Most men think that the only things that counts toward their success are what happens during a traditional nine to five back at the office. However, what you do after work can impact your success just as much. Some of the things successful people have in common is that they know how to strike the right balance between work and life: learning to blow off steam without ignoring the opportunity to get ahead, even if they’re not on the job. Do as they do—here are five things you should start doing right now (or rather, when the clock hits five) for a happier, more productive life.
Stop working, but don’t stop thinking
There’s the myth that once you leave work, the most successful people “switch off”—they draw a clear, stark line between work and home. This is only half the truth. If you’re working in an industry you love, sure, don’t sit in your study typing up a report, but do keep thinking of good ideas for tomorrow’s workday, the best outcomes for your latest project and—above all else—don’t allow yourself to ignore inspiration just because you’ve clocked out. Envisioning your next step is empowering, and looking at things in a positive way sets up a good, productive vibe before you even have your next morning coffee at the office. Allow ideas to come to you and jot down ideas. However, if an idea’s particularly good, don’t hesitate to jump on it, as productivity is highest when you’re excited about what you’re doing.
Have a drink
Speaking of which, there is a tried-and-true method of getting inspiration, and it’s available at your local watering hole. A drink or two can ease stress and help you transition into the off hours, but there’s also an added benefit: while there are plenty of problems alcohol can’t solve, it does boost men’s problem-solving skills in small quantities and can lead to some A-ha! moments outside of work. Heading out with some of your colleagues can be an important social activity, bolstering your team’s cohesion and even turn into a networking opportunity if they make some introductions. Note that this doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to go out and get hammered. Get home by dinner time and don’t overdo it.
Look forward to something
Having plans for after office hours isn’t just good for unwinding, it can also increase productivity before you even leave work. Take up a fun, enjoyable activity that adheres to a schedule and happens at least once a week, whether it’s swimming on Tuesdays or a hoops session with the boys on Sunday mornings. It breaks up the monotony of the dreaded eat-work-sleep cycle, and will keep you excited throughout the week if it’s something you truly enjoy. However, it will also keep you on task at work if you create a self-imposed deadline, because there’s no chance you’d be missing poker night because you let yourself fall behind on the TPS reports. Another way to give yourself this kind of boost is by planning out your weekends, just like you would a mini-vacation.
Sometimes, you just need to create a contrast between the time spent ensconced in four walls of a cubicle and the rest of your day—and no, sitting in front of a different glowing square at home doesn’t quite cut it, even if it’s to catch up on last night’s game highlights. Getting outside cuts out all the technology, desks and fluorescent lighting that keep your mind in work mode and allows you to really, really relax. Most cities have websites that will help you find a nature trail, a botanical gardens, or a rental car if you really want to experience the wilderness. Plan on leaving your phone off and somewhere where you won’t be tempted to check it (addictive tech can get in the way of relaxation) and just enjoy mother nature’s majesty. Fresh air is in short supply at most offices.
Go to bed
No matter what you do at the end of the day—keep working, stop working, have fun—the most important thing you can do is finding enough time for shut eye. If you’re a small business owner constantly working after hours, you should cap off working at a total of 12 hours a day, tops (for the math majors out there, that’s four hours of overtime, max). Getting your six to eight hours every night is truly important, and more or less than that can lead to an unfocused day later on at work. However, you should also consider going to bed in a fun way, too, as studies show that something successful men have in common is having sex at the end of a hard day. While the immediate benefits range from reducing stress, creating good sleep patterns and improving overall health—you have to love that cardio—it is also an opportunity to reaffirm what means most to you by reinforcing the intimate bond with your partner. Having someone to come home to day after day is one of the strongest motivators a man can have.