It seems to be a constant struggle to keep my working hours within a reasonable limit. If I’m not careful, I can easily put in extra hours every week trying to manage small projects, catch up on my to-do list, and plan for the next week. For some people, working longer hours can be seen as a badge of honor. Whether that mindset fits you or not, research says that putting in more hours doesn’t necessarily translate into being more productive. So I’d like to share the one trick I’ve learned to help limit the overtime I put in.
What’s the Trick?
It’s actually pretty simple. Schedule something after work hours that requires you to leave at your scheduled time. It’s funny that anytime my kids have an activity that I have to be at after work or I have an appointment with someone right after the end of the day, I manage to be more productive. Knowing that I cannot stay late or have “extra time” to get things done forces me to push through distractions and be more focused on the tasks I have in front of me. Even if you don’t have a legitimate appointment to put on your calendar, still “schedule” something so that when you look at it, you are reinforcing the expectation that you cannot stay late. This could be something as simple as watching Wheel of Fortune that comes on an hour after the time you should be leaving work. You could also schedule time to get caught up on some enjoyable reading, a date night with your spouse, or taking a walk around the neighborhood to get some exercise in.
Or Try the Pomodoro Technique
If you find you need a little bit more structure so that you can end your day without staying late, consider using the Pomodoro technique. There are free Pomodoro timers for Chrome, iOS, and Android that you can download. Worst case scenario, you can put the tasks you need to do on your calendar so that throughout the day you have structure of what you are to work on. If you do this, though, don’t leave out a little time here or there to reward yourself for staying focused and working through as planned.
If you have tried this trick, let us know how it works for you in the comments below. Also, we’d love to hear your tricks or tips that help you reign in your work schedule to a reasonable amount.