Some jobs have very clear lines between when you’re “on” and when you’re “off,” while in others the lines are blurred — or potentially nonexistent. That makes not being distracted by work, especially mentally, a major challenge. If you find yourself struggling to get out of “work mode” when you get home after a long day, here are four steps that will help you leave your work at work.
Step 1: Define “after hours”. If you work in an environment with flexible hours, you’ll need to think through when you want to be on and off the clock. If your employer has a certain number of hours that you’re expected to work each week, start by seeing how to fit those hours around your fixed personal commitments.
On the other hand, if your company doesn’t have a specific amount of time that you need to work, but your job still takes over almost all of your waking hours, take the reverse approach. Think through how many hours you want for activities like sleep, exercise, family, friends, cleaning, finances, etc. Then see how much time you need to reserve on a daily and weekly basis to fit in those personal priorities.
Step 2: Have mental clarity. Next, make sure you have mental clarity on what needs to get done and when you will complete it. This means keeping track of what you have to do in a clear-cut manner. Start your day with a plan, and wrap it up by scanning over your to-do list and checking your progress. The most important thing is that you’re not lying in bed at night trying to remember everything on your mental to-do list.
Step 3: Communicate with your colleagues. Don’t be afraid to directly communicate to colleagues when you are available for work-related communication and when you are not. If you don’t want to work after 6 PM, tell them. And if you have a job that simply requires constant connectivity, you may want to set some guidelines to control how people reach you, thereby reducing unwanted interruptions. For example, tell your colleagues to send an email if they have a question after 6 pm or that they should only message you in case of an emergency. That way you don’t check all mediums of communication all the time.
Step 4: Get work done at work. Many people perceive “real work” as something they reserve for post-5 or 6 pm, after everyone else has left the office or for after they’ve tucked their kids in bed for the night. Try to get rid of this mindset, and try to get your work done at work.