Go home, already!

Here are five ways to leave work on time

The office officially closes at 5 p.m., but you rarely leave before 6:30-and that’s on a good day. Perhaps you’re one of those people who loves the job, but feels perpetually chained to your desk. You’re not alone. “One of the toughest things for people to do is to actually get out of the office,” says Jennifer White, an executive success coach and author of Work Less, Make More: Stop Working So Hard and Create the Life You Really Want (John Wiley & Sons, $14.95).

The number of hours worked each week has certainly increased over the past three decades. Not surprisingly, the resulting strain has been particularly hard on those professionals with families. Married couples averaged 14 more hours a week-700 more hours a year-in 1998 than in 1969.

A 1999 report by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors revealed that in working families with children under age 18, members have little time to spend with each other. It was reported that after work, sleep, cooking, grocery shopping and other daily chores, those workers have 22 hours less per week to spend with their children. The study found that employed fathers spend an average of 2.3 hours each weekday with their children, while working moms spent only about 60 minutes more, or 3.2 hours.

Thankfully, there’s hope for the homesick. Whether you’re single and childless, married with children, or some combination of the two, you don’t have to kiss your family or free time good-bye.

“Learning how to manage your workload and administrative tasks-and most importantly, managing your time efficiently-is the first step in getting yourself out the office door,” says White. Here are her five tips for getting home earlier:

  • Harness the power of three. Identify your top three activities for the week and commit to accomplishing them-and nothing else.
  • Set aside a support day. Schedule one day to handle all your administrative chores. Allow no interruptions-no phone calls, e-mails or meetings-so you can get through those piles on your desk.
  • Let go of some work. Make a list of everything you need to do and dump the bottom 20%. Don’t think about them or obsess about why they won’t get done. Just let them go.
  • Manage your e-mail. Set a time to read and answer your e-mail every day. Handle each message you receive-no saving it or filing it away for later.
  • Learn to say no. Do you keep saying yes to new projects no matter how busy you already are? You need to clear the decks before you add anything new. Don’t feel guilty about saying no until your are able to handle additional work.

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