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This chapter is from the book

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

It never hurts to be seen as the person who has just a little more work ethic than the next guy when it comes to surviving a downturn. Of course, this won’t matter a hill of beans if you are the person who is always in the office but never billing. However, as a deciding factor that can tip the scales, there will always be a tendency to keep the person who seems to be more dedicated to the success of the company.

Is this entirely fair? Of course not. When it comes to surviving rounds of layoffs, from criteria A to Z, fairness would probably be a Z. When you get down to it, perception becomes reality when hard times strike. While it isn’t fair, you can use this fact to your advantage as a survival skill. If you are staffed at a client when times are tough, do not be afraid to come in a little early, particularly if you can use the time effectively to get some work done before 8 a.m. when people are not around to bother you. I know many consultants who get more done from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. than other consultants get done all day! Mostly because the office tends to be a distraction-free environment during those hours.

Now, for some of you, 6 a.m. is the time you tend to get to bed, not go to work. You might think you can apply the same strategy to staying late. Although that is certainly better than nothing and can potentially result in your getting more work done, management tends to notice the industriousness of early risers more than people who stay late. Part of the reason is probably due to the stereotype that software developers play World of Warcraft and Halo late into the evening, putting them into another cycle of “in at 11, out at 7.” Bucking this stereotype can help create the perception that you are more business-focused than technology-focused. Furthermore, because meetings tend to occur during the middle of the day—the period between 10 and 3 when most people are in—you will generally be better prepared if you have had the entire morning to prepare with the most recent information versus preparing the night before and having more outdated information.

  • Survival Strategy #7: Come in to work one to two hours early, if at all possible. You will get a leg up on the day’s events, be there when most of the executives arrive, and be as prepared as possible for any of the day’s important meetings, which are typically held in the morning. Don’t overdo it though; more than 10 hours a day and you are at risk for burnout.

Does this mean you should work 16 hours per day when your consulting company is only getting paid for 8 of them? Not at all. This really means you should make sure you are putting in 8 full, professional hours, after deducting the time spent checking personal email, viewing sports scores, and catching up on RSS feeds. Most people (maybe not you, but probably) spend a net 2.09 hours per day in nonproductive work (a.k.a. goofing off), so extending yourself is really a mechanism to assure that your clients are, in fact, getting the 8 professional hours they paid for (source: http://news.cnet.com/Stop-reading-this-headline-and-get-back-to-work/2100-1022_3-5783552.html?tag=nefd.ac).

One of the worst things you could do is to throw yourself so into your work that you have no balance in your life. Burning yourself out is the opposite of a survival strategy. When the economy is down, you are going to need the energy to keep going, even when things seem like they are going very badly. Working enough to show you are committed more than average but not so much that you burn yourself out is the key to implementing this strategy.

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