Official statistics published by the TUC earlier this year revealed that UK workers gifted their employers a whopping £31.5 billion of unpaid overtime in 2015. If these hours were paid, over five million people would be more than £6,000 better off. Wouldn’t it be better, though, if those 7.7 extra hours worked each week were ditched, in favour of an early finish and a trip down to the local pub?
If you dream of finally addressing your work life balance, and being able to switch off your computer at four o’clock without feeling stressed about unfinished tasks, here are a few tips to set you on the right path to living the dream.
Prioritise your tasks
When you get into the office each morning, take time to write down a list of things that you absolutely must complete that day. Better still, make this your last task of the day before, so that you can hit the ground running.
Once your list is completed, review it and prioritise the tasks in order of importance. After this, really consider each item on your to do list and note which ones could be delegated and which ones could be done quicker with input from others. Factor in how much time you will realistically need to complete each piece of work, so that you are in a position to manage your time effectively throughout the day.
There is no point writing extensive to do lists, if you are going to end up deviating from them. One of the key reasons why people find they have to stay late in the office is because they have failed to use their core office hours productively. Coffee breaks and water cooler chats are all well and good, but if you are determined to finish your work and leave the office on time, you need to focus on the job at hand and get things done.
If you find it difficult to stay focused on a single task for a prolonged length of time, you are not alone. Experts suggest dividing your tasks into shorter time slots, for instance you could spend 10 minutes making phone calls, before returning to give that presentation another 30 minutes of your time. This approach will help you stay focused and in many cases, will allow you to return to more mundane tasks with a fresh pair of eyes.
Make sure you have no choice
One way to ensure that you don’t fall into the trap of working late is to take away the option of doing so. Plan something with a fixed start time right after you intend to leave the office, commit to a meeting time with friends or book a gym class. Not only will this focus you on the time you need to get out of the office, it will also give you a valid excuse not to agree to pick up any last minute tasks.
In essence, the only way to make the 4pm finish a reality is to take back control. Plan, focus and finish in that order. Remember, tomorrow is another day and another chance to complete anything that you haven’t managed to do today.
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