going to the gym or similar will take your mind off things and unwind that mental tiredness as well as tiring you out, both of which will help you sleep more soundly.

If you have any good tips of your own, why not share them in the comments below?

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