There’s a lot to do. There always is. You sit at your desk well past quittin’ time each day to ensure it gets all done, but in the end, you suffer for it. It’s okay to leave work on time, and these tips can help you make it a habit.
Ditch the Guilt
“When is it okay to leave?” You ask yourself as you scan the office. Nobody else has left yet—it’s scary to be first—so you find another bit of work to do. Before you know it, you’ve put in unintentional overtime just to assuage your guilt. It’s not a good approach, and it’s going to lead to burnout. That’s why Belle Beth Cooper at the todoist blog says you should give yourself the freedom to leave work.
Change your perspective on the whole process. Instead of thinking of it as “I’m leaving work,” think of it as moving toward something instead. For example, think of it as “going home to see the family,” or “going to the gym,” or even “going to enjoy some personal time.” Frame your next activity as something important in your life and you’ll a lot less guilty about leaving when you’re well in your right to go.
Tackle the Big Stuff Early
Sometimes you can end up working late because you put off an important task until later in the day. Before you know it, things come up and get piled on. Still, if something has to get done that day, it has to get done. So you start it late and finish it even later. Elizabeth Grace Saunders at Fast Company suggests you ask yourself this question every morning:
What would keep me at work late?
Whatever you come up with, put that at the top of your to-do list for the day. And if you can help it, schedule all of your meetings and appointments early in the day as well. A meeting late in the day has the potential to run over and keep you later than you planned.
Make Plans for Right After Work
If you find you’re staying late work simply because you have nothing better to do, well, give yourself something better to do! Make plans after work that will motivate you to leave the office and do something else. Plan dinners with your significant other, schedule early evening personal training sessions at the gym, or just meet up with your friends for happy hour. Give yourself commitments that pull you away from the rat race.
Be Assertive When Necessary
If you want to leave at a certain time each day, you need to express that to others. Others might enjoy staying late or have nothing better to do, but that doesn’t mean you have to join their merry gang of overtimers. Job coach Lea McLeod recommends you share your intent to leave by a certain time each day with others. Be assertive and explain that you plan on leaving at ‘X’ time every night, then follow through. You need to train your colleagues what to expect from you in terms of your schedule. This is especially important when you work in an environment where there is no established closing time.
It’s also important you learn how to say “no” to things that aren’t part of your day plan. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be helpful or attempt to be a team player. It’s more about knowing your limits and what you can realistically tackle within your set work time each day. If someone asks you to start something a half an hour before you’re about to head out, tell them you’ll get to it first thing in the morning.
Set a Reminder and Schedule a Transition Period
My personal favorite tip is to set a reminder for yourself each day that signals it’s time to start winding down. Schedule this transition time for a half hour before you want to leave work. That should give you enough time to reach a stopping place in your work, then you can use the rest of the time for handling small tasks and preparing for tomorrow’s tasks. If you do this every day, you’ll develop a healthy end-of-day routine that will get you out on time and let you hit the ground running the next day. Just beware of “one more syndrome.” There’s always more to do, so don’t get caught in a loop of busy work.