Sometimes, busy workdays can feel like a marathon with the finish line still miles away. You enter the office early to find a mountain of work waiting for you, a full inbox, and a calendar blocked out with meetings. It’s no wonder so many employees have grown accustomed to staying late and taking work home.
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In a recent study by Accenture, work-life balance — ahead of money, recognition, and autonomy — was the key determinant for more than half of men and women in regards to whether or not they have a successful career. And if you’re regularly working late or pulling a night-shift from your home office, your work-life balance is at stake.
I firmly believe in breaking the time clock to do away with the traditional “9-to-5,” but spending every evening knocking out work can be hazardous. Completing your work during designated business hours isn’t just possible, it’s also necessary for staying on top of your career.
Here’s how to leave work at work:
If your 40-hour week has transformed into something a bit closer to a 60-hour week, you owe it to yourself to review the issue. Get to the bottom of where the majority of your time is being spent during your work day to allow for increased time management and productivity. If you find yourself wasting the majority of your time managing your inbox or in meetings, it may be time for some restructuring.
Knockout big tasks first
Rearrange your schedule to ensure you hit the ground running every day by tackling bigger projects as soon as you get to the office. You’re actually at peak performance earlier in the day, so taking on big tasks earlier in the day means you’ll be likely to achieve more. Move your less important tasks to be taken care of after lunch.
Create a schedule
Don’t just put together a half-hearted to-do list, go a step further and establish a schedule for your workday. For example, if you’re planning on working for eight hours, allot an estimated time for each project or task — even the big projects — you’ve got on your to-do list.
Avoid falling into the time-wasting trap of replying to emails and returning phone calls. Instead, allot 30 minutes a day to take care of all of your follow-ups instead of regularly staring at your phone and inbox.
Become militant about creating a distraction-free workspace. Close out all unnecessary tabs on your browser, silence your phone, and put your headphones in if it’ll help you work.
Turn off autopilot
Sometimes when you’re racing to finish your to-do list, it’s easy to go into autopilot mode until you complete your work. Taking a few breaks will actually help you work more efficiently and effectively. Once you’ve completed a big task, get up from your desk to stretch, grab something to drink, and just refresh your brain before moving onto the next thing.
Learn the power of saying “no”
You have a busy day ahead of you, and yet you still accepted that conference-call invitation. Sometimes we forget how important it is to say “no” when we’re busy. While it isn’t always possible to turn down every meeting invitation, try your best to make a case when you’re especially busy. For example, you can ask to leave early or have someone share meeting notes with you.
Don’t sweat the small stuff and end up turning your to-do list into far more than it really is. Simply focus on meeting the deadlines. If you find yourself anxious about your schedule for the next day or week ahead of you — which may be a reason why you work late — lay out your schedule to take a better look at what needs to be accomplished so you can establish a timeframe.
Know when you’re done
Stop spending your evenings in the office reworking things until they’re perfect. Establish a clear definition of the end result — when you’ve reached it, check out for the day.
Eliminating working late and leaving work at the office often comes down to better time management.
Do you have any tricks for managing your time at work? Share them in the comments below!
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