27 September 2023

Clocking off: Why it’s better to leave your work at the office

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John Rampton* says taking work home is likely to make you less, not more, productive.

Few things feel better than a great day at work.

When you take work home with you, though, that feeling of accomplishment turns into a never-ending cycle of stress and lower productivity.

Research from the UK Health and Safety Executive found that excessive workloads cause 44 per cent of workplace stress and anxiety.

Thanks to smartphones, it’s easier than ever for people to check emails after dinner.

Constant connectivity prevents workers from getting the unplugged time they need to recharge.

You might feel like you’re crushing the competition by bringing your work home, but you probably aren’t.

Research from Stanford University found that people who work 50 hours per week experience a sharp decline in productivity, while those who work more than 55 hours per week achieve no more than those who quit at the 55-hour mark.

The best way to stop bringing work home is simple: finish everything at the office.

Easier said than done, but with these tips, you can crush your work at work and spend your evenings on the leisure you deserve.

  1. Get real about your productivity

Say it takes you about two hours to finish a certain type of project.

When you need to start a new project, don’t assume that it will take exactly two hours to complete.

Build in some buffer time to allow yourself the flexibility to do a good job.

Remember, you might be able to finish the project in two hours, but you probably won’t spend those two hours (and all your other hours) at maximum productivity.

Research from VoucherCloud found that the average office worker only spends about three hours every day doing actual work.

People spend the rest of their time performing between-work tasks, chatting, going to the bathroom and doing everything but putting pen to paper.

Rather than make promises that assume you’re an always-on robot, give yourself some buffer time.

A two-hour project is more likely to take all morning than it is to take 120 minutes on the dot.

Avoid unrealistic expectations so you don’t feel obligated to deliver on overpromises to yourself.

  1. Set firm limits on reading emails at home

You’ve finished your evening chores, eaten your dinner and watched your favourite show.

Now your spouse is reading a book, and you have all the free time in the world.

You pull out your phone, flick through the news and check your work emails — and now you’re stressed, even if only a little, about what awaits you in the morning.

Set a firm deadline on when to lock yourself out of your inbox for the night.

You might need to keep an eye on things until offices in other time zones catch up; that’s fine.

The important thing is to pick a time and stick to it.

This deadline will both help you relax and inspire you to wrap up projects at work to avoid breaking your house rule.

When you stop half-working in the evenings, you can spend your time on more meaningful pursuits.

Your time is your own.

  1. Let people help you

Many people are perfectionists.

The most successful ones know when to keep pushing and when to delegate the work to someone else.

If you try to do it all alone, not only will you never get a break, but you’ll also alienate the people on your team.

Look at your schedule every morning and think about whether you could delegate any of that work to someone else.

If you’re the boss, your time is limited, so you should take any opportunity to reclaim a few more minutes in the day.

Don’t hold back out of fear that a task might be too hard for someone to handle.

According to The State of Workplace Culture from SnackNation, employees who receive more challenging tasks are more engaged at work.

  1. Get more sleep

When you don’t sleep well, you spend the day in an unproductive fog.

The US National Sleep Foundation says adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night, yet plenty of people get far less.

You can’t deny your body the sleep it needs and expect to keep your mind sharp.

People who sleep less might say they feel fine, but that’s probably because they don’t remember how much better they function when fully rested.

Pick a bedtime and a waking time, then commit to that schedule and adjust as needed.

You might only need six hours, or you might need nine.

Don’t cheat yourself out of the rest you need.

Listen to your body and do what it says.

When you arrive to work rested and recharged, you’re able to knock out tasks during the day and leave the office behind when it’s time to go home.

You can always do one more thing or answer one more email, but if you avoid the temptation, you’ll not only be happier at home — you’ll also be more productive when it counts.

* John Rampton is an entrepreneur and founder of the productivity tool Calendar. He tweets at @johnrampton.

This article first appeared at www.entrepreneur.com.

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