Learn How to Leave Work at Work in 4 Steps
The more connected our world becomes, the harder it is to leave work at work. When you’re constantly able to be reached, it can feel like you’re always on the clock.
Learning how to manage your time isn’t just good for you, it’s good for the organization you work for because it leads to being better focused on the job at hand.
“As individuals, we need a mental break to do our best work, and taking time for ourselves—without the distraction of work—can help us become our best selves,” Elizabeth Grace Saunders says in Harvard Business Review.
She lays out four steps to become better at time management.
Step 1: Define ‘after hours’
Often jobs do not fit into a traditional 9-to-5 timeframe which can make it hard to keep to a set schedule. Flexibility can be a good thing, but it can also lead to expectations of answering emails at all hours of the day.
Saunders suggests being intentional about your schedule.
“Think through how many hours you want for activities like sleep, exercise, family, friends, cleaning, finances, etc.,” she writes. “Then see how much time you need to reserve on a daily and weekly basis to fit in those personal priorities. That then defines the parameters of when you want to be off hours.”
Step 2: Have mental clarity
You need to work smarter, not longer. Keep track of your tasks in whatever way works for you so you don’t waste time trying to remember what’s on your to-do list. Then, figure out when you will work on those tasks.
“This planning reduces anxiety that something will fall through the cracks or that you’ll miss a deadline,” Saunders explains.
Also, at the end of each day, take some time to an “end-of-workday wrap-up.” Ask yourself if you got through all your required tasks for the day and plan out what you will be doing the next day.
Step 3: Communicate with your colleagues
In some positions, you can create a clear boundary with your colleagues. In those situations, it’s good to set expectations, such as you won’t be responding to emails after 6 p.m.
In other positions where you are expected to stay more connected, it’s important to communicate with your colleagues how you would like to be reached “after hours.”
If your colleagues know they need to call you for a response once you leave the office, you won’t have to be constantly checking your phone for emails and texts.
Step 4: Get work done at work
Sometimes it feels like the only time you can get work done is after people go home. Then, there’s no one to stop by your office or ask you to join a meeting. But, if you are really set on not bringing work home with you, you must do work during your workday.
“Really guard your time,” Saunders recommends. “Put in time for project work. Place time in your calendar to answer email. And if follow-through requires going to a place other than your office to work, do it. Make and keep meetings with yourself to knock off tasks.”