360° Coverage : How To Leave Work At 5 P.M. And Still Get Everything Done

2 Updates
How To Leave Work At 5 P.M. And Still Get Everything Done
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

How To Leave Work At 5 P.M. And Still Get Everything Done

Apr 4 2014, 1:52pm CDT | by

It’s a pattern with which most full-time professionals are familiar–you’re spending increasing amounts of time at your desk, but it feels like you’re getting less done. The hours stretch on, the to-...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

28 weeks ago

How To Leave Work At 5 P.M. And Still Get Everything Done

Apr 4 2014, 1:52pm CDT | by

It’s a pattern with which most full-time professionals are familiar–you’re spending increasing amounts of time at your desk, but it feels like you’re getting less done. The hours stretch on, the to-do list grows, and you find yourself facing a future where you might let go of your apartment and just start keeping a toothbrush and slippers in your desk. Otherwise you’ll never get it all done—right?

Wrong.

It’s an understandable assumption. Most people feel they have too much to do at work, and the time-space continuum did not change when people started using organizational buzzwords like “multi-tasking.”

But while few of us leave our desks at the understood 5 p.m. day’s end of so many song lyrics, watching the minutes tick by in front of your computer screen is not actually the way to get ahead, and can even hasten falling further behind.

“There are several reasons why our days have swelled,” says productivity consultant and author of Never Check Email In The Morning Julie Morgenstern. “Companies continuously are trying to hire as few people as possible. Our roles are continuously changing, the world is changing, we’re in a time of rapid change—nothing is ‘business as usual.’ Acknowledge that you have more work to do than time to do it, you’re going to do different things.”

Does this mean that starting Monday morning you’ll be a fully-optimized task wizard who never sees another 6:30 p.m. in your cubicle? Probably not. But whatever your title, industry, or rank within an organization, a few conscious decisions about how you spend your time can mean not just shorter hours at the office, but better ones.

Why not start by figuring out what you’re actually doing with all of your time? It will probably surprise you.

Maybe you keep trying to write that proposal but can’t help clicking over every few minutes to see the emails pour in. Or your boss keeps strolling over to give you tasks while you try to complete the ones you’ve already got. Or you’re overwhelmed by trying to work while maintaining your superior command of Everything That’s Happening On The Internet.

Whatever the reason, doing too many things at once can diminish the quality of your work and add hours to the end of your day. If you’re looking to optimize the time you spend at work, figuring out how it’s actually allocated–versus what you think you’ve been doing–is a great place to start.

Morgenstern recommends keeping a time diary to start, or using the app Eternity Time Log, which directs users to plug in their major categories of responsibility, then tracks how much time they devote to each.

“It will show you where your time is going, and you can say, ‘Why did I take so long editing? Because I needed a break, or because I got stuck’–you can find where you wasted time and start to tweak it,” says Morgenstern. “Or, if you’re unable to keep track because you’re so scattered, your task is to learn to batch similar kinds of thinking.”

The additional challenge of figuring out what you do all day? Morgenstern warns that time spent on modes of communication–responding to email, listening to voicemails, marathon meetings–doesn’t count. You’re only really productive when you’re engaged in the true content of your job description.

See what tasks make the short list–and eliminate the rest.

One of the biggest mistakes people make at work is putting absolutely everything–big and small, essential and inconsequential–on the to-do list. Approach that potential client! Order wraps for the reception! Label those hanging folders!

There’s no possibly way to get it all accomplished–and most people find it hard to leave at the end of the day with straggling tasks still glaring back at them. But the trick, says Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, is to figure out what actually belongs on the list–no more than three to five absolute musts–and ditch the rest.

“Truly think through what your priorities are for the workday,” says Vanderkam. “There are no bonus points for having a long list when you don’t get to everything.”/>/>

And forget the new app that promises to help you make the list and accomplish everything on it. Both Morgenstern and Vanderkam say when you really need to buckle down and focus, analog is the way to go.

“For many people, even for tech whizzes, a list that’s on paper–even if it’s created on the computer but printed out–is very helpful,” says Morgenstern. “You can refer to it without the danger of going back into that computer screen,” which, she says, is just a portal to the carnival of distraction that is the internet.

Alarm clocks aren’t just for waking up in the morning.
/>

Don’t underestimate the power of one of the simplest tools on your smartphone–the alarm. Morgenstern says being time conscious can help you target and overcome all manner of personal foibles, from being easily distracted to not knowing when to call a task complete.

“If you’re a perfectionist, you can say, ‘I’m going to spend 90 minutes on this, no more,’ and set that alarm, and it helps you overcome your own perfectionism,” says Morgenstern. “You can say, ‘I’m going to work for two hours before I check my email.’”

Which brings us to…

Isn’t it time you broke up with email?

When was the last time you thought, “I just wish I had more email in my life?” (Probably back when you had a handle that included the name of your favorite childhood athlete.)

You may think this title belongs to someone you dated in college, but the most poisonous relationship in your life is the one you are probably carrying on with email. It wants your constant attention. It’s got its mitts all over your work computer, laptop, smartphone, and tablet. It’s that constant, shrill, whine that wants to know WHY YOU AREN’T LOOKING AT IT THIS VERY MOMENT.

“Email delivers lots of to dos and lots of distractions,” says Morgenstern, who recommends eliminating it from the first waking hour and the first working hour of every day. “It’s the world’s most convenient procrastination device. That’s something you have control over: you can turn the dinger off. You can’t get into proactive mode if you start your day reactive.”

It’s not you. It’s email. Shut it down.


Plan your workdays three days in advance–including when you’ll go home./>

Banking on having the time to plan your day as it’s starting is a bad idea–at that point you’re already in the trenches with the tasks flying fast.

Instead, save some time towards the end of the day to plan for tomorrow and the two following days. It will not only keep you on track during the day, you’ll have a better understanding of your workload and whether you’re in a position to step up to an additional challenge, or focus on what’s already on the docket./>/>

“When you have a three-day time horizon, as things come flying at you throughout the day, instead of instantly shoving them into the moment, you have context for, ‘Where can I fit this in?’” says Morgenstern. “If you’re only looking at the next hour, you have no context for saying yes or no.

And beyond preparing for what you can get done during the day, commit to when it’s going to be over. If your plan is to stay at work until everything last thing is totally finished, you’re not going to be leaving any time soon–or ever, really.

“It’s critical,” says Morgenstern. “There will always be something else to do.”

When all else fails?

“Triage.”

If you’re committed to leaving work at a certain time, and a late-afternoon task arises that requires your attention but isn’t a matter of corporate life or death, you need to assess and attack within the time you have remaining–not simply commit to an evening spent in the office.

Vanderkam recommends asking yourself, “‘If the power to my building were to go off at 5 p.m., necessitating my leaving, what are the things I would do before then?’ And then tackle those things. The problem is many of us don’t ask that question until too late, and then you’re stuck late doing them.”

Everyone wants to be known for going that extra mile–but learning to identify when that’s truly necessary is critical. Especially because…

The best thing you can do for your life at the office is to build a dynamic life outside of it. 

Whatever your work/life preferences, it’s a point on which almost everyone is in agreement: The people who are the most creative and efficient in their careers prioritize time away from the office.

“If you’re not spending your time off in a way that actively refreshes and renews you and fuels you,” says Morgenstern, “there’s no way you’re going to make good choices and be efficient at work.”

She recommends a combination of physical health, mindful escape through interests or hobbies, and spending time with other people as a way to rest from the workday and also keep your energy levels high.

“Work expands to fill the available space,” says Vanderkam, “so treat the end of the workday as something that matters. The most efficient people I’ve seen have a reason they want to leave at 5 p.m.”

Follow me on Twitter @KathrynDill.

 
Update
2

7 weeks ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (NewCo) and slashing the workforce of 20,000 ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of the double tragedies of MH370 and MH17" hits ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Ebola not to upset Africa's overall growth: IMF
Harare, Oct 23 (IANS) The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has claimed 4,500 lives, will have minimum impact on continent's overall growth, a top International Monetary Fund (IMF) official said Thursday.
 
 
Second MERS case reported in Qatar
Doha, Oct 23 (IANS) A 43-year-old man in Qatar has tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the second confirmed case of the deadly virus in 10 days, media reported Thursday.
 
 
OPEC daily basket price falls again
Vienna, Oct 23 (IANS/WAM) The basket of 12 crude oils of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) closed at $81.94 a barrel Wednesday compared to $82.09 Tuesday, the OPEC Secretariat said.
 
 
Music therapy reduces depression in kids, adolescents
London, Oct 23 (IANS) Music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems, a study found.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Second MERS case reported in Qatar
Doha, Oct 23 (IANS) A 43-year-old man in Qatar has tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the second confirmed case of the deadly virus in 10 days, media reported Thursday. The patient had...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Two people die in Pakistan bomb blast
Islamabad, Oct 23 (IANS) At least two people were killed and 12 others injured in an explosion that took place in Pakistan's Balochistan province Thursday, media reported. The bomb was planted on a motorcycle, Dawn...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Trott extends contract with Warwickshire till 2017
London, Oct 23 (IANS) England batsman Jonathan Trott, whose mental issues led to his abrupt departure from last winter's Ashes tour, has confirmed his successful comeback to competitive cricket by signing a new three-...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Srikanth, Kashyap big movers in BWF rankings
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 23 (IANS) Indian men shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap jumped seven places each in the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings released Thursday while Olympic bronze medallist...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Alvin Stardust dead
London, Oct 23 (IANS) English singer Alvin Stardust died after a short illness. He was 72. Stardust's manager confirmed the news about his demise Thursday, reports mirror.co.uk. He was recently diagnosed with...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Indian man reunited with family after 40 years
Dubai, Oct 23 (IANS) An Indian man, who had disappeared from his hometown in Kerala nearly 40 years ago, has been found by his family at a hospital in Dubai in the UAE, a newspaper report said. Now in his 60s, Abdulla...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Srikanth, Kashyap, Saina rise in world rankings
Kala Lumpur, Oct 23 (IANS) Indian men shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap jumped seven places each in the latest released Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings Thursday while Olympic bronze medallist...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Flintoff signs for Big Bash side Brisbane Heat
Brisbane, Oct 23 (IANS) Former England captain and all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who retired from international cricket in 2009, Wednesday confirmed that he will play for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League (BBL) this...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
OPEC daily basket price falls again
Vienna, Oct 23 (IANS/WAM) The basket of 12 crude oils of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) closed at $81.94 a barrel Wednesday compared to $82.09 Tuesday, the OPEC Secretariat said. The new OPEC...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Lopez to sign multi-million dollar deal?
Los Angeles, Oct 23 (IANS) Singer-actress Jennifer Lopez is reportedly in the final stages of securing a multi-million dollar deal to perform in Las Vegas. The 45-year-old is being offered $350,000 per show at The...
Read more on Celebrity Balla