While most people plan their day around quitting time, some have a difficult time leaving the office, whether or not they like their job. Whether your work culture stigmatizes those who don’t put in extra hours every day, or you are a work-a-holic who is obsessed with work, there are ways to break out of the cycle of persistently working late, which can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health and your personal relationships.
One of the best ways to convince yourself to pack up and leave the office at the end of your shift is to make going home worth it. Give yourself incentives to leave work on time, especially if your long hours are affecting your home life. Try scheduling a call from your family when it is time to leave. While your family will need to understand that they are expected, in effect, to force you to leave each night, the payoff is that you will get to spend more time with your spouse, kids, and friends.
If receiving a “come-home” call is out of the question, consider scheduling an activity after work each day. Exercise is a great example. If you are trying to get in shape, schedule an exercise class, a run with a friend, or a meet-up time at your local gym to give you the motivation to regularly leave on time. If exercise isn’t your thing, commit to a good cause, such as volunteer charity work, where others expect you to arrive at a specific time each day. The important thing is to find something that requires a time commitment that will force you to leave on time every day.
Beyond creating extra motivation for leaving work on time, set up your work day in a manner that makes leaving easier. While this first method is not sufficient for most people, start with setting an alarm when it’s time to head home. This is especially useful for people who easily get too caught up in what they are doing. An alarm may be just the thing to snap you back to reality long enough to realize that it is time to save your file, shut down your computer and leave. Just use your cellphone or timer app to help give you a nudge out of the door.
One reason people become overburdened at work, and thus create an environment for overwork, is the tendency to take on more work than can be completed in a given time frame. One tactic to end this practice is to learn to say “no.” It is important to succeed at things that are currently filling your time before accepting new tasks to tackle. If this is the case, it is probably the time to reach out to your boss to discuss your predicament and task prioritization. It is much better to have this conversation early on rather than waiting until something important is overlooked.
Finally, chronically overworked individuals tend to be perfectionists by nature and may need to take a more psychological approach to ending the long work days. Let your friends and family know that you want to make long-term changes in your behavior. Make a pact with your loved ones over getting out of work earlier and enlist their support in the process. Share your goals and keep the eyes of others on your behavior to motivate you to change. But don’t be angry at yourself for stumbling. Changing bad habits is a process of gradual change. Start each day with the objective of leaving earlier and reaching your goals.