How to Leave Work Stress Aside when you’re not Working
Has it ever happened to you that while returning home from work even the smallest of hindrances like a traffic jam or a late train makes you frustrated?
Have you ever taken out your anger or frustration on a family member after coming home from work?
Have you ever came home and instead of having a nice family dinner, you’ve carried your laptop to the dining table?
If we are being honest, we have all done this at least once in our working lives. Even when we are not at work, we are carrying it with us. This means we are never fully present and engaged outside of work.
In fact, a study by Google conducted into the work life of its employees shows that 69% of people have difficulty leaving work at work.
It’s difficult to have that work-life balance we all wish to have when we can’t leave work behind.
Here are some simple tips to having a calm and pleasant life outside of work
Don’t leave tasks half-finished
Plan your day such that you don’t have to leave that email unfinished or leave that article unfinished. If you think you don’t have the time to finish it, don’t start it at all.
It might have happened to you that you have sat at the dinner table but all you can think about is, ‘Do I remember the next point in the article I was writing?’
The Zeigarnik effect says that we remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. That’s the reason why these then take up so much space in our minds that it’s difficult to focus on what your daughter is talking about and you just keep on nodding your head.
There will inevitably be times when you’ll have to leave tasks unfinished like when your boss sets up an impromptu meeting or your colleague needs your review on an article. What you can do is complete that point/paragraph of the article, finish updating the column you were working on in the excel sheet, complete the slide you were working on for the presentation before you leave work.
This makes sure that you have not just left the work in the middle of a sentence thereby reducing the thoughts about unfinished work. And what’s more, the next day you come, you don’t have to spend time figuring out where you were.
Before leaving, go through tomorrow’s tasks
It’s a common practice to wake up and first make your to-do list for the day. Here are two reasons why it’s wrong (i) You spend the first productive hours of the day making a list than working on a task (ii) you would have spent an entire night thinking about your tasks for the next day
When you make a to-do list for tomorrow before leaving work, you are signalling your mind that it can now take a break. It doesn’t need to worry about the tasks before tomorrow.
You could even prepare things for tomorrow’s tasks before leaving work which will in a way leave you feeling good. For example, if you need to review all the articles tomorrow, download all the articles, make a folder and put it on your desktop.
Don’t check email just before leaving work
I normally check my emails two times at work. One when I arrive and second just 1 hour before leaving work. Unless I have something going on. This ensures that I don’t unnecessarily utilize time checking my emails.
But more importantly, you are not frustrated by an important email that is lying in your inbox and you have only noticed it while you’re ready to leave work.
What then happens is instead of putting it off for tomorrow, we feel the need to deal with it as fast as we can. This means we spend more time at work, goof up sometimes and then spend unnecessary time thinking about those mistakes at home.
Put in hours for exercising
I spend an hour at the gym before I go home. Exercising not only helps your body stay fit, but it can also release endorphins that can improve your mood. After a long day at work, exercising will help you de-stress and enable you to leave work thoughts behind.
It’s important to understand that you have to pick an activity that you like. If you don’t like running or any sport for that matter, try dancing or swimming. The point here is to have fun while exercising, not to stress yourself further.
Have a transition activity
Author Cal Newport follows a work shutdown ritual at the end of each day. It starts with updating his to-do list and ends with him actually saying the magic words, ‘Schedule shutdown, complete’ as he switches off his computer. Saying this phrase loudly allows him to stop unnecessarily worrying about work-related problems and leaving them aside for the night.
You can have your own ritual. Some people read a book, go take a walk and enjoy the beautiful sunset or you could just stop by a garden or lake on your way home and relax for a while.
You could also engage your mind in some other activity outside of work. For example, you could learn to paint, try cooking something new or just reorganize things at home. We can’t possibly focus on multiple things at once. So, when you are deep into figuring out the best recipe for dinner today, your mind will not divert to work-related thoughts.
Delegate or reduce your workload
If your to-do list is filled up with too many tasks and you constantly feel the need to shift them, your stress levels would likely be ever increasing. Take out some time and reflect if there is a better and faster way to complete the tasks at hand or if you could use the help of somebody.
If you still feel like your workload is too much, discuss it with your employer to see if any changes could be made to lessen your burden.
Add humour to your life
Have you ever noticed that just laughing out loud calms you down and you forget about your worries for a while?
Be it watching a series, calling a friend who makes you laugh and makes you see the positive things in life, bloopers on Youtube or just watching a stand-up comedy show, add that to your list of transition activities or the things you need to do after work.
This will help turn your work mood to that of a relaxing one.
When you have been going through a rough time at work, you might be habituated to bottle it up inside. This might give you a feeling that you’re protecting the people around you from the bad times in your life but it unknowingly spills over into you scolding your children or just talking badly with your family.
Family time and time spent with your loved ones is known to re-energize you. So, instead of letting them wonder if they did something wrong, be open and communicate with them. Not only would they understand, but you will also feel relieved once you share your problems with someone.
Set time aside for your family
Whether it’s Sunday or any other day, make it a rule to be fully present and spend time with your family. You could also fix a day at which you would be late working away on your pending to-do list and having your meetings.
The important point is to let them know so they could plan in advance for the same.
As Dolly Parton says, ‘Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.’ The next time you find yourself thinking about work at home, tell yourself that you are not paid to think about work. You are paid to do work. And then let it go by following these simple tips above.