I’m coming across more and more business owners and employees who struggle to switch off after work. This 24-7 work mode has been building for years, with smartphones and their easy access to work emails not helping. Now, more than ever, you need to switch off and have downtime — in fact, it’s critical in order to perform at your optimum at work the next day. Excessive stress and worry is nobody’s friend.
Here are some tips and thoughts on how you can switch off — a lot of it is common sense however we constantly overlook what we know we should do. Hopefully you’ll get an idea or two you can try…
There will never be enough hours in a day to achieve everything. Experts say the key to relaxing evenings, less stress, better focus and a more positive mood when you go back to work the next day is “psychological detachment”. We need to leave work at work and flip the off-switch at some point every day, even if you still have tasks on your list (and you always will).
The most uncomplicated way to do this is to set boundaries. Consider ascertaining a maximum amount of hours you will work in a day. While there’s possibly always enough work to keep you busy for 10 hours a day, perhaps you decide your maximum limit will be 9 hours. Accept you need to put down your tools and unplug — those remaining tasks can wait until tomorrow.
This also applies if you are working from home. Turn off all your devices and clear your workspace as if you were packing up for the day. This clears your desk of any work distractions and helps you to avoid temptation to sneak back in later.
Try writing down an exit list for the day, writing out everything you need to sort for the next day. Even if you already have a list or task management tool you use, the act of writing things down will clear your mind and reassure you that you are in control. Worst case, just identify your true top 3-5 things you need to get done the next day so you can go home very clear on your priorities — you’ll be able to get into work mode quicker in the morning if you already know what you are meant to be doing.
Setting boundaries and detaching daily from your work means creating barriers for yourself to ensure that you won’t go back to work even after the work day is complete. Communicating your boundaries and demonstrating it will naturally role model healthy habits to your fellow colleagues and others. And don’t worry: that client will still be around and those emails will still be there tomorrow.
SHIFT YOUR MOOD
If you are leaving work stressed, frustrated, or anxious, you’re going to continue feeling that way unless you proactively do something to change your psychological path. There is a variety of relaxation techniques you can use to take your mind off the stressful events of the day and change your overall mood. Use the time between work and home to transition from ‘work mode’ to ‘relax mode’. Even if you are working from home, take at least 20 minutes to yourself so you can disconnect from work. Here are a few things you can do to shift your mood:
Go for a stroll. Walking with your partner, friend or your kids and talking about light-hearted topics is a great way to take your mind off work. Or go alone and listen to a podcast. The fresh air will do you good and you’ll often find solutions to those problems as you pace.
Listen to music. Music can provide a mini-break from being mentally active and allow you rest and recover and change your mood. Blast your favourite band!
Read or listen to a book. Engaging in a book unrelated to work can help you unwind. Fiction books cleverly transport your mind into a world completely different to your own. Note to myself: stop reading just business books!
Practise mindfulness. This is the art of channelling all your focus and energy into the present moment in your life, bringing calmness to your mind and body. Sitting and focusing on your breathing for even just a minute can help. There are great apps that can guide you through deep breathing and meditation.
Exercise. Exercising is a great way to boost endorphins and help burn off any work stress. Do whatever brings you joy: yoga, bike riding, swimming, going to the gym or running.
Increase the laughs. This may mean calling a funny friend or watching a comedian on YouTube. Laughter is important as it helps rewire the brain and makes you feel good.
Choose a ‘stop’ point. Not sure where I heard this one from but it works… On your drive home, pick a physical spot — say halfway through your commute home — and know that this is the place and time where you need to start thinking more about home life and to stop thinking about work. Being conscious about this can go a long way to stopping your brain cogs turning on the day’s issues.
FIND A HOBBY
Experiences make us happier than material things, so finding new things for you to do outside of work is a great way to shift your focus away from work and towards something creative and fulfilling. Enjoying a fun activity or hobby is a great tool in helping you shift your perspective, rather than everything being centred around work.
Hobbies can connect you with others, give you time to focus on your wellbeing, grow your skills and even help you subconsciously untangle work issues. If you’re now working from home, use the time that would usually be spent commuting to and from work to invest in an existing hobby or to learn something new.
Aim to do at least one thing you love during the week, whether that’s painting, building things, cooking, gardening, a sport or even doing different activities with your friends or family. Whatever brings you joy will help decrease your stress levels (unless it’s a particularly bad day on the golf course!)
GO GADGET FREE
Technology has advanced in such a way that we can now work from nearly everywhere we go. Our lives are now constantly bombarded and interrupted with work emails, texts, and phone calls, so even when the office shuts, we don’t — it’s not ideal.
One way you can switch off from work is by going on a gadget detox. For you this could be turning off and moving all devices into another room, and leaving them there till the next day. As long as your devices are switched on and within reach, you may never fully switch your mind off work.
If this isn’t suitable for you, try logging out of all work-related platforms on your devices or turning off their notifications. It is important to not have any temptation pulling you back to work, distracting you from focusing on your home life, hobbies, and loved ones.
My recommended counsellor, Steve, has a great idea. He reckons every 6 weeks you should do a digital detox weekend… So no gadgets or anything digital for the entire weekend. The first few hours are not easy but you quickly see the benefits (as long as your favourite sports team is not playing and you cannot check the score, ha!) You are pretty much uncontactable with no phone — eventually the feeling is bliss.
SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY
Focus on your family. When you have gone through your maximum set amount of work hours, allow yourself to be completely available to your family without being distracted by work. If there is one thing I regret it’s that when my kids were growing up I could have been a way more ‘present’ dad simply by switching off from work and business.
Find activities to do with them so you’re not tempted to check your emails. Play a boardgame, watch a movie, going for a swim or walk, bake or cook dinner together. It doesn’t really matter what it is you do, so long as you are engaged and having fun. Ideally you’d do this every night, however even nominating just a few nights a week for starters will make your family very happy!
You can also involve yourself in running errands for the house. Having a set task to do, such as grabbing a few things for the household after work, can be a great way to switch from work life to home life mode.
It is amazing how quality time with loved ones can make you forget all your stress and worries and remind you of what is actually important.
Do you have any good ideas on how you de-stress and switch off after a hard day’s work? We’d love to hear from you. We’ll always have stress in our lives — it’s how we manage it and handle it that’s important and well worth working on. So what changes are you going to make to be better at switching off after work and to be more fun and present at home?
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