“Do planners work a lot of overtime?”
I get asked this one a lot. It’s a fair question, and one that I had when I was a student. Because, with the exception of architects*, nobody wants to invest years in a career that destroys their work-life balance.
My best answer to this question is, “ummm, kinda.”
For example, almost all of my projects require multiple meetings with the public, which generally take place in the evening (and occasionally on the weekend). Similarly, client meetings often take place at the end of the day, or first thing in the morning, and depending on where they’re located, you may find yourself travelling outside of regular work hours. There’s also a fair amount of out-of-town travel, which may have you leaving early and arriving home late. But these are realities of the job, and can be integrated into your work-life schedule pretty easy.
Day-to-day overtime is a bit more tricky.
Early in my career, I worked a lot of overtime. While I was good at meeting project deadlines, I struggled with proposals because of the quick turnaround. To make matters worse, everything I did was new, and I was pretty slow and terrible at it. This made overtime extra stressful, because I was not always confident in the work I was producing, and would often second guess myself (resulting in more overtime). If you find yourself feeling like this, don’t worry, it’ll pass.
Over the years, I’ve became more experienced and confident in my professional skills, and more efficient in my technical skills. I’m now much better at organizing my time and meeting deadlines within office hours – even proposals. Sometimes, however, this is just not possible (often because of unexpected circumstances), and work creeps into your evenings and weekends.
The difference at this point is that I can generally predict how much overtime is required, and rely on my experience to stick to this timing. This allows me to plan the ‘work’ part around the ‘life’ part, making overtime much smoother and less stressful. In fact, once I transitioned to project management, I often found myself picking away at things on the weekend because I was excited about an aspect of the project, and couldn’t wait until Monday.
I’m a firm believer in having a healthy work-life balance and I work hard to achieve this (on both ends). That said, there are times when overtime is needed, and as long as you are not being taken advantage of (see here), it’s nice to let your team, and your clients, know they can count on you in a pinch.
*Just kidding architects, I love you!