remote work

When you’re young, single, and full of energy, putting in a 12 hour workday isn’t that big of a deal. But, when you realize that you need a healthy work-life balance, putting in such long work days are no longer a priority.

Maybe it’s because you want to have quality time with your family or because you’re aware of the health consequences of working too much, leaving work on time has now become a goal.

How can you achieve that goal each and every day? Start by trying out the following 10 tactics.

1. Schedule your day the night before.

Want to get out of the office on time? Start by scheduling your day the night before. Jot down the goals that you want to accomplish by making a to-do-list. You should also note when you want to accomplish these and ideas on how to do so.

For example, if you know that you’re energy drops in the afternoon then you would want to hammer out these tasks in the morning when your energy levels are at their peak.

Also, don’t make your lists too lengthy. Stick to 3 or 4 goals that are need to get done ASAP so that you don’t get bogged down by too many tasks. Several studies have indicated that if you have more than 7 items on a list, you will most likely complete none of them.

2. Establish hard boundaries.

This may be challenging for some more than others, but if you don’t assert yourself and stick to your schedule and say “no” when appropriate you’ll never get home on-time.

If a colleague or client asks you to review a document and it’s 4:30 pm, tell them you’ll pencil that in tomorrow. If a meeting has gone longer than planned, excuse yourself when there’s a break.

Just like Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, makes it a point to be out the door by a certain time and establishes hard boundaries to make that a reality.

3. Getting up early will get you home on time.

Waking-up early is one of the most common habits for successful and productive individuals. The reason? It gives the individual time to exercise, catch-up on the news, respond to emails, and work on their to-do-lists before anyone else in the household is awake.

This even gives the opportunity to get to the office earlier so that you can start working without an distractions from colleagues, phone calls, or emails.

4. Let others know when you’re leaving.

Want to make sure that you’re out of the office by 5 pm? You first have to make that commitment and then let other’s know as well.

For example, if you tell your colleagues, “I’ve got to be out of here on time tonight, so if you have any questions or need anything, can you please let me know no later than 3 pm?”

If you give others plenty of notice then you’re going to decrease the instances of them bursting into your office at 4:45 pm with a stack of papers for your to review, even though you wanted to leave by 5:00 pm.

If these colleagues or employees don’t seem to have gotten the hint, then start making it pretty obvious that you’re getting ready to leave by packing-up your messenger, taking your coat off the hook, or powering down your office.

5. Don’t go out for lunch.

While fun, and delicious, going out to lunch everyday with your team always ends up taking longer than anticipated, which in turn can throw a monkey wrench into the rest of your afternoon’s schedule.

Unless it’s a special occasion, like meeting with a prospective client or celebrating a milestone, pack your lunch. When you finish eating early you can then either relax, meditate, or finally catch-up on your emails or social channels.

6. Avoid scheduling meetings at the end of the day.

Your afternoons should be composed of activities that you can control, such as administrative tasks, organizing your office, or wrapping-up items from your to-do-list.

Meetings, on the other hand, aren’t always in your control. The times when the meeting has to be rescheduled or delayed because the other party is stuck in traffic. And, meetings typically run over.

If you do have to schedule a meeting make it for the AM. And, make sure that you keep it short as possible by creating an agenda and sticking to it. The sooner you’re out of the meeting, the sooner you can go back to getting your work done.

7. Block out 20 minutes for flow and transition periods.

No matter how organized you are, you can’t determine when exactly you’re going to be “in the zone.” However, you should have an idea based on when your most productive, finding flow takes time since, according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it “tends to occur when a person faces a clear set of goals that require appropriate responses,” like when you start playing a game.

“Flow also happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges.”

In other words, if you don’t feel engaged give it some time.

Additionally, you should block around 20 minutes at the end of the day. This helps so you can clean up any last daily details. Start by filing paperwork and making sure that all essential emails have been responded too. Next, start organizing for tomorrow.

This transition period is extremely important if you want to be leave on your scheduled departure time. So don’t take any last minute meetings or get distracted by your news feed.

8. Do your most important work first.

We all have tasks that we dread or that need to be done immediately. But, instead of focusing on all of those fun and easy tasks, knock them out as soon as possible while you have the most amount of focus and energy. Once done, move on to the articles that don’t require as much energy.

In my earlier days of writing I would do this. I would start with the articles that were more interesting to me and kept pushing back the more challenging articles. As a result, the more difficult article took me longer to write. I was already mentally drained by the time I got to it.

Instead of being done at a reasonable hour I would spend most of the night working on an article that I already wasn’t thrilled to write in the first place.

In short, always put your priorities first and “Eat that frog!

9. Eliminate distractions.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking that the occasional phone call, email, or Facebook update isn’t that big of a deal. These constant distractions will seriously decrease your productivity and focus. This means that you’ll have to stay at longer longer to catch-up on the work that should have already been done.

Avoid distractions by turning off all email, text, and social media notifications, putting your phone on airplane mode, and designating certain times to check and respond to all of your messages.

Don’t have the willpower? Download a desktop application that will block certain websites for a set period of time.

You can also try productivity hacks like batching and the Pomodoro Technique.  Try listening to music, placing a do not disturb sign on your door, or desk, and set clear boundaries.

10. Get a little help help from your friends.

There’s only so much that you can accomplish in one day. If you feel that you’re falling behind on a task or project, ask your team to lend a hand. If they’re available, they will help. As they say, many hands make light work. Just remember, you’re going to have to return this favor at some point.

However, if there are ongoing tasks that you don’t have the time for, such as writing daily blog posts, managing your social social channels, or bookkeeping, you may want to delegate or outsource them so that you can focus on the work that can help your business grow.

Best known as an Entrepreneur and Connector. John was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine as well as a blogging expert by Forbes. He is the Founder and CEO of Due.

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