Are you the person who was supposed to go home at 5, but isn’t gathering your stuff until 7? Think of what a difference that time makes. If you’re staying two extra hours every day of the week, that’s ten hours you could have spent doing something else. A combination of strong time management skills and measurement of your productivity can help you get out of the office on time – and maybe even early on days where you don’t have that much to do.
1. Create “Today” and “Tomorrow” Piles
What absolutely needs to be done today? If something isn’t urgent, it’s best saved for when you know you’ll have less urgent tasks to do. If you’re “getting it out of the way now” to the detriment of your schedule, you could be disturbing your workflow. Look at everything you have to do, and decide what can wait for a less busy day. Nobody can hold themselves to superhuman standards. Prioritizing quality over quantity will also help you assure the quality of your work.
2. Do The Hard Stuff First
You’re better off getting the most difficult tasks done first. You’ll get to them before the mental wear and tear of the day catches up to you, and it will allow you to budget your time better. If you’re already exhausted by the time you get around to something monumental, it’s going to take you longer to complete that task. When you do them in the morning while you’re still alert, your day will get easier as time progresses. You won’t get held up with overwhelming work when you’re ready to head out the door.
3. Have An End Of Day Ritual
Do you have a nighttime ritual? Putting on your pajamas, brushing your teeth, and grabbing a great book probably help you relax. They signal to your mind and body that it’s time to call it a night. Try doing the same thing at work. If you start your end-of-day ritual about an hour before you’re supposed to go home, you’ll begin to feel like it’s time to go home. If you check your emails and clean up your desk at a certain time each day, you’ll eventually associate those tasks with entering “leaving mode.”
4. Measure Your Productivity on a Schedule
If things take longer than you expect and these variations in task length skew your schedule, it’s best to start measuring your productivity at work. Break each task down into smaller milestones. You need to complete the big picture, but every big picture is made of components. When you do this, you’ll be able to measure where you are and whether or not you’re making time in the way you’ve expected. If you need to step it up to meet your goals, it won’t be a surprise.
5. Know When To Say “No”
Overambitious people have a tendency to get caught up at work for longer. If you’re a veritable powerhouse, you likely get more requests from your higher ups. They know you can handle the work, and they know you’ll take it on. You need to make sure you have an efficient work-life balance. If you say yes to everything, you won’t have enough time for yourself. Don’t take every task that comes your way – you deserve a breather once in a while.
There may be situations where you need to stop what you’re doing and leave. Even though it sometimes feels irresponsible to do so, you could be doing yourself a favor. If you know when to call it a day, even when you haven’t finished all of the work you wanted to finish, you could be preventing burnout. Listen to yourself and know your limits.