Four colourful clocks in varying degrees of focus to show the concept of learning to leave work on time
Image: Masson/Shutterstock

5 steps to help you leave work on time every day

24 Jul 2018

Are you guilty of constantly being in the office late? It is possible to leave on time every day, but it requires a little discipline.

Everyone is different when it comes to how well we manage our time, how much work we have on our plates and how productive we are on any given day.

But, even with all of these differences, the ability to leave work on time comes back to a simple concept of self-discipline and learning how to get your ducks in a row.

Let me be clear: I’m not simply talking about the people who seem to be in the office an hour or two after they should have left.

You could easily think of those people and decide ‘Oh, that’s not me, I’m fine’, right before switching off your computer the usual 20 minutes later than you should be.

One of the easiest forms of overwork to accept is one that has you leaving the office almost every day 10, 15 or 20 minutes after quitting time. There is no reason for you to stay later than you should be. You are possibly putting in between one and two hours of extra work for free.

Do you want to break that habit and learn the self-discipline you need to leave bang on time every day? Here are five simple steps to get you on the right path.

Plan to leave at the beginning

If you start your day knowing you plan to leave work on time, you’re already putting yourself in the correct mindset to actually achieve it.

When setting up your to-do list or tasks for the day, make sure you don’t give yourself too many to do before you clock out.

It’s also a good idea to say out loud that you’re going to make sure you leave on time today. Holding yourself accountable is a great way to follow through.

Shift your mentality

Part of the trap we can fall into for staying late is when we don’t feel like we have anything in particular to rush for.

How many times have you suddenly managed to leave work on time when you’ve had to make an appointment or plans with friends?

Shifting your mentality into giving ‘getting home’ the same priority as you would any other plans will help give you the pressure you need to wrap things up on time.

Wrap up early

Speaking of wrapping things up, another common pitfall of staying that extra 10 to 15 minutes is leaving 10 to 15 minutes worth of work until the end of the day and not actually factoring it into your plans.

Remember that to-do list you made at the start of the day? It should include the time it takes you to do those regular end-of-day jobs that you usually leave until it’s time to leave.

Set yourself a reminder well ahead of when it’s time to leave work to start wrapping things up so that when it’s finally time to leave your desk, you’re already finished with those tasks.

Prioritise your tasks

This is another element of your to-do list that needs close examination. We’ve talked before about the importance of where in the day you place your important tasks due to your ability to focus. However, there’s another element to this.

Make sure you tackle anything that you absolutely need to do today as early in the day as possible, so that you’re not staying late to finish those tasks.

Things you need to work on but don’t necessarily need to be completed today should be left until the afternoon, so that if you don’t get it completed, you can simply down tools and pick it up tomorrow.

Evaluate your time management

If you’re still struggling to get all your necessary tasks complete in one day, you should look at your time management process.

If you feel like you could manage your time better but aren’t quite sure how, it’s worth spending a week or two working as you normally would but cataloguing how you spend your time.

You’ll soon see what tasks are sucking valuable time out of your day (such as pesky emails) and where you can start reclaiming the hours you need to ensure you leave work on time.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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