‘Winding Down At The End Of The Day’
Even though you’ve physically left your work location, sometimes the mental cogs keep whirring away all evening. Maybe you process the days interactions (and think of the devastatingly witty replies you wish you had made at the time), or plan tomorrow.
Now this isn’t always a problem of course. But if you don’t properly switch between these two parts of your life regularly, it can leave you feeling tired, frustrated, even ‘burnt out’, as you’re not resting and recharging your batteries. It can cause you to appear distracted to others too, as they sense you’re not giving your full attention.
So here are some practical suggestions to help you ‘wind down’ and enjoy a relaxing evening…
Decide What Time To Leave
The first step is to decide what time you want to leave work behind. It may sound obvious but many people don’t do this. As a result, their day stretches as more tasks are added towards the end of the day. Knowing this flexibility, others often take advantage of this by delaying requests for help and information until later.
When you decide you want to leave by a certain time, often it has an interesting effect on productivity. With limited time available, you must consciously choose what you’re going to do and prioritise better. You can’t possibly do it all, so must decide what to do before you finish and what will have to wait.
Develop a Wind Down Routine
Many people find it’s helpful to develop a wind down routine to help switch off from the day’s activity. Identify how long you need to finish tasks – it could easily be up to 45 minutes. Set a reminder of when you need to begin, to make sure you’ll be ready to leave as planned.
Don’t start any new big projects after that time. Spend this time returning any essential calls or emails and preparing for tomorrow instead. If you often find tasks coming in late in the day, you might consider diverting your phone to voicemail towards the end of this time.
Spend the last 15 minutes or so having a quick tidy up so your workspace will be immediately ready for tomorrow. Tidy up the loose ends, scraps of paper, note down anything you want to remember, cross completed items off your list with a satisfying flourish, return folders to their rightful homes.
Define A Break Between Work & Home
As you pull on your coat and get ready to go, notice what little ‘rituals’ mark when or where you leave the cares of work behind. Could it be the sequence of switching everything off, the first deep breath of fresh air when you go outside, or listening to your favourite tune as you switch on the car ignition?
Or the journey itself may be your transition ritual. Perhaps you can listen to music or other material of your choice, escape in a good book (not if you’re driving obviously!) or just daydream and enjoy the view.
Physical activity is a great transition ritual too. Exercise releases the hormones produced by our ‘flight or fight’ response that can harm us if allowed to build up in our body. Running, a workout at the gym, a brisk walk – all would achieve this. Simply walking or cycling home can tap you into the natural world, and awareness of the changing seasons, the smells, sights and sounds of the environment around you will help you relax.
Drawing The Line At Home
As the saying goes, ‘all work and no play makes a dull person’ so once you’re home, minimise your involvement with work during the evening and weekend. And as an increasing number of people work from home, either full or part of the week, it becomes even more important to compartmentalise the two parts of our lives.
- Decide how you’re going to handle calls and email in the evenings and weekends. Is it really necessary to check? Switch to voicemail during mealtimes, as a minimum
- Keep work out of sight if possible. It may not be possible to close the door on work if you don’t have a dedicated room, but I recommend at least to tidy the laptop off the kitchen table, or it’s a constant reminder
- If working from home, establish ‘working hours’ and make sure your family and friends know when you’re available to take their calls, visits etc.
- If you see work colleagues socially, or work with your close family, it’s a good idea to agree to limit ‘shop talk’ and instead talk about each other’s interests and viewpoints
At which point do you leave it all behind each day? If you do not have some kind of daily ‘switch off’ routine, you’ll find it helpful to create one.
Copyright 2009 – 2014 Rosie Gray, Mosaic Learning Ltd. All rights reserved