THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Dodge call: Ways to avoid long hours

People cannot work full-speed until they die. Pace yourself so you don't burn out before you reach your potential. But don't blame your long hours on your boss, your CEO, or your underlings. People who do not make a conscious, organized effort to take responsibility for the number of hours they work can be thrown off course by anyone. But the person who systematically follows the steps below will not be thrown off course, even by a workaholic boss in a workaholic industry.

Concentrate on quality of work over quantity. The person who builds a career on doing the most work commits to living on a treadmill. The work will never be done, and you will become known among your co-workers as someone who never turns down an assignment– you'll be a dumping ground.

Know the goals of your job. You need to know the equivalent of a home run in your job. Get a list of goals from your boss, and understand how they fit into the big picture. Be sure to get goals that are quality-oriented and not hours-oriented. Suggest replacing, "Devote eight hours a week to cold-calling" to "Find six qualified leads in three months."

Say no. Constantly. The best way to say no is to tell people what's
on your plate is most important. Prioritizing is a way to help your company, your boss, and yourself. No one can fault you for that.

Know your boss's goals. Your best tool for saying no to a project is reminding your boss what her goals are. If you worm your way out of work that doesn't matter to her so that you can do work that does matter to her, she's more likely to back you up. Also your boss will protect you from assignments from other people if you show her how the other people's work affects her goals.

Take control of what you can. Refuse to make meetings on Monday, and you're less likely to have to prepare for meetings on the weekend. Refuse meetings after 4:30pm, and you're less likely to miss dinner at home. Ignore your phone while you write your weekly report, and you're less likely to stay late to finish it. Even small efforts at control add up to a lot, and best of all, they usually go unnoticed by others.

Know your own boundaries. "Wanting to work fewer hours" is too vague a goal because you won't know which hours to protect. Try getting home by 7pm, not working weekends, or leaving for two hours in the middle of the day to lift weights. These are concrete goals for cutting back hours.

Be brave. Brave people can say no when someone is pushing hard, and brave people can go home when other people are working late. The bravery comes from trusting yourself to find the most important work and to do it better than anyone else. But sometimes, the bravest thing to do is leave. Some industries, for example, coding video games, or being a low-level analyst at an investment bank, are so entrenched in the idea that workers have no lives that you will find yourself battling constantly to get respect for your personal life. In some cases, you're better off changing industries, or at least changing companies.