Illustration by Jan Buchczik

How to Leave Work at Work. Mostly

  1. Build in Predictability
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    Build in Predictability

    Spend Friday afternoon scheduling time to complete mandatory projects for the next week. Nancy Rothbard, a Wharton School management professor, says it’s the unpredictability of nighttime work that causes extra stress.

    Illustration by Jan Buchczik
  2. Schedule a 4 p.m. Triage
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    Schedule a 4 p.m. Triage

    An hour before leaving, decide what your team should finish by the next day. Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, asks, “If an evil villain cut the power, what would you still do?”

    Illustration by Jan Buchczik
  3. Use Lunchtime for Check-Ins
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    Use Lunchtime for Check-Ins

    Make social and brainstorming rounds while grabbing food, rather than as you say bye and dash out. “That way you get interaction, but you can still deal with anything that comes up before quitting time,” Vanderkam says.

    Illustration by Jan Buchczik
  4. Warn the Family
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    Warn the Family

    If you need to finish something, tell your partner how long it will take. It helps you keep to a deadline and mitigate guilt, Rothbard says. Don’t be above bargaining with the kids: “If I work now, we can play all weekend.”

    Illustration by Jan Buchczik
  5. Assign Yourself Doable Tasks
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    Assign Yourself Doable Tasks

    While still at your desk, figure out what’s possible at home. “Getting to the bottom of the in-box isn’t going to happen,” Vanderkam says. “Preparing for two meetings the following day is something you could do.”

    Illustration by Jan Buchczik
  6. At Home, Enforce a Hard Stop
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    At Home, Enforce a Hard Stop

    Endpoints encourage focus. William Powers, author of Hamlet’s BlackBerry, allots himself 90 minutes, after which he must close the laptop. Or just set an alarm so you stop a half-hour before you go to sleep.

    Illustration by Jan Buchczik
  7. Manufacture Free Time
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    Manufacture Free Time

    Earmark two nights a week when you watch a movie or visit friends while avoiding e-mail. Working until bedtime every night puts “you on a hamster wheel that isn’t good for anyone,” Powers says.

    Illustration by Jan Buchczik