Punching the Clock


As a teenager, I worked as part of the grounds crew at a large cemetery in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. Each workday, I rushed to arrive before 7:00 a.m. to punch the clock and waited patiently in line with my colleagues to punch it again at 4:00 p.m.

Perhaps I’m dating myself as younger readers may have no idea what I am talking about. I literally would take a card with my name on it, stick it in a special clock, and punch the top of the machine to record my arrival (start) and departure (end) time for my job.

I remember thinking at the time that I could not wait to get a so-called white-collar job where I could be trusted to simply do my job without having to punch the clock. Eventually, I got my wish. Be careful what you wish for.

In today’s age of the knowledge worker, when do you punch the clock? Is your work ever truly done? For years, I struggled to put in place healthy boundaries that distinguished my work from other life priorities. Even if I physically left the office, I rarely left it mentally.

The pressing deadline, the pending meeting, the conversation that needed to be had or the one I wish I had not…these things consumed my every waking thought. I longed for the days when I could simply punch the clock. At least I then knew my work was complete for the day.

Can you relate?

I appreciate that technology and the nature of my job afford me the flexibility me to work whenever and wherever I choose; however, I now understand that such flexibility can be detrimental to work productivity and personal fulfillment. It is important and necessary to put in place appropriate boundaries. When and how will you punch the clock?

Today, I have established rituals and mantras that represent the clock that I punch – the start, end, or even periodic pauses throughout my work day. Can you exercise, meditate, or at least enjoy a healthy breakfast before you punch the clock to start the workday? Can you verbally, and thus mentally, acknowledge that you are off the clock before lunch with a friend, dinner with the family, or a walk in the park? Can you close the laptop, shut down the phone, and disconnect from all technology at least an hour before you restore your body through the discipline of healthy sleep?

What do you do, or will you do, to punch the clock? Such disciplines will enhance your productivity, balance, and personal well-being. I encourage you to share your ideas here, as well as the impact, so that all of us can CEEK a Better Way!