So you’d like to leave the office on time at least a few days a week. Perhaps your loved ones are waiting for you, you have a hobby to pursue, or you’d like to test a new hobby (or find some loved ones). Here are seven strategies for getting out that door when you’d like to.
1. Start small
Depending on the size of your habit, consider going home ‘religiously’ one day of a week for a few weeks. Then ease yourself into two days. Don’t beat yourself up if some days you have to work longer. The reality is that sometimes you’ll have to break your own rules. Make sure it’s only because you have to, not because you can’t be bothered sticking up for yourself or re-prioritising.
2. Just get up and walk out
It sounds simple, but just get up and walk out. It’s the most effective strategy. Much of the ritual of leaving work (logging out, shutting down, putting away and saying goodnight) just keeps you there longer. As you tidy, you finish something off, think ‘just 10 minutes more’, and suddenly it’s hours later. The same problem will be there tomorrow. You’ll be fresher and be able to deal with it more quickly.
3. Get a watchdog
Enlist the help of a colleague or friend – get them to remind you to go home. And pay attention to them when they do.
4. Prepare to leave
If you have a clean desk policy, then prepare for leaving. Two hours before you’re ready to leave, make your ‘to do’ list for the next day. Clear your desk and work on just one thing at a time. When it comes time to leave put the one thing you’re working on away, log off, and leave. Do not take appointments for the last hour of the day you want to leave on time. If people have questions or ideas in that time, let them know you must leave at an appointed time (and have them let you know when that time is 10 minutes away).
5. Make it important
If you’re still not doing it, make the reason you’re leaving more important. Exaggerate it. If you leave now, you’ll catch up with friends who could connect you to that next big customer or client. If you don’t leave now, you’ll never meet that person. Do it and you’ll get a life, a loving network and interesting customers.
6. Stop kidding yourself you can get it all done!
It’s also important to stop kidding yourself that you can get it all done if you can’t. You’re busy. So are most of the successful people in the world. If you think that working an extra 30 minutes (or three hours) is what it will take to move the mountain of work you have to do, then start tracking how long it actually does take.
If you’re attempting to do 18 hours of work in a 10-hour day, then perhaps you’d better re-prioritise or let yourself off the hook.
7. Realise what you know
We make tasks bigger by over-preparing and double-checking. You will never have enough information. What do you need to do to satisfy it, to see or feel that you’re prepared enough? Do that
first. Remember, you can also call on your track record, your memory and your experiences. No amount of preparation will equal this experience. Trust in what you know, and just get up
and walk out at the right time.