These days, it seems like our jobs take over our lives 24/7, doesn’t it? No matter what we do, we take our jobs home with us, we’re constantly checking emails and we find that even when we put an ungodly number of hours in, it just never seems to be enough to get the job done.
It’s no wonder that when we actually do come home, to a place where we’re supposed to be able to unwind and spend time with the people we love, we keep stressing about work long into the night. Family dinners become a space to vent about everything we still have to do the next day. TV time is distracting because we’re thinking about an upcoming project. And bedtime is disconcerting because we’re actually running our to-do lists over and over again in our heads rather than winding down.
If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to set up some clear work-home boundaries that might not be as painful as you think. By following these simple steps, you could have a clear mind after work as quickly as tomorrow night.
1. Plan tomorrow at the end of each day
A recent study suggests that critical goals left unconquered at the end of the day are the path to a spoiled evening. To avoid running a list of what you need to do tomorrow over and over again in your head when you get home, write down everything you need to accomplish before you leave.
2. Come up with a clear game plan
If you want to go one step further to leave work at work, don’t just write down your goals for the next day, but also give yourself a timeline of how you’re going to get them done. Whether that’s making a schedule or simply blocking off an hour where you don’t check emails, coming up with a specific game plan is a great way to put your mind at ease. Science says so, too. In the above study, participants who followed this strategy had fewer intrusions on their thoughts about unfinished tasks after-hours — almost as though those tasks had actually already been completed.
3. Stay at work for an extra hour
It sounds counterintuitive to work later when you’re trying to achieve a greater life-work balance, doesn’t it? But too often we fall into the trap of deciding to finish one small task later on that night, rather than staying that extra 60 minutes to get it done now. How quickly we forget that doing so, however, leaves us the rest of the night to enjoy work-free, and to focus on the other positive things in our lives. We realize this may not work for everyone’s schedules, but it’s something to consider.
4. Actually leave work at work
If you have a company cell phone, turn it off when you leave the office and don’t check it again until you’re back at work the next day. As for that company issued laptop? Leave that locked in your desk too. Just because you can take it home doesn’t mean you have to. Even just looking at a briefcase or laptop bag can send your thoughts spinning. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.
5. Switch on your out of office
Still feeling guilty about not answering those “urgent” emails after hours? These days it seems as though everyone wants an answer right away. But by putting on your out of office on weekends and even weeknights, you can feel confident that you’re at least letting people know that you’re currently unavailable, and when they can expect to hear back from you.