8 Ways to Maximize Your After-Work Time

published Feb 18, 2019
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(Image credit: Craig Kellmann)

It starts with good intentions. How many of us have, in an effort to shake off the stress of the workday, ended up in a daze on the couch? Whether you spend your evenings bingeing on Netflix or mindlessly scrolling social media, the post-work lull can compromise productivity and, in the end, keep you from truly relaxing. So why not set your post-work self up for success? All it takes is a little intention.

To get you started on reclaiming your weeknights, we chatted with eight people who’ve made their after-work time work for them:

Rely on a routine

Fail to plan, and plan to fail. Maggie Kelly, owner of Organizing CU, a professional organizing business based in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, recommends a weeknight routine to keep yourself focused on what you actually want to accomplish.

“Go through your work bag and mail right away. Start dinner before you turn on the TV. Always end your night doing a quick sweep of your house: making sure dishes are in the dishwasher, bags are packed for the next day, floor swept,” she says. “If you do nothing else, those 10 minutes will make your morning much smoother.”

Ditch your phone at the door

Nighttime phone use is a huge time suck—plus, staring at a screen all night can compromise sleep quality. To prevent the temptation of slipping into an IG rabbit hole, simply keep your phone in a different part of the house.

“One good way to wean out phone use is to plug your phone in to charge in a different room when you get home,” says David Barbour, co-founder of Vivio Life Sciences.

(Image credit: MaaHoo Studio/Stocksy)

Set social media boundaries

If time without your phone sounds unbearable, set a limit on the apps that most frequently steal your time. “When work ends, the first thing you probably want to do is check all of your social media accounts to see if anything interesting happened during the day,” says Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “You can either hide the social media apps so they aren’t on your first page of apps or delete them altogether. The average person spends about 3.5 hours on social media a day, so imagine what you could get done if you weren’t entranced by your phone.”

Stay in your work clothes

Leggings and a t-shirt might sound like a dream after a long day, but it’ll be far easier not to lounge around if you dress for the part. “After a long day at work I still force myself to stay out of comfortable clothing. Wearing comfortable clothing can be counterproductive to accomplishing things. I try to take steps to make sure that household chores and obligations are accomplished before I take the time to kick back and relax,” says David Reischer, real estate attorney and CEO of LMP Corp.

Get a weeknight hobby

Committing yourself to an after-work activity out of the home—whether an exercise class or a girls’ night out—protects your time by minimizing your time at home and connecting you with things you actually care about.

“By scheduling your time after work, you are more likely to stick to your most important ‘to-do’ items. Many people find that they are most productive when they have more to do,” says Dr. Lisa N. Folden, licensed physical therapist and naturopathic lifestyle coach, owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants. “By having a scheduled event after work—especially one that can double as exercise—you have more accountability to avoid sitting around aimlessly scrolling through your phone or watching TV.”

Hang a clock on the wall near the TV

If your post-work TV habit is out of hand, try setting a timer or keeping a clock in plain view.

“We sit too long watching the TV after coming from work simply because of losing track of the time. We tend to get absorbed while staring at the television, so it’s unlikely you will make the effort to consistently check the time after starting to watch,” says Hassan Alnassir, founder and owner of Premium Joy. “When you hang a clock on the wall near the TV where it can be seen while watching, you are always reminded of the current time and for how long you have been sitting there.”

Set your de-stressors up in the morning

What does a truly relaxing, fruitful evening look like to you? Think about it beforehand, then set the stage before you leave for work in the morning.

“Before I leave the house in the morning, I open a cookbook to a recipe I want to bake, I pull the ingredients out of my cupboards and the butter out of the fridge, and lay it all out on my kitchen table so it’s ready for me when I get home,” says Paula Hingley of How to Make Dinner.

Subscribe to magazines

Since you’re checking your mail when you get home anyway, why not fill your mailbox with things you’ll actually want to engage with?

“Having a stack of magazines to peruse when you come home from work and kick your feet up is a great way to relax. I love to read, but find that I don’t often have the 5 to 8 hours to commit to a novel at the end of the day,” says Laura Handrick, Careers Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com.