Do you find yourself still awake at night with thoughts of work looping through your mind? Is work endlessly the topic of your conversation and consciousness long after you’ve left the office? Do you feel so drained by work that you don’t have any energy at the weekend for family, socialising or self-care?
If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, let me share some tried and tested ways you can manage the intrusion of work in your personal time and consciousness.
At Thrive, one of the things we love to do is help people find practical and effective strategies for dealing better with life’s challenges. Switching off from work is one of these challenges.
Firstly, if you are finding it repeatedly hard to switch off from work, understand why that is.
- Is it the sheer volume of work that is unrealistic for you to get through?
- Is it the complexity of your work? Challenging clients? Maybe there is a gap in your knowledge or skillset that prevents you from doing the work confidently?
- Are you stretched too thin between work and life? Just trying to fit too much in or be all things to all people? Maybe you don’t have enough space in your day or week to allow for decompressing and recharging, and so are constantly running on an empty tank?
- Are you so busy at work that you find it difficult to relax in your free time and settle to anything? Do you find yourself mindlessly reaching from your phone out of work time, checking work emails?
Once you have worked out what is contributing to your challenge to switch off from work, you can make a plan for addressing it. This is not going to be fixed with just a few good ideas…in most cases (and in my personal experience) it has taken some focussed attention and fairly drastic action.
Be intentional and realistic about work. Here are some ideas for being proactive so that work does not control you. Sometimes implementing a few strategies can make work feel more manageable:
- Assess your case load, is it manageable? Are you staying within your billable hour budget? Where are the time-sucks? What admin. tasks could you delegate?
- Conduct a self-audit on a “well balanced working week” and analyse what about that worked. Take note and trial ways to recreate this formula in future weeks.
- Use a prioritisation technique to identify what tasks need your attention and when. Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix is useful to work out importance and urgency of tasks.
- Keeping your To-Do-List short helps you to set achievable goals each day.
- Recognise that every phone call, meeting, email you open etc will create new work that needs to have time allocated to it…factor this into your timetable.
- Accept your human limitations, you are not a machine. Throughout the day you need to plan and prioritise rest periods, variety of activity, food and water, changes of pace, human connection, and movement.
- Consider setting up electronic systems that enable work boundaries such as; having information on email signatures outlining your work hours and how long you take to respond to queries or requests.
Establish mental discipline for keeping work in it’s rightful place
Creating boundaries to contain work and practicing these might include:
- Writing a list of tasks at the end of the workday for the day ahead
- Allow yourself a set amount of time once you get home to talk or think about work and then after that consciously focus on other things
- Allocate “non-work” spaces in your home. E.g., say no to thinking or talking about work once you get into the bedroom at night.
- Manage your technology so that you do not become its slave. For specific technology tips, see below.
Engage in physical practices that help you make the switch between work and personal life.
- Do some physical activity after work to clear your head and release some stress…take a long walk to your car, bike to work, make a quick trip to the gym or the pool on your way home.
- Practice relaxation, mindfulness or meditation at the beginning and end of your day to stay centred and calm. It only needs to be a few minutes. See what happens when you practice this and make it part of your daily routine.
- Establish a simple physical gesture or action on leaving the office or coming home that signifies your intention to leave work behind. E.g., When you have finished your last task for the day and turned off your computer, say out loud “that is work finished for the day”, play or sing a song on the way home from work, put your work bag/phone in a cupboard.
- Engage in regular leisure activities that are a clear signal to your brain and body that you are not at work. Choose activities that enable you to achieve a sense of “flow” and become immersed in physical or social environments which are distinct from work life.
Stay in control of your technology.
- Leave your work phone/computer at the office or in a cupboard out of sight once you get home.
- Remove any apps from your phone that are not necessary (do you really need email and other social media apps on your phone?)
- Count how many times you check your phone/emails/messages each day and aim to reduce this by a certain percentage.
- Set specific times in the day for checking and responding to emails and messages, thus creating space for focussed work.
- Try Urge Surfing to resist the urge to check work emails or phone (when no longer in work hours). Do this by noticing the urge, notice what it feels like in your body and notice your thoughts with curiosity and without judgement and ride it out. The urge will pass and you can refocus on something non-work related.
Work is demanding, that’s why it’s called work after all! But sometimes it becomes so demanding that we lose sight of the big picture, maybe not quite knowing where to start with making a change. If this is you, consider getting some support to do a stocktake and make some changes for the better. At Thrive, we can support you to design and action a sustainable and satisfying work-life plan. If you’d like our help, email us. We will get back to you within two working days.
We’d love to hear your tried and true strategies for switching off from work in the comments section below.