For some people, it can feel impossible to “leave work at work.” Aside from the fact that you spend at least eight hours per day engulfed in the culture and challenges of your business, technology makes it difficult to disconnect at the end of working hours.
But the added stress of long work hours (even if you’re not “technically” working) doesn’t do any favours for your mental, emotional, or physical health. In fact, one study published in 2019 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that long work hours (typically 10 to 12 hours per day) had negative effects on everything from cardiovascular disease and depression to sleep quality and alcohol use.
To safeguard your health and to allow yourself the time and space to invest in your family, friends, and hobbies, you need to learn to detach yourself from work challenges when the work day is done. Use these tips to get started.
Wrap things up well and prep for the next day
It’s next to impossible to turn off your “work brain” when you feel like you have tasks or unfinished projects hanging over your head, especially when it is your own business or you have a senior position.
You may not be able to finish everything on your to-do list every day, but as you start closing in on “finishing time,” take a moment to look over your to-dos from the day and to find reasonable stopping points for everything on your list. Then, make a list of what you plan on doing the next day. Try to account for all the major projects and stressors so you won’t have to keep thinking on them overnight. Even tasks like emailing a colleague about a new account, or calling to follow up on a project management software should be on the list. Writing tasks down will make you feel like you’re ready to hit the ground running in the morning without needing to think about everything all night.
Take a post-work break
Whether you work in an office or you work at home (which can make creating separation between work life and home life especially tricky), it’s important to give yourself a “break” when the work day is done. Pick your time — maybe it’s 5:00 pm on the dot, or maybe it’s 6:00 or even 7:00. The exact time doesn’t matter, but choose a time and carve out at least 10 to 15 minutes to mentally shut down your work day. Choose a tranquil spot to decompress. Maybe drink a glass of wine or go for a walk. Leave your phone behind. Allow this time to yourself, without anyone from work or your home life to interrupt. Practice deep breathing and simply “be” for a few minutes. This can help you relax after a long day of work, mentally preparing you to be your best self when you’re in the presence of your family and friends.
Turn off your phone
Depending on your job, you may feel like you need to be available for your bosses, your clients, or for general updates from colleagues. And to some extent, this might be true. That said, it’s important to set boundaries in your life. If you’re always bouncing back and forth between work calls, emails, and trying to spend time with your kids or your friends, you’re not going to be able to give your full attention to any of the tasks or people who need you.
And really, having some time “off” from work can actually help you focus more and feel more productive when you’re “on.” So go ahead and set a schedule for when you refuse to pay attention to work calls or emails. Maybe it starts at dinner time and goes until you wake up the next day. Or maybe you keep your phone on until 8:00 or 9:00 pm to allow yourself to stay connected a little longer. But whatever time you select to “go dark,” actually do it. Turn off your phone or your notifications and put your computer or tablet away. Allow yourself to decompress and accept the fact that whatever happens tonight, regardless of its urgency, can wait until the morning to deal with.
Only work in a home office space
If you work from home (or if you split time in a hybrid work schedule), it’s not easy to set those boundaries that make work time, work time, and home time, home time. They have a way of creeping into each other. One way to help delineate the two is to make sure you have your daily work space set apart from all the areas where you rest and relax. When it’s time to work, you only work in that space, and when it’s time to relax, you leave that space completely behind.