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Shortcuts: Leaving work early

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(CNN) -- How to get out of the office half an hour earlier -- and keep your job.

Avoid meetings like the Black Death: It is a cast iron rule of the workplace that meetings at the end of the day will over-run. Anyone who organizes a meeting after 4 p.m. is a misanthropic corporate psychopath who will take the same enjoyment from making you late as a sadistic school teacher placing pupils in detention. If you wan't to leave at 5 p.m., keep your calendar free after 4 p.m. and don't let anyone persuade you otherwise. Hide under your desk if necessary.

Get organized: You can't finish early unless you at least start on time. Even after reaching their desks most workers spend the first two hours of the day stumbling blindly in search of caffeine and sugar, desperately avoiding anything that might actually constitute work. Spend the time instead clearing the routine/brain-numbing tasks that you usually save until two minutes before you plan to leave. Keep manageable goals in mind, remembering that unrealistic ones will only a) not get done, and b) freak you into prolonged periods of inactivity. Resist e-mail slavery by checking at set times of the day rather than every time a new message window pops up -- it's probably just a barely amusing, time-wasting circular that half the world is already bored by after all.

Break out of the clock-watching routine: Lots of people sit around offices with nothing to do except watch the clock ticking closer to home time just because they don't want to be the first to leave. Don't be one of the sheep: resist the urge to conform. If you've finished for the day log off and leave -- maybe the rest will follow.

Be ready to go: If someone's calling so late in the day they probably want you to do something really important that can't wait until tomorrow and which will then get lost on their desk for the next two weeks. Turn on your voicemail half an hour before you plan to leave to protect yourself from such inconvenient disturbances. Do the same with your e-mail and log off early enough to give yourself time to gather your things and still be out of the door on time.

Chip away: If you're working a 60-hour week you might struggle to get it down to 40 hours overnight (unless you live in France where long hours are considered an Anglo-Saxon eccentricity). Chip away at your working week by trying to get out of the door 15 minutes earlier each day.

Get your excuses straight: No boss can resist an original and well-planned excuse. If imagination is lacking you could always check out Rusty's Random Excuse Generatorexternal link for leaving work early for ideas. That should idle away a few hours...

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