It's natural to get stuck late at the office from time to time. But if you've reached the point that working late is less of an exception than the norm, it's time to put an end to that habit. Otherwise, you risk burning out and compromising your health in the process.
Of course, picking yourself up and leaving on time is easier said than done, especially when there's still work hanging over your head. But if you're serious about carving out a better work-life balance, here are a few pointers for prying yourself away from your desk at a more reasonable hour.
1. Create a daily to-do list
One reason why some people get stuck working late is that they don't invest a few minutes early in the day to get organized. If that's been happening to you, spend your first few minutes at your desk each day mapping out a to-do list. This way, you'll see what needs to get done before the day slips away from you.
2. Tackle your most important tasks first
You might want to close out the day with an empty plate, but in many work scenarios, that's just not possible. There are probably certain key items you must finish by a certain time to avoid incurring the wrath of your boss, so once you've created your daily to-do list, establish your most pressing priorities and knock them out before moving on to less critical tasks. That way, it'll be easier for you to leave on time -- even if you haven't crossed every item off your list.
3. Avoid distractions
Many workplaces naturally teem with distractions, so identifying the ones that are most detrimental to you is the first step in avoiding them. Maybe your workflow is constantly interrupted by the chatty colleagues who sit around you; or maybe you have a tendency to check your phone too often during the day and get sidetracked as a result. Either way, the less you allow yourself to get distracted, the more productive you'll be during the day, thereby increasing your chances of getting to leave on time -- so figure out what's throwing you off and fight back. That could mean locking yourself in a conference room to better focus on key tasks or pledging to keep your cell phone on "silent" until your most important assignments are completed.
4. Block off your availability toward the end of the day
Sometimes, leaving the office late results from other people pulling you into meetings at the very end of the day. To prevent that from happening, block off late-day time slots on your personal calendar so that when others try to schedule things with you, it'll show that you're unavailable. If that doesn't work, be clear that you need late-day meetings to end on time so that you can leave to tend to personal obligations. If the organizers of those meetings can't guarantee that, then ask to have those sit-downs moved to an earlier hour.
Leaving work at a reasonable time is crucial for your sanity. Follow these tips, and with any luck, your days of consistently burning the midnight oil will soon be behind you.