Many working professionals have hectic schedules. Perhaps due to technology that now allows men and women to stay connected to the office no matter where they might be, a great number of men and women now exceed the traditional full-time employment standard of 40 hours per week. In fact, data from the 2013 and 2014 Gallup Work and Education polls indicates that adults employed full time in the United States work an average of 47 hours per week, almost an entire extra workday.
Some working professionals have little recourse with regard to reducing the number of hours they work each week. But those who find themselves unknowingly working extra hours, whether it's by checking work emails at home or answering business calls even after leaving the office, can take steps to regain their downtime for themselves.
• Schedule activities during before or after office hours. Men and women who want to take back their downtime may benefit if they start to schedule activities during those hours that aren't meant to be spent at the office. Rather than planning on going to the gym, plans that can easily fall apart if a particularly difficult project lands on your desk, schedule sessions with a physical trainer or sign up for classes with a friend or family member. You will be less likely to work during your downtime if you have already paid for a training session or class or have scheduled a dinner date or another activity with a loved one. Especially busy professionals can plan activities for one or two weeknights per week so they know they are leaving the office on time no less than 20 percent of the time.
• Encourage team-building activities with coworkers. One way to ensure you get out of the office on time is to promote team-building activities with your coworkers. Propose a company softball team or encourage your bosses to sponsor a company bowling team. Such activities can create stronger bonds between you and your coworkers, and they also ensure all of you get out of the office on time at least once per week. While you won't necessarily avoid talking about work, you will be out of the office and having fun while you relax rather than sitting at your desk and burning the midnight oil.
• Turn off your devices. Professionals who own smartphones or tablets can now check work emails or monitor work projects whether they're sitting in their offices or lounging on the couch at home with their families. Working men and women looking to work less during their downtime should consider turning off those devices that keep them connected to their offices. This may be more difficult than you think, as a 2013 survey conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of GFI Software found that 39 percent of participants acknowledged checking work emails outside of standard work hours, while a whopping 81 percent of the more than 500 respondents said they check their work email on weekends. Men and women who want to regain their downtime for themselves can try turning off their devices upon leaving the office, resisting the temptation to check work emails on nights and weekends.