In a fast-paced, competitive work environment, it can be a challenge simply to walk out the office door on time. Whenever 5 p.m. rolls around, it feels like there’s still more work to be done. You certainly don’t want to fall behind or look bad compared to your coworkers who are laboring late into the night, and you definitely want your boss to see you as a hard-working team player.
However, a healthy personal life is just as important to your overall well-being as a successful professional life is. Furthermore, finding a consistent way to leave the office on time can actually combat burnout, give you more time to recharge, and make you more productive when you return to work the next day. In short, clocking out on time can make you a better worker, not a less dedicated one — provided you’re getting done everything that needs to get done.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your workday so you can leave at 5 p.m. every evening — without feeling guilty:
1. Learn to Prioritize Your Work
You can’t have a truly effective, highly productive workday without first learning how to prioritize your work. When you know which tasks on your to-do list are most important and most impactful, you can plan out your day to ensure the work that matters most always gets done.
Getting the most important tasks done at the beginning of the day, when you are fresh and energized, can make a world of difference to your productivity. Most of us know the afternoon slump well. Saving your high-priority tasks for later in the day will only make those tasks harder to accomplish. That, in turn, leads to more late nights.
Need help prioritizing your tasks? Try using the Eisenhower matrix method.
2. Exercise Technology Discipline
Do you find yourself browsing social media during work? This is probably slowing you down and consuming valuable time that could be spent on getting those high-priority tasks off your plate.
If you limit your distractions at work, you can increase your productivity during regular work hours and minimize overtime. It’s a simple equation, really: The more time you spend actually working during the day, the less time you’ll have to spend making up for lost work hours during the evening.
If you need help keeping your social media urges in check, explore mobile apps that are designed to reduce digital distractions and keep you on track. A couple I’ve found useful are OFFTIME and Moment, which help coach you away from your phone through time tracking, app blocking, and communication filters.
3. Leave Your Desk More
These days, most communication happens through email. Just because it’s common, however, doesn’t mean it’s effective. We’ve all had the experience of wanting to finish a crucial task but not being able to because we’re still waiting on vital details or resources from a collaborator.
Sometimes, the better option is to get up, take a walk, and have a face-to-face conversation to get things moving and save precious time that would otherwise be spent sitting around and waiting for a response. Get to know the key players on the different teams with which you work so you can go to the right people with the right questions when necessary. When it comes to collaborators outside your organization, try picking up the phone instead of typing yet another email.
4. Establish a Wrap-Up Routine
Give yourself 20 minutes at the end of each day to tie up loose ends. Use this time to review the to-do list you made at the beginning of the day. Is there anything else that needs to get done before you head out? Any finishing touches you have to put on your tasks?
By setting aside a chunk of time to wrap up your daily activities, you not only give yourself the peace of mind to leave work for the day, but you also set yourself up to come in the next morning and get right back to business.
Jordan Perez is an HR expert at ResumePundits.com.