At 9 p.m. nearly any evening, you'll find Maria Colaco, a social media consultant and mom of two, staring at her computer, munching on cold leftovers and cranking away on a creative campaign. "I'm always turning to my work after the kiddos are in bed," she says.
She's far from alone. Many working moms punch in a full 9-to-5 and then go back to the grind—nixing post-dinner downtime. But letting your to-do's seep into the evening can have serious repercussions. "New moms need to be able to rest once they're off the clock," says Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out. If you're toiling after hours, chances are your workday isn't, well, working for you. We've identified the top office time-sucks (and solved them!) so you can claim those nighttime hours for recharging. Pour the merlot!
Wanting to tie up every loose end by quitting time
Plan ahead to feel a sense of completion at the close of business. It's unrealistic to think you can finalize everything by 5 p.m., so define clear boundaries instead to keep you churning along: Make a list before leaving work of the six things you want to accomplish your next time in the office, says Morgenstern. Remember: The to-do's needn't be grandiose—"Write entire sales presentation" is a stretch, but "Create first 10 slides" is totally doable. Once you've checked the last box, adios!
Getting hopelessly pulled into email quicksand
A face-to-face can often save you time—pop over to your coworker's cube to chat instead of volleying messages back and forth, Morgenstern suggests.
But vowing to stop checking emails come sundown can be stressful: What if your boss sends an urgent late-night request? The trick's to make yourself available for pressing matters via an old-fashioned phone, Morgenstern says. Sharing your number with coworkers keeps you accessible, so you can take a nightly inbox hiatus without guilt.
Too much personal stuff while on the clock
It's time to start un-committing yourself! "When women get stressed, they begin looking for work-life balance," says Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., a psychologist in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and author of High-Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout. "The problem is, many simply add more 'life' to their schedule and think that's what they need." If you double up on family and community activities, all of the extracurriculars can start to encroach on your workday, which means job duties follow you home. The short take, according to Carter: Don't overcommit, at work or at home.