Ten ways to ensure that you finish work on time

Working life is about surviving the 9 to 5 and making sure that there is some of you left for the next day.

In these times of financial uncertainty, there is a lot of pressure to work longer and longer hours and to be seen doing so. With the added pressures of working life, it is more important than ever to maintain a good work / life balance. Mr. Gates himself hit the nail on the head when he said that we should work smarter, not harder.


1. Ensure that you learn from your calls when it looks as though a situation is developing that may have repercussions on service and alert the right people in plenty of time to get a resolution.

2. Make sure that you complete an entry for the knowledge base so that the next person to get the same call doesn't work it out from scratch again.

3. Make sure that the users understand the help desk opening hours. If you are a shift-based team, make sure that people arrive on time for their shifts.

4. Ensure that you deal with calls effectively. If you can't resolve them immediately, arrange a call back and do some research; don't keep guessing with the caller on the line.

5. Cut out the unnecessary chatter. A lot of time is lost on help desk calls discussing the weather and last night's football game. A certain amount of pleasantry is good for breaking the ice and putting the caller at ease, but it can go too far. One of the greatest help desk soft skills is taking control of the call and getting the job done.

6. Don't feel guilty about finishing at your appointed time. If your employer signs a contract showing your working hours, then those are the hours you should work. Some employers frown upon people who keep to their hours, but remember that they buy a certain number of hours of your time. If you went into a supermarket and paid for eight bottles of beer, you would not take twelve, because if you did you would be stealing. You could buy twelve if you wanted twelve. If your boss wanted you to work ten hours instead of eight, he could agree to hire you for those hours.

7. Organize your day so that the urgent stuff gets done first, leaving the later part of the day for the routine stuff, which can be left if you run out of time. There's nothing worse than starting a vital task that you know is going to take you into your own time.

8. Start on time. This means starting work at the contracted time, not just being in the building. Twenty minutes spent drinking tea or yacking about Manchester United or the latest episode of the Simpsons may be good for getting to know your colleagues but isn't getting any work done. In the past I have found that the ones who waste time like this are the ones who feel that they have to put in extra hours. A 9 a.m. start means that at 9 a.m. you are at your desk, logged in, and ready to take support calls. You can be sure that there is someone out there waiting for the clock to chime before they dial the number.

9. Some people think that the boss will be impressed by seeing you stay late. A good boss will not be fooled by this and will be more interested in finding out why you aren't getting your work done in the allotted time. I wouldn't want to work for the kind of boss who was impressed by a bit of unpaid overtime.

10. A recent survey showed that the longer you stay at work the more your efficiency declines. There is even a school of thought that states that, rather than work longer, you should reduce your hours. The theory goes that after six hours you cease to be of any real benefit. I've found this to be true; some days I get more done in half a day than I sometimes achieve in a full day.

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