How to Leave Work at Work


In today’s reality work means the world to many. We are always working, even when we are physically not at work. With technology around us at all times, it becomes almost impossible to disconnect from work. Great if you can limit your long days with overtime – it at least brings order into forever hours you spend working. Though it is gradually becoming a norm to continue to be always available weekends and holidays included. We cannot stop to check e-mail and read text messages no matter if they are urgent or not. This is natural for the workaholic culture, but is it really something we prosper on?

Survey data suggests that productivity levels drop significantly if we work over 40 hours a week, there should be enough time to rest and simply let go, spend quality time with family and friends, and do other things in life you enjoy – however we forget about all that and never switch from business mode.

So, if you are ready to change your life and find a balance between working time and time off, read the following tips to help you leave your work at work.

Be respectful to your rest

Treat time off work as a need for your body to continue with physical and mental health. Breaks are essential as they help to reduce stress and fatigue, prevent burnouts and procrastination. Generally if you allow yourself to take time off it will pay back during workweek. This is something you deserve and should approach with respect and understanding – like doctors advice. Sleep is vital for our well-being, the same is rest.

Secure your free time

Look for ways to guard your precious time off. It may be helpful to switch your phone to the silent mode and put your laptop in a different room from where you spend your free time. The less you see your means of communication with work the better. It doesn’t mean you are out of reach in case of an emergency in the office, just be reasonable. You can open your e-mail box in the evening after dinner and check for missed calls on your phone a couple of times a day. Technically you are still available, but on weekends and holidays you should be in control of your time, not your manager or colleagues.

Don’t let working weekends become a norm

Of course, from time to time most of us have to take work home. It is unfortunate but inevitable. Make sure though it is not becoming a common practice. Yes, it may happen, but do not let it become a habit. Learn to say no if your boss abuses your time. The smoothest way to do it is to prioritize tasks and provide your boss with realistic time estimates on each of them. In case something urgent comes your way on Friday, postpone all other tasks and focus on the new one to be able to finish it before the weekend starts. If your manager insists on working on the weekend check the overtime law in your state and insist on adequate compensation. Extra costs are a great demotivator for most employers. Don’t forget – the law is on your side. Nobody can make you work extra hours without your consent.

Plan your free time ahead

If you have a clear understanding of the things you will do after work it will be easier to forget about your project and tasks. For example, make two to-do-lists: one for work and one for time off. If you treat them equally as two aspects of your time, you will be still in the business mode when you have to do things and have deadlines to meet. This will help you avoid a necessity to return back to work after breaks and will leave a sense of accomplishment from free time well spent. After all, exercise, spending time with family, reading, gardening, cleaning, meeting friends, traveling, spending time outdoors, learning something etc. are quite important projects and tasks in our life too and we must allocate enough time for them. If you are good at time management and planning, apply these skills off work. There will be a great change in the quality of life, as your free time will be more productive and satisfying.

Create rituals

Humans get used to a routine. The best thing is to set a certain pattern to your life that includes working hours and free time. It may sound trivial but there should be a clear border line between different types of our habitual activities. It all works on subconscious level – we react to signals that mark or anchor actions. Things like dress code, meals, commute, time we get up and time we go to bed and so on – these rituals allow us to switch from one mode to another, so try to follow them and create new ones. Rituals bring order to our lives and reduce stress– they are an effective time/task management tool known from ancient times. No matter how chaotic and unpredictable your life is there is always room for a little ritual that will signal the end of your working day. For example, make a habit of filling a timesheet in the end of each working day – it will be a signal for you to go home.

All the above tips will not require a lot of effort or extra time from you. Look for a combination of little effective tricks that will help you to improve your life-work balance. The crucial thing is to acknowledge the necessity to leave your work at work and go on with your life.

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