Leave work at 5 p.m. and still get it all done: A how-to

Posted on 05-02-2014 by
Tags: burnout , career balance , Trending News & Topics , time management , career management , productivity , work-life balance

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?


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.

According to the article How To Leave Work At 5 P.M. And Still Get Everything Done via Forbes, 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. 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.

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!

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. The article goes on to say 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.

Isn’t it time you broke up with email? - 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.

Plan your workdays three days in advance–including when you’ll go home. Banking on having the time to plan your day as its starting is a bad idea–at that point you’re already in the trenches with the tasks flying fast.

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.

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.

Read the complete article via Forbes >> 

My question: Can you really 'break-up' with email? I don't think it is possible, but I am happy to take suggestions! 


Posted on : 9 May 2014 4:25 PM

This is a tough one and I'd love to hear how others are handling it.  I don't presume to get a response from someone if I send an after-5pm email (although more often than not people do respond), but I do feel responsible myself to do so.  I am working on putting the phone/email down once I get home, with mixed results.  We should all take a lesson from the courts and "lock the doors" at 5.

Jennifer B
Jennifer B
Posted on : 9 May 2014 6:19 PM

Travis, you are spot on with "Why not start by figuring out what you’re actually doing with all of your time?"  I started the year off using our CDEntry to track everything I do from the time I stepped through the office doors until I stepped back out those doors at the end of the day.  This is now May and I have a nice accounting of not only WHAT I'm doing, but also WHO I'm supporting.  For the first time in 13 years, I have documentation of my work day, showing I really don't have spare time to take on any more 'tasks'.  :)

Posted on : 27 May 2014 2:53 PM

I broke up with weekend work email from about 7 p.m. on Friday until I get in the office on Monday morning.  It has been wonderful.  All my work email is on a separate app on my smartphone, so I can still see my personal email without work emails creeping in.  I still get tempted to check, then I actually force myself to put the telephone down.  

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