Do you want to spend less time at the office?
Even if you thoroughly enjoy your job, sometimes you need to set some practical boundaries for yourself.
In this post, I offer a collection of thirty five ways you can spend less time at work.
Some of the tips are quick fixes, while others require more attention and preparation.
Select a few tips, get things done…and leave work at a reasonable hour!
1. Create a couple of templates.
There’s no need to spend your time reinventing the wheel. Templates make it easy to do the same tasks and assignments, over, and over again, with ease.
2. Eat breakfast at home.
Why spend precious time at work juggling a cereal bowl or breakfast sandwich? Besides, it looks unprofessional.
3. Stop multitasking.
You’ll only dilute your attention and energy. Choose one task, roll your sleeves up, and tackle it. Move on to the next task as necessary.
4. Avoid scheduling meetings late in the day.
The end of the day should be spent wrapping up the day’s work. Aim to hold meetings no later than 4 P.M., if possible.
5. Make checklists.
It’s far easier to glance down at your to-do list, than to waste time trying to remember what items are due next Tuesday at 10 A.M. and 2 P.M.
6. Schedule an appointment right after work.
It could be a doctor’s appointment, a personal appointment, or a must-do errand.
7. Take your lunch break.
You’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated. You’ll work more efficiently, which means less time spent doing your work.
8. Stop planning your wedding, birthday party, anniversary…
Yes, you may be excited about that upcoming event, but remember, you’re at work! Leave your personal projects at home.
9. Get off your cell phone.
Put an end to those texting sessions, games, and mindless web surfing. Turn your phone off temporarily, as needed.
10. Give up gossiping at the water cooler.
Who really cares what he said or what she said? You’ve got better things to do with your day.
11. Make a friendly bet or wager.
Tell your friends and family you’ll buy them dinner at a fancy restaurant if you continue to work late. Or, you could set aside $20 for each night worked late over the next two months, and donate the lot to a charity of your friend’s choosing.
12. Set up email filters.
This is an easy way to pre-sort your emails by sender, etc., and spend less time sorting through your messages.
13. Be honest with yourself.
Chances are, you’ve got a fairly good idea as to why you’re putting in those extra hours. When you’re honest with yourself, you can uncover the real problem, and deal with it appropriately.
14. Cash in those unused personal, sick, and vacation days.
You know all of those vacation and personal days you’ve been saving? Why not use them?
15. Focus on projects and assignments, not tasks.
Taking a broader view of your work will help you put things in perspective. Tasks are the building blocks of projects and assignments. However, if you’re focusing on the wrong tasks, you’re just wasting your time.
16. Start meetings on time.
17. End meetings on time.
Everyone will agree: a meeting that ends on time is a wonderful thing.
18. Stop holding so many meetings.
The majority of meetings don’t need to be held in the first place. Think twice before calling or scheduling one.
19. Prioritize assignments that are due today and tomorrow.
Everything else can wait. There will always be more work to do, tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…
20. Move personal or non-work email newsletters to your personal email account.
Keep your work email account professional. Plus, you won’t be needlessly distracted by the latest sales or offers.
21. Take up a new hobby or class.
Learning a new skill, language, dance, craft, or art can be a lot of fun. It might even help you do your work better, which means, you guessed it, less time spent at the office.
22. Track your work hours.
This will really let you know how many extra minutes you’re spending at the office. It might even shock you!
23. Volunteer at a local charity, non-profit group, or organization.
If you’re still keen on working, but don’t want to be chained to the desk for the whole evening, volunteer for a favorite group or cause.
24. Avoid or block video sites.
Five minutes spent watching one cute cat video can quickly turn into an hour’s worth of cute cat videos. Need I say more?
25. Get to work on time.
The later you arrive at work, the later you’ll stay. You’ll naturally become tired in the evening hours/the later it gets, and will be less productive overall in the long run.
26. Change your job.
Sometimes, you have to do what’s necessary to get your life in balance. If things are really horrendous at your current position, you should strongly consider a new job elsewhere.
27. Streamline a process or system.
28. Set calendar reminders.
Never be caught off guard when it comes to weekly or monthly tasks. Set a reminder for yourself early in the day so you’ll have time to take care of it during regular work hours.
29. Ask daily requests to be sent to you no later than 12 P.M., if possible.
This will give you enough time to review the request, ask questions, and complete the necessary work. Plus, you’ll have a comfortable buffer of time for other tasks, too.
30. Take personal leave or a sabbatical.
If your company offers leave time, take full advantage of your good fortune.
31. Post your office hours.
This makes it perfectly clear as to when you are in the office, and when you’re not. If you’re not at work, you’re not at work. Period.
32. Give yourself an incentive.
Place a dollar in a jar for every day you don’t spend late at the office. Buy yourself a little gift at the end of three months.
33. Do important tasks first.
You won’t end up staying late, making sure that report or slide deck is finished for tomorrow. Do the important stuff first, so it’s finished.
34. Set a stop work and leave office time.
Designate two separate times at the end of your work day. The first is when you effectively stop working and put your work away, turn off your computer, and tidy up your desk. The second is when you should be walking out the door.
35. Be mindful when labeling and storing items.
You’ll spend less time trying to track down those elusive conference files, quarterly financial reports, and cleaning supplies.
How about you? Which of these tips resonates the most with you? Do you have any other tips for spending less time in the office? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!