How to Leave the Office at 5 P.M. Guilt-Free

Katie Sweeney

Lately, I’ve been working late—until 7 p.m.—most nights of the week. However, I would really love to walk away from my desk at 5 p.m., so I’m trying to figure out how to get more done in less time. A Fast Company story discusses the topic and says that if you’re at the office after 6 p.m., you might not be working efficiently. “It’s extremely difficult if not impossible to get out of the office by 5 p.m. if you’re disorganized,” says Laura Stack, the author of Doing the Right Things Right. “People are working far too long and far too hard because they are inefficient, disorganized, and waste time during the day.” While part of the problem is that boundaries around work hours have become blurred, you can put some new practices in place that will help you get home in time for dinner. Here’s how to leave the office at 5 p.m., guilt-free.

  • Begin the day with the end in mind. According to career coach Lea McLeod, “Many people don’t leave work on time simply because they don’t set the expectation that they will.” When you get to work in the morning, identify what time you want to leave that night. Commit to that time by setting your alarm or putting it on your calendar. Another idea is to join a class or social group that has meetings at a set time after work. This will give you extra incentive to manage your time better.
  • Tell people when you have to leave. Let your boss and colleagues know what time you plan on leaving. Tell your co-workers that they should give you as much notice as possible for any requests. “Be assertive,” says Stack. “Don’t be afraid to tell others, ‘I leave work at 5 p.m., on time, every day. I have a 5:30 commitment I must adhere to.’ It’s none of their business that your commitment is with yourself or your family. People tend to support others when their goals are made public.”
  • Do you most important work first. Don’t waste time answering emails and scheduling meetings until you have completed your critical work.
  • Start meetings before 4 p.m. If you control meeting times, don’t schedule any late in the day. Respect other people’s time by not asking them to start a project or meet at 4:45 p.m.
  • Realize that work will still be there tomorrow. There will always be things on your to-do list; that is why it’s called work. You don’t have to be a slave to it.

Learn two more habits that can help you leave work at 5 p.m. on Fast Company, and schedule your day with this pretty weekly desk pad.

What time do you leave work at night?

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