Knock-off time: What successful people do after work

How you spend your time outside of work – and who you spend that time with – is a defining factor in your career trajectory. As tempting as it may be to binge-watch Netflix with a bottle of vino on hand, the hours after work are just as important as the time you spend at work.

Successful people know they need to relax, eat well, exercise regularly and plan ahead if they want to bring their A game to the office

With 168 hours in the week – minus the 40 you spend at work – you have about 128 hours left in the bank to sleep, eat, and do whatever the heck you want. But if you want to succeed in your professional life, you have to use your personal time wisely.

In no particularly order, we’ve mapped out five ways successful people spend their time after work.

Now you know these not-so-secret methods, it could be time for a new post-work ritual!

They plan ahead:

Rocking up to work frazzled because you have no idea what your calendar looks like for the forthcoming day is not a good look. To ensure you’re ready for tomorrow, take a few minutes to review your diary and make a to-do-list every night. If you have a morning meeting, pack your briefcase with everything you need the night before, such as business cards, iPad and brochures, and don’t forget to check you have the name, phone number and address of the person you’re meeting.

They keep fit:

Ambitious people tend to excel in all areas of life, and that includes rocking a tight rig!  In all seriousness, people who work out are more alert, focused and energised, meaning they get more bang for their workday buck. Following a consistent fitness regime can also boost your creativity, confidence and resilience, both personally and professionally. Another upside of regular exercise is that it strengthens the immune system and helps keep you healthy so you have less sick days. After all, you can’t win employee-of-the-month if you’re always at home nursing a cold!

They chillax:

While most successful people seem to live and breathe work, in reality, the most successful people work hard at their career but then leave the office behind. They recognise the importance of spending time with their family and friends, hitting the gym and getting a good night’s sleep. This self-awareness keeps them from suffering burnout and becoming resentful if their career becomes all-consuming.

They unplug:

Much like the above-mentioned point, being ambitious doesn’t mean you can’t switch off. In fact, more and more people are choosing to spend their weekends and holidays on a “digital detox” – meaning no emails, no social media and definitely no Wi-Fi. Technology tends to dominate our lives nowadays, but highly successful people know that it’s essential to unplug from time to time too.

They self-invest:

Whether it’s a leadership course, an acting workshop or a certification in your field, ambitious people know that by investing in themselves, they will become a more well-rounded and successful professional. On the other hand, successful people also look for inspiration in unlikely places. Immersing yourself in a unique experience activates your brain in new ways and can lead to a burst of creative genius.

In summary, it’s important to recognise productivity doesn’t end when you clock off. You just need to get the balance right and ensure you’re being productive in other areas of your life – ultimately paving the way to a kick-ass career!

Unplugged: How to switch off from work

Work is an important part of our lives; after all we do spend 40+ hours a week doing this very thing.

There’s no doubt that the nature of our work environment is changing too – it’s becoming increasingly high pressure, deadline-driven and demanding.

This is compounded by the fact that pretty much everyone has a smart phone and can access their work emails anywhere, anytime.

As a consequence, we’re mentally chained to our desks 24/7, in a competitive marketplace where we feel compelled to respond right.this.minute for fear of not working hard enough.

While Nazi Germany might have wanted us to believe “work sets you free”, a growing body of research shows our inability to find a balance between work and play is having a serious impact on our physical, mental and emotional state of being. Overwork has been linked to a whole swag of health problems including heart disease, fatigue, depression and insomnia.

Next time you’re feeling frazzled after work, take these steps to get you into a state of Zenned-out bliss:

Habitual ritual

By creating a ritual of relaxation when you arrive home from work, you’ll train your mind to slow down and switch off from work mode. Having a shower and putting on your trackies when you get home signals to the brain that you’ve finished for the day, and now it’s time to chillax. Light candles, avoid loud sounds and if meditation’s your thing, do it!

Save the screen

While a lot of people use TV as a way to unwind, if you stare at a computer screen all day you’re actually not doing yourself any favours by watching tellie. A better way to forget the chaos of the working day is to take Fido for a quick spin in the fresh air, or better yet, hit the gym!

Use it and lose it

If you confiscate your kids phones at the dinner table, extend the “use it and lose it” policy to all members of the family (yes, that includes you!). Unless you’re on-call, get into the habit of switching off your work phone after work, or at least your emails, and never take your phone to bed. If you find yourself waking in the middle of the night worrying about the next day’s duties, experts recommend getting up and doing something else until you feel sleepy again.

All about the breath

As Bikram would say, focus on the breath. Deep breathing is one of the most successful tools for switching off because it naturally calms the body. Whenever your mind wanders back to the office, focus on the sensation of the breath as air enters and leaves your lungs.

Go green

Highly processed, fatty foods can agitate the body, as can a big meal right before bed. Snack on nuts, which are packed with cortisol-busting magnesium. For dinner, pack your plate with green leafy vegetables. Dark leafy greens such as spinach are rich in folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. Drinking black or green tea instead of coffee is thought to reduce stress hormones too.

You wrote what?! How not to email

In this old Digital Age, we often find ourselves communicating through technology more than in person. Emailing is a great tool for work as it allows you to contact your co-workers, boss or clients any time, any day and from anywhere in the world. A word of caution, though; replacing face-to-face communication with computer screens can sometimes lead to misinterpretations.

Without being able to hear the other person’s tone of voice or facial expressions, it can be very easy to miscommunicate. Just think back to some of your emails - have you ever considered things rude or offensive? Chances are the writer wasn't intending for their message to be read this way.

To avoid sounding rude or a little abrupt when communicating via email, follow these two simple rules:

1. Avoid using ‘actually’ in your emails

It sounds a little crazy that this word (which seems on the face of it a pretty common, harmless word) shouldn’t be used when emailing, yet it can be read extremely different from how you intended! Actually can seem like you are correcting the person. We've all no doubt wanted to correct someone at work at one time or another, especially when that over-bearing manager is trying to pick you apart for something that wasn’t your fault. But we know it’s not the right thing to do in most situations. To negate the reader thinking we are being defensive and having a little attitude it's best to cut actually from our vocabulary.

An example of the power of the word actually is:

Your boss: “I don’t think that figure is correct, you might need to check it against the others.”
You: “Actually, I got that figure off the company’s website.”


“I understand what you mean. I got the figure off the company’s website, but will double-check it.


2. Scrap the ‘sorry’

The word sorry is just as polite as your Ps and Qs, right? After all, it's been drilled into us from a young age to apologise when we are wrong, right? Well, this is all still true, however there are better ways to admit our faults, rather than saying sorry. The problem with the word sorry is that it is such a basic, common and convenient way to admit wrongdoing. As a result, when we say sorry (regardless of whether you are being sincere or not) it can come across as dismissive, non-genuine and sometimes a little sarcastic. The word sorry is so over-used that it has in some way lost it’s meaning and can be taken in other ways, especially over email. It's also important to attempt to explain in a direct way how you will improve or change your fault in the future. This provides the other person with some reassurance that the problem has been resolve, and allows you to demonstrate your sincerity and professionalism.

To avoid seeming careless and dismissive, replace sorry with a few of these phrases:

You’re right

Going forward I will ensure that doesn’t happen again

I understand why you’re upset

Now, let’s see the difference:

I’m sorry I forgot about the meeting.”


“I apologize - it slipped my mind. I will make sure that from now on I check my diary every morning so it doesn’t happen again.”

The latter provides a much more mature, respectful response and allows a little bit of sincerity in your message.


3. Read your email aloud

One of the most crucial tips to remember when communicating through email is to re-read your email before you send it! Re-reading your message is a way of ensuring:

  • Your message actually makes sense (some Monday mornings are a little too hard and our emails can sometimes sound like gibberish!)
  • You haven't made any typos. While computers (and even smart phones) have spell-check, it’s easy to miss that tiny red line underneath your misspelled word, so double check!
  • The intention of your message. Reading your emails aloud before hitting the send button is a great way to ensure you haven’t used any language or words (remember actually and sorry are not your friends) which could potentially be considered offensive or a little rude. Re-read it, edit it then send it!

Most of us spend our working days firing off email after email without so much as a glance at the keyboard. By taking a bit of extra time to formulate our messages, we can ensure our reader interprets our message the way we intended it, actually

Smart and simple tips to help you work with someone that you really (really) dislike

In the workplace you find yourself having to work with many different people and occasionally that involves working with someone who you really (really) dislike. Co-workers can sometimes test your limits and patience at work; sometimes you feel like you would rather just work alone to avoid certain personalities.

However that is usually not a realistic scenario in many jobs and causes that dreaded “erghhh, work tomorrow” feeling on a Sunday, or in extreme cases, every day of the week.

Whether this particular co-worker works in your office, building or even the other side of the country, coming into contact with this person is unavoidable and that is enough to make you “hate your job”.

Finding a way to work through these ill feelings and creating a positive working relationship is a necessity. Why? Research shows that the relationships you have at work can affect your performance (not to mention your sanity). So, the better your relationships at work are, the more productive, successful and happier you will be.

How?! Here are four easy tips for overcoming that horrible feeling you experience when you have to come into contact with your least favourite co-worker.

1. Getting to know the person

It is easy to misinterpret gestures, comments and behaviour and misread or judge people we do not know. It’s a habit and sometimes it is unconsciously done, however it can be the explanation for negative work relationships. It has been stated that we as people have a tendency for liking people who are similar to ourselves. Getting to know this “horrible” co-worker could allow you to find some similar interests or qualities that you never took the time to find. It also can allow a chance for a little bit of understanding towards the person’s behaviour (which, potentially drives you crazy). Being able to understand a person more can decrease the chance of you taking certain things as ‘rude’ or as ‘personal attacks’, cause they sometimes aren’t, however the behaviour is just not what we are familiar with. Which leads us to step two….

2. Don’t take things personally

As much as a certain co-worker can be difficult (some are even impossible) it is very easy to take certain behaviours in the workplace as personal, even if they are not intended to be. Not taking actions or comments as personal attacks improves you overall happiness, satisfaction and ability to perform at work. However, taking things personally can lead to negative views of your job, yourself and the offender.

3. Set Boundaries

Unlikable people seem to always come along with undesirable behaviours. A way to avoid these is to be honest (and professional) with this co-worker. If your dreaded co-worker likes to try and pass their tasks onto you to be completed, being open and honest with them is key. To avoid these types of situation starting (or going any further) simple responses such as, “I’m sorry Robert* I can’t do that task for you as I am already working on Project A and B.” Simple and straight to the point.

4. Don’t Stress

When you are dealing with all of the pressures of your life: work, family, home and personal pressures, you don’t want or need to be adding any more stress into your life. Being able to identify what you can and can’t control is a very powerful trick to overcome the stresses attached to working with a particularly challenging co-worker. You can’t control what another person says or does, however you can control how it affects you and your reaction. Determining what you should allow to bother you and what you can control or shape (and what you can’t) will allow you to overcome the negative feelings, stress and dislike for certain colleagues at work. Prioritise what is worth thinking twice about and what you should allow to continue without your worry. This behaviour and thinking will allow better enjoyment in your job and a positive attitude towards your work and yourself. Work can be hard with all of the different personalities and people associated with it. Not everyone you meet will be easy to deal with or treat you how you would like to be treated. However, focusing on yourself and how you deal with these people and their behaviour, rather than focusing on the person and how to ‘change’ or ‘fix’ their behaviour allows you to improve these working relationships and still enjoy your job. Which, in turn provides yourself with a greater opportunity of success and satisfaction within your work.

Don’t buy your lunch

Buying your lunch is an expensive exercise – if you spend $10 a day on lunch, five days a week, that’s $2,400 a year.

You’re at work to make money, so don’t spend it at work.

Planning and preparing your weekday lunches on a Sunday not only saves you money, it saves time.

Try the following brain food recipe for an easy week day lunch. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function.

Japanese style salmon patties


  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 180g can pink salmon, drained, bones removed and flaked
  • 1 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pickled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • 1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus 1 tablespoon extra
  • 1 bunch choy sum, trimmed
  • ½ punnet cherry tomatoes, halved


  1. In a large bowl, combine rice, salmon, breadcrumbs, onion, egg, ginger, soy, coriander and chill. Mix well. Shape into 8 even-sized, flattened patties. Chill, covered, for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large frying pan on high. Fry patties in two batches, 3-4 minutes each side, until golden. Drain on paper towel.
  3. Wipe pan clean. Heat extra oil on medium. Stir-fry choy sum and tomatoes for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Serve patties with wasabi mayonnaise (see tip) and fresh vegetables.

Top tip

  • To make wasabi mayonnaise, combine 1/3 cup whole egg mayonnaise with 1-2 teaspoons of wasabi paste.

Recipe courtesy of Ninemsn Food.

Be productive when working from home

Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. While the office space is free and the commute short, there’s more distractions, less “water-cooler” interaction and fragmented working hours. Follow the Institute of Careers’ simple tips to ensure your working day is a successful one.

Dress the part:

Even though your office shares the same address as your bedroom, it doesn’t give you free reign to greet your laptop in your Peter Alexanders. Stick to your usual workday routine – that means shower, eat breakfast and put on your work clothes. Wearing work clothes at the home office puts you in a mind-frame to work, not watch Sunrise.

Create a task list:

Write a list of all the actions you need to do that day, and objectives you’d like to achieve, and allocate the amount of time needed to undertake each task in one-hour blocks. Stay focussed and stick to the schedule, otherwise you could find yourself procrastinating and slacking off from the task at hand.

Set boundaries:

Don’t do your laundry during the workday and avoid personal calls until after work. If you wouldn’t do these kinds of things in an external office, don’t do it while working at home.

Take a proper lunch break:

Allocate yourself one hour for lunch. Make yourself a healthy meal and then go for a walk or short run to clear your head, thereby avoiding the afternoon slump. The advantage of working from home is that you can be super healthy by preparing your own lunch every day and making exercise fit around your schedule.

Say no to midday movies:

Tempting as it might be, don’t switch on the TV – Dr Phil's background chatter will only distract you from work. Surround your workspace with work-related things instead of items that might remind you of all the personal chores that need to be done.