How to Leave the Office on Time Every Day

By Rick Goodman

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There’s a common misconception about working long, late hours. We tend to assume that the employees who burn the midnight oil are working hard and being productive—but actually, I find that the opposite is true. If you’re working late into the evening, it’s probably a sign that you weren’t as productive or as wise with your time during office hours.

And even beyond that, working late is no fun. We all want to get out and get home to have some family time, some personal fitness time, or simply some down time—all of which is vital for maintaining a sense of balance.

The question is, how can you cease working those late hours, and actually get out the door some time between 5 and 6 each afternoon? Here are a few tips I can personally recommend.

Schedule the Small Stuff

I’ve found that a lot of executives complete their “big” tasks promptly, but then get caught up answering emails, checking LinkedIn, and so forth—and that’s what keeps them in the office later than they’d like.

A simple solution is to schedule a block of time in the morning for all your small stuff—30 minutes on your daily schedule for emails and administration. A second small-stuff block on your afternoon calendar may also be necessary.

Tweak Your Deadlines

Deadlines and structure force us to focus our efforts and juggle our priorities. Use that to your advantage by setting some artificial deadlines for yourself. It’s a simple thing to do: If you have a big report due on Wednesday, put it in your calendar as a Tuesday deadline.

Why? Simple: Let’s say something unexpected comes up and you’re not able to complete the work by Tuesday afternoon, as you intended. That’s no big deal, because in actuality you’ve built yourself some flexibility. You don’t necessarily have to stay at work late; you have a whole other day at your disposal!

Set a Reminder

One more simple solution: Set a reminder in your phone to ding you 30 minutes before the end of each work day. Prevent yourself from simply losing track of time; when that reminder starts dinging, begin the process of gathering your stuff, shutting down your computer, and making your exit.

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