7 ways to work overtime to maximize pay while avoiding burnout

7 ways to work overtime to maximize pay while avoiding burnout

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – working overtime is the most efficient use of your time.

Generally, there are two ways of generating income:

  1. By trading your time for money
  2. By trading your money for a promise of future payment.

The first is a very active form of generating income and there’s a limit to how much you can make. There are only 24 hours in a day, so regardless of how much you make by the hour, your earnings are capped by the amount of hours you can work.

The second is the passive form of income, the basis of most people’s goals who are striving for financial independence. But in order to have enough money to generate passive income, you usually need to start off by earning money by trading your time for it.

And working overtime is the most efficient way of doing so. Instead of making your hourly rate, you might be making 1.5x or maybe even 2x.

Related: Is it worth working overtime once you deduct taxes?

Both my husband and I currently work in jobs that allow for overtime paid at 1.5x so whenever overtime is available, we’ll usually take it. The danger of working too much overtime is the risk of burnout – the last thing you want to do is burn yourself out or get sick, especially if you have unpaid sick days like I do. That’s why it’s important to work overtime strategically!

7 ways to work overtime to maximize pay while avoiding burnout

1. Determine how often overtime is offered. 

If overtime is constantly offered, take it whenever it suits your schedule best and when it pays the most. Don’t do a 1 hour commute to do 2 hours of overtime – it’s just not worth your time (unless maybe it’s being paid at triple time?) If overtime isn’t offered often, take advantage of it whenever you can. Currently, my boss has offered overtime all week but it doesn’t sound like there will be any next week. As such, I’ve maxed out my overtime for this week because I want to take advantage of it while it’s offered. And if it’s offered next week too, even better!

2. Learn what the overtime pay codes are and plan your overtime accordingly.

At my husband’s job, he gets paid at time and a half, up to a maximum of 10.5 hours per week, which would be the equivalent of 15.75 hours. At my current job, I get paid time and a half for any overtime up to 10.5 hours per week. Anything over that is paid out at double time, up to a maximum of 17.5 total overtime hours. It’s obviously much better to spend one week working as much as I can (8 am – 7:30 pm every day) and working a standard work week the next week to “rest” instead of splitting up the overtime over two weeks.

For example, say the standard work week is 35 hours per week. If I max out my OT in Week 1 (total OT worked = 17.5 hours) and “rest” during Week 2 by just working the standard work week during Week 2, I would have worked 87.5 hours but will get paid for 99.5 hours.

In contrast, if I tried to split up the OT evenly over the two weeks by working 9 hours of OT each week, I would have worked for half an hour more (88 hours) but be paid for 2.75 hours less (97 hours) because I didn’t take advantage of the double overtime pay!

The first example is not only better in terms of the value for my time, it also helps prevent burnout because my second week is really short comparatively! It wouldn’t be difficult to alternate between working 52.5 hours/week and 35 hours/week since the end to the long hours would only be days away.

OT hours in week 1 OT hours in week 1 & 2

3. Figure out what the premiums are and whether they’re stackable.

At my previous workplace, Sundays were paid at 1.25x and there was an evening premium. Working Sunday evenings was the best day to work, because not only was it typically much slower, it was also paid at the highest. And if you were working overtime on a Sunday evening, you’d also get paid your time and a half!

4. Find out if you can work Statutory Holidays and how they are paid. 

At my previous job, the office was open 365 days a year. Stat holidays were paid at time and a half so I would volunteer to work the holidays that I didn’t find too important. However, at my current job, the office is typically closed unless  the holiday is a provincial one. For example, in February, we had Family Day in Ontario, but because it’s not a federal holiday (i.e. celebrated throughout all provinces), I was able to work at double time. Depending on your company, you might also be paid your normal pay for the stat holiday plus a premium for any hours you work, so Family Day worked out to be the equivalent of triple time. Score!

5. Figure out if you can bank the time and whether it’s worth doing so. 

At my previous job, I was given the choice of banking overtime or getting paid out. Since we were getting married and I wanted time off for the wedding, I banked all the overtime I worked (at 1.5x) so I could take paid time off later. When I had worked part time, vacation time was unpaid, so banking time ensured I’d still get a paycheck when I was off on vacation. At my current job, if we work a stat holiday, we can bank the time but at straight time only, and since holidays are paid out at double time, this makes it not worth banking time at all!

6. Learn what breaks you’ll be entitled to and choose your shifts accordingly.

At my previous job, shifts less than 7 hours meant you got 2 15-minute paid breaks, but anything over 7.5 hours meant you also got a 30 minute unpaid break. This meant staying at the office for 7 hours and 7.5 hours was paid out at the exact same rate. I made the mistake once of agreeing to a 7.5 hour shift and kicked myself the entire time.

7. Optimize your breaks so you can schedule in nap times.

At my current job, a normal shift entitles you to an hour-long unpaid lunch. At first, I was slightly annoyed that I had to take an hour unpaid lunch – I’d rather take a half hour and get paid to work for the extra half hour, or at least go home 30 minutes early! However, now I’m incredibly thankful for it. Sure, that extra half hour I could be getting paid accumulates to be a pretty penny, but as someone with Idiopathic Hypersomnia who is currently off Modafinil while we’re trying to conceive, there’s no way I could make it through every day without a midday nap! I’ve made arrangements with HR so I can sleep in the sick room whenever I need to so I typically spend my 1 hour lunch breaks napping. On days that I’m working 11.5 hours, I get 1 30-minute lunch on top of my 60-minute lunch, so I get not one but two naps. Even though I’ve been working from 8 am until 7:30 pm this entire week, I actually feel better than the days that I work just 8-4 because of the scheduled naps I get! Shifts shorter than 11.5 hours don’t get that extra half hour but it’s become key to staying awake and alert all day.

Related: Is it worth working overtime once you deduct taxes?

Mrs. Unchained 55


  1. i have a friend that works works full time and part time on the weekends pretty much non stop all year round. I dont know how she does it. I don’t know if I can do it every single weekend. I would probably have to take one month on and onth month off type of thing. for my job, they really promote work life balance so we do not have the option of overtime (plus I am salaried). If we work more than 8 hours a day, we can take luie time (paid time off) for the extra time we worked sometime the following week. any additonal income I make starts at regular pay. those are some great pointers

    • Some people are real work horses! A few years ago, my husband was working full time (8 am – 5 pm) and then part time (6pm to midnight) 4 days a week. When work was slow, he could leave his evening job early, but sometimes it wasn’t and he’d have to stay until midnight! He did this for a solid chunk of time (more than a year, but can’t seem to remember exactly how long) and I couldn’t understand how he did it without an end in sight. I definitely can’t work the long days indefinitely, but they do help in making the regular work days feel soooo much shorter!

      • I am Lucky, I got a Job as a Chemist I last year for second shift. It was actually a department transfer I made and some of the work from my old department carried over to my new department. Only 2 people in the company are trained for a specific task that I do. Anyways, I also have a flexible Saturday job on the side. So as second shift Chemist, I only work 35 hours a week and get paid for 40 hours a week. Any day that I work 8 hours I get an hour overtime. So that second person that is trained for a specific task works day shift so sometimes I get called to come in early because that job requires two people so half of the day I work that one task and the second half, I do my normal chemistry. I can easily put in 16 hours some times and because I am doing two different things, it is not so stressful. Now, My chemist job consist of different stages. So when I get asked to work on the weekends, it is usually a different stage or a different project that I do not work on during the week. Sometimes, the overtime is training for a new project or getting training on something new that I have not yet learned which keeps me flexible for overtime. Even though it is work, I am not stressed out with the work I did during the week. I can sometimes put in about 30 overtime hours during a weekend. Even if I start at 6 am on the weekend, I still get my extra hour premium. There are times that I work full weekends along with the 16 hour days on the same week. I can go months of putting in anywhere from 70 to 90 hours of paid time but not actually working those exact hours due to my premium hours. I can easily work months that way, getting paid over time and double time. Even though I work a lot of hours, I still have time for all my sleep and hobbies. I only live a bout 3 blocks away from my job so I don’t have the stress of commuting. Also, because of the experience and training I got from working so many hours, I recently got promoted to a Chemist II with a 25% salary increase. An guess what? I am still getting all that over time. As for my Saturday part time job, I think I only worked there about 4 times this year. I only have it from extra income but I really don’t need it anymore.

        • That’s awesome!!!! For a lot of people, commuting eats up a LOT of time so it’s great that you can spend that time working overtime instead! And congrats on your salary increase!!! That’s HUGE! Hope you’re putting all that extra cash towards something awesome … like early retirement 😀

  2. Overtime is a great opportunity if you’re need in extra cash. Unfortunately, I am a salary exempt employee, which means my employer can force us to work all the hours needed to get the job done each day. This means no overtime, no flex time, no comp time. We are working 45-48 hours a week and saving the multi-billion dollar company we work for millions each month. Labor laws allow this mistreatment. Wow.

    • WOW! I know this definitely occurs way more than employees would be happy to admit or allow but seeing written out is always a tad jarring. At my previous employer, salaried employees technically weren’t eligible for OT, BUT my contract stipulated I was eligible for it. I’m surprised you don’t get lieu time though – the salaried employees that weren’t eligible for overtime pay usually got lieu days instead (unless they were upper management).

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