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!

The art of keeping a clean inbox

With most people having access to their emails from their smartphones, there’s a newfound tendency among the masses to hit refresh every five minutes; fire off emails at all times of the day and night; and respond to emails within a matter of minutes of receiving them.

First thing’s first – allocate time to learn about your email software and set up filters. Once you set up a filter, every email you receive will automatically get filed away into the different folders you’ve created.

When you receive an email, if it only requires a two-word reply or a 30-second response, answer it then and there. If it’s going to require a more considered response, send a quick email back letting the person know you’ve seen it and when you’ll be responding.

In today’s 24/7 world, it may seem easy to squeeze in emails while watching the kids play sport on Saturday – but make a habit of saying no. There will always be emails to answer and people who claim their messages are urgent or important. Drawing the line means you’re not only creating a better work/life balance, chances are you’ll be more productive when you actually need to get down to business.

On the flipside, if you want to get better responses to the emails you’re writing, check out this story from The Australian for the best times to hit send.

The key to achieving a work/life balance

The work/life balance is getting worse for Australians, with the average full-time worker doing six hours of unpaid overtime each week.

Unfortunately, many workplaces have created – and cultivated – a clock-watching culture where everyone races to be the first in the office and the last to leave.

This might come as a surprise to you, but at the Institute of Careers our message is simple; don’t be afraid to arrive on time and leave on time.

A lot of people who put in the extra hours also waste a lot of time chatting at their desk so the key to being a productive, 9-5 kind of worker is to be organised and have an effective time management process in place.

By all means, if you’re working on a major project and need a few extra hours to get the job done, so be it. But don’t get into the pattern of thinking that you need to get in early and stay back late to be seen as a diligent or committed employee.

In fact, if you are having to constantly stay back late to get through your workload, the company you’re working for is probably under-resourced. Providing you’re not wasting time, you may have a strong case to put forward for more resources so you’re not chained to your desk when you could be at home with your family.

Although many organisations have all but done away with clock-in clock-out cards, we think they should be used more frequently because the majority of people are working too many hours during the day and not getting recognition for it. The clock-in clock-out model was seen to discourage a work/life balance but by clocking in just before 9am and leaving eight hours later, it actually shows your employer that you are running a tight ship and using your time effectively to get your work done.