How To Leave Work On Time: A Beginner’s Guide

Because there really isn't any good reason why you should still be in the office at 6.05pm...


by Rebecca Holman |
Published on

A new survey has revealed that one or four of us habitually work for free, often clocking in an extra seven hours over our contracted time each week. That’s an extra day a week. Or an extra 50 per cent of your weekend. Or an extra week’s holiday after five weeks. So, basically, what we’re saying is leave on time tonight, because you’ve done all of your work, you’ve ticked everything off your to-do list and you’re feeling super-smug and efficient. (Because, let’s face it, the only thing more dispiriting than working till 8pm then realising you have to do another three hours work when you get home). So here’s how to be that smug shit that clocks off at 6pm and is in the pub garden by 6.0pm, white wine spritzer in hand.

**1. Tidy your desk every day **

Remember when you had loads of revision to do for your A Levels that you really, really couldn’t be bothered with? So what did you do instead? You tidied your bedroom. You tidied it so hard that you found the carpet for the first time in a decade, organised two years worth of revision notes into ring binders and produced the most comprehensive exam timetable known to man. But there’s a reason for this – studies have shown that a messy desk actively undermines productivity and motivation. So clear out any papers you don’t need (90 per cent of the ones on your desk), move any books and clutter out of the way. Any pieces of paper you need to reference regularly? Take a picture of it on your phone. Some experts suggest a family photo or some motivational quotes are a good addition to your desk – but we're calling bullshit on that one. If you really need a Steve Jobs quote on hand to keep you motivated for eight hours, stick it on your computer desktop. Apart from a bottle of water or whatever, your phone and maybe a notebook, there’s no real reason why should have anything else left on your desk overnight. Same counts for your digital desktop and email inbox – clear that each day, no matter how much of a pain it is. However…

2. Don’t check your emails first thing

Everyone on the planet seems to agree on this one. Or at least don’t start replying to all your emails first thing, do a quick scan and only respond to the super important ones. Otherwise you start the day off responding and reacting to other people, which isn’t how it’s done. Instead allocate a fixed hour in your day to go through and respond to all of your emails.

**3. Make a list, and allocate each task a time slot **

So, it’s first thing in the morning, you’re sitting at your tidy desk, facing a perfectly organised email inbox, what do you do next? You write a to-do list, obvs. Make it a good 'un,though – allocate time to each task you’ve got to do (be realistic about how long things take) and then allow 10 minutes of messing about time every couple of hours – that’s your time for checking your personal email, messing about on Facebook, replying to texts etc, before getting on with the next job. There’s nothing like an arbitrary deadline to get you moving, even if it’s one you’ve set yourself. Use an app like egg timer (or you know, just use your phone timer) to count down how long you’ve got. Digital post-it notes can be great for list making – you can use different colours for personal and work lists. Make sure you keep them under control and regularly bin the old ones, though.

4. The more you hate what you’re doing, the less distractions you should have in front of you

Everyone’s got that one task they really hate, totally procrastinate on, and subsequently spend half the day doing. As tempting as it is to keep a running commentary of what everyone else in the world is doing open on Facebook in another tab, don’t. It’s the big girl equivalent of doing your homework in front of the TV and it’s a guaranteed time-waster. Instead, go for a social media blackout and stick your phone in your desk draw. It’s only two hours of your life, and then you can get back to half-heartedly stalking your ex-boyfriend on Twitter, safe in the knowledge that you've already done the shittiest thing on your list.

**5. Make it so that you have to leave work on time **

Book a gym class for 6.20pm, arrange to meet that mate who goes ape shit every time you’re late for a drink, or book in an off-site meeting for an hour before you’re due to finish. The fewer options you’ll have to procrastinate, the less procrastinating you’ll do.

And then… Go and sit in the park with a gin in a tin and reflect smugly on how efficient and amazing you are. Oh, and don’t check your work emails till tomorrow. That's an order.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter @rebecca_hol

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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