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How to Handle Overtime

Posted: November 16, 2012 at 9:45 A.M.
by Kristin Nelson

We’ve all been there. Deadlines and due dates are all-too-soon approaching, and you have to put in some extra hours. Of course, you are prepared to do the work — after all, you’re an excellent employee (or student or athlete). Nonetheless, the hours drag on and the work never seems to be finished.

How can you handle the stress and monotony of overtime hours? When a project is due by the end of the week and it is so tedious that it can’t be finished during the typical 9-to-5 day, follow these steps to help make crunch time less painful.

Set goals and work toward them. Before you begin your work, set a reasonable goal to complete by the end of the night. If you need to, set smaller goals to accomplish before you can take a break. Make sure your goals aren’t unreachable, but also be sure you are doing a significant amount of work. Try to get as much done as possible without overworking yourself. If you have teammates or colleagues working with you, make sure everyone is aware of and agrees upon these goals. Work toward them together so that everyone can go home feeling accomplished.

Work hard, and work quietly. While it may be tempting to have some fun while you’re pulling a late-nighter, it can be counterproductive. The more time you spend talking to colleagues, the less time you spend working toward your goal. Try to focus on the task at hand. If you need a second away from that task, check out the next tip.

Take breaks! Working super hard for hours on end usually isn’t as productive as it sounds. After reaching some small goals, take a break. Walk around, get out of the room, talk to your teammates, grab a snack. Don’t get so bogged down in your work that you can’t think clearly. Stay focused while working on the task, but reserve some time to be “unfocused” as well.

Respect your supervisor. When overtime hours are necessary, we often blame those above us. Please, refrain from doing so at the office. Perhaps your co-workers find it humorous to poke fun at the boss after he leaves the office, but that isn’t a good idea. Don’t join in — nothing good can come from it.

Be proud of yourself. When the work is finished, take time to relax and enjoy your feeling of accomplishment. You stayed focused and did the job — now it’s time to take pride in your work.

The bottom line is: we all have to stay late at some point or another. So, try to complain less and focus more. In the end, you’ll be glad you stayed and finished the project! That sense of pride is definitely worth all of your hard work.


  1. Post comment

    Working overtime probably means something different to everyone. As students, we work hard to balance our class schedule with the right amount of study time, volunteer time and internships, not to mention eating, sleeping and social time. We tend to feel like we are being pulled in many directions when it may be that we just need to prioritize our time better. This is a crucial time in our development to determine what is really important, what really has to get done and what can wait. I may be in class 16 to 18 hours a week, study another 4 to 6 hours, intern 10 to 12 hours and think I don’t have enough time in the day. To put that in perspective, I see my parents working 40 to 50 hours a week at their jobs and then adding volunteer work, as well as taking care of our family, and they seem to have it under control. I think the longer you work at being a student, a student athlete or have part-time or full-time employment we are always going to have to be able to prioritize to be successful. We are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to college or have a stable job and we should make every effort to work as many hours as it takes to get the job done.

  2. Post comment

    As we approach the end of the semester, these are great tips for getting through those inevitable crunch time situations. They are totally applicable to students and professionals alike. I think an important addition to respecting your supervisor is respecting your peers. As a student, group projects can be tense when things don’t turn out as planned. It is important to continue to respect each other in those tense and unpleasant late night hours, whether at work or at the library.

  3. Post comment

    This whole semester I feel like I have been working overtime most days of the week. I have had the busiest schedule since I have been at UA and it has taken its toll on me. Meeting deadlines is something that I have begun to take into serious account on daily basis. I have also been trying to perfect each step you mention above because they are keys to success. Setting goals has been the biggest factor I have been working on. I have found it much easier to handle the work load if I do not procrastinate and work each day at accomplishing something important on my to-do list. Working efficiently and effectively is most important as well. It is better for me to work hard, concentrating at the maximum for two hours and taking a short break to relax. I have found that rewarding myself and being proud relieve stress and even encourage me to work harder.


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