What it means to "be at work"
The idea of going to work between specific hours is a relic of the industrial era (P.S. we have changed eras a few times since). While some jobs still warrant office hours (think reception desk, or anything requiring physical presence), there are a lot of positions where results matter more than mere attendance.
Also - whatever your office hours say, people can slack off at work just as well as at home.
Sadly, whether you can set up your work following results or attendance is up to a given manager. But if you do work at a more flexible workplace (or simply need a few good arguments to sway your boss), let's look at the tips above in more detail below.
Start with a plan
If you want to make your workday shorter, start acting the night before.
Planning makes all the difference as far as efficiency is concerned. At Toggl Track, we use Kanban inspired Trello boards to organize our workload into manageable weekly chunks.
Oh, and we start planning on Sunday.
It only takes us 10-15 minutes to prioritize our tasks and fill in the boards, but the gains can be huge. Why? Because if you have a strong core plan for your week, it's much easier to avoid getting sidetracked. Also, you know those mornings when you sit down and just can't remember what you were supposed to do cause there's so much to do? Yeah, that won't happen either.
Once you have your action plan set up, here's another tip - every day, tackle your biggest task first. It's easy to get lost in the emails, so best leave them for the afternoon.
Be productive, not busy
Have you heard of "the busy trap"? It's a bad place you find yourself in when you start doing more things just because you feel you're not doing enough things.
In a nutshell, it means that people tend to feel the need to fill their schedules with just about anything out of fear of not being busy. To avoid looking like a slacker, they'll keep picking up new hobbies, training routines and workloads until they can't do any of those things in a meaningful way.
So write this down - the key to getting home early is to not feel guilty about getting home early. Once you're done with your plan for the day, pack up your things and stop. It's OK to help out colleagues or to look into new possibilities, but never do it just because you feel you have nothing to do.
Remember that being busy is not the same as being productive.
Mind your surroundings
Unless you do creative work, clutter is a huge productivity killer.
Having a small junkyard on your desk is basically a distraction for your senses when your senses really need to be concentrating on your work. Clean it up and you'll waste a lot less time on stress-induced slowdowns.
Once you've cleaned up the mess, consider getting plants. Yes, plants have been proven to have a positive effect on workplace productivity. Same goes for personal artifacts and decorations, but again, be careful not to get back into clutter territory when decorating your desk.
Own your time
Productivity isn't about doing as many things as humanly possible - it's about doing things smart, so you'd have time to actually enjoy this little thing called "life".
You may have heard of this little book called "The 4-Hour Workweek" by Tim Ferriss. In it, he describes his journey from working more to living more. If a 4-hour workweek sounds like too big of an impossibility, his basic point still stands - you don't have to work all the time to be successful.
We ran an experiment a while back to see how many hours per week we actually spend on meaningful work, given that we work off a reasonable plan. We tracked our time for a couple of weeks and found that we worked closer to 20 hours a week than to 40.
Rather than sulk and feel guilty about not pulling factory-grade working hours, we decided to look at it from a different angle - one by which work isn't meant to fill hours, but to fill itself.
So if you want to be like Frank up there, line up all your work plans, track your time on the tasks that actually matter and see what you end up with. If you find out your work takes you 4 hours to complete, but you stay at the office for 8, then you're 4 hours short of a great day.
The good news is, you'll finally get to think about all the awesome things you could do with those hours.