Go home when work is over.
This is a deceptively simple idea. When your work day is complete, leave work. It’s something I’ve struggled with as I tried to clear my ticket queue. I love to tell myself if I just spend a few more minutes on this problem I’ll have a solution.
I won’t. I never do. I need to go home and pick it up tomorrow. You know when I do find the solution for my problem? Tomorrow, after I’ve slept and rested. After I’ve stopped thinking about it.
When work is over, I go home. I don’t stay late. I don’t give my free time to work. I am a contractor which means I stop getting paid the moment I work 8 hours. I don’t get paid overtime. When I work late, I work for free. Don’t work for free.
My time is valuable and so it yours. I leave by example. Working as a team lead, I would leave at the end of the day and urge my team to do the same. Your team takes cues from you. Be a good example and others will follow.
Time is finite and comes from somewhere.
Go Eat Lunch
I have a hard time taking this advice, but it’s important. Eat lunch away from your desk. Get up and go to the cafeteria, find a restaurant you like. Find a place to eat where you won’t be disturbed.
When I am at my desk, my co-workers take that as a signal I am working. So I can be disturbed. Even if I’m clearly eating lunch, it doesn’t stop the interruptions or requests for work as I eat.
I do it to myself. I will be trying to find a solution to a problem as I eat. Or I’ll be sending emails. I need to stop working. I need to switch gears.
I usually eat in about 15 minutes. With my remaining 15 minutes I read a book or listen to music. If I’m having a rough day I’ll go for a walk or close my eyes and set a timer for a midday nap.
Non-Smoker Smoke Break
Smokers get to go outside for a few minutes a couple of times per day. I decided I would do the same thing. Instead of smoking, I go for walks. I read a book on my phone or go through my Instapaper queue.
I use the chance to get some fresh air and clear my head. It works wonder to step away from a problem and come back to it with a clear head and a different perspective.
Most importantly, it saves me from never leaving my desk for 8 straight hours. I’ve had days where I stand up to collect myself and go home and wonder why my legs are so stiff and sore. It’s from sitting all day without moving.
Leave on time. Go to lunch. Leave your desk throughout the day. You’ll be happier and healthier at the end of the day.