How to leave work at work?
I am often asked by people how they can stop worrying about work when they are off, on holidays or at 2 am. This is a good and key question and one that requires good daily habits.
In the same way that we clear our desks or keep the house or car clean, it is even more important for us to find a way of filing things in our minds. If we don’t have a good internal filing system, we bring our baggage and problems where ever we go. An over-stressed mind is liable to contaminate everything it connects with.
Meditation and mindfulness offer a great workout for the mind. So does reading and learning new things.
Here are some 11 key positive habits that will help you leave work at work:
- Finish your workday by doing a list and planning what you are starting the next day with. That way, you do not need to remind yourself of anything late at night.
- After you have set in your mind the plan for tomorrow, have a ritual that separates you from work at the end of the work day. Some of my clients end the day with meditation. Some use the commute home to gradually reflect on how the day went, resolve any issues that are bothering them and get ready for the evening ahead. The main point here is that you do something to consciously shift gears from work to non-work and stick to it.
- If something is bothering you about work, plan how, when and with whom to address it and file the plan in your mind for future action. Ask for help if you need.
- Exercise, walking the dog, having a shower or changing your clothes will all reinforce a positive transition from work to personal.
- Have a plan for what you are doing for the evening and get stuck in. It could be playing with your kids, doing some jobs at home, cooking, reading a book or just relaxing with family.
- If and when thoughts of work revisit, remind yourself – ‘I will deal with that tomorrow’. One exception – If it is a new brilliant idea that will solve a major problem, or progress you hugely, welcome and note it to revisit tomorrow. If it is a worry or a repetition of what you have already thought, change gears back to relaxing or engaging in whatever you have planned for the evening. When we allow uncontrolled random thoughts to take over our minds, we develop a bad habit of that happening. It is important to exercise mental discipline.
- Regular practice of breathing techniques can greatly help. Concentrating on breathing deeply, smoothly, evenly and slowly is a great way to slow the mind down and bring you into the present moment (taking you out of work, the past and your head).
- While distraction can help in making a transition (like watching TV or spending time on social media) from work, it should not take up the rest of your day. When feeling overwhelmed, we often seek distraction. Too much of it is counter-productive. A distracted mind generates more distraction and disconnection making random work and other stress thoughts more prevalent.
- Meditate and or do relaxation practices daily
- Do something that brings meaning and or joy each day after work
- Prioritise sleep so that your mind and body are fresh the next day
And repeat. You will be more productive, focused, effective, reliable and innovative if you take a break and learn to leave work at work!