If you spend your evenings and weekends in a peak state of tension, one hand constantly poised over the email icon on your phone, you’re probably experiencing an excessive level of attachment to your job...or to the notion of “work” in general. While a certain degree of emotional investment can lead to career successes and positive personal stakes in one’s work requirements, allowing yourself to become consumed by office stress even during your off hours reaps negative results for both your professional productivity and your overall quality of life.
But if you’re accustomed to keeping work on the brain even when you’re chilling on the beach or binging Netflix on a Sunday morning, how can you learn to disconnect and free up some much-needed emotional space? These 4 tips offer a solid place to start.
1. Try to keep the work-related venting to a minimum.
After a frustrating and exhausting work week, airing your grievances to sympathetic friends over a happy-hour drink feels like a satisfying outlet. Ultimately, though, talking about your career-related problems without a purposeful solution in mind does little to solve the issues, instead just bringing the related stresses to the forefront of your mind. So the next time you feel tempted to spend an after-work social gathering whining about your boss, Kristin Wong of The Cut advises some introspection: “Ask yourself why you’re complaining in the first place, even if it’s just to get something off your chest. Then, consider setting some ground rules for your complaint. For example, my husband and I each budget a three-minute work complaint after work hours for the sole purpose of getting the day’s issues off our chest. Otherwise, we try to only complain about work if we’re seeking a solution to a problem.”
2. Get in the habit of fully unplugging during your off-the-clock time.
Sure, we all tell ourselves that we’ll “unplug” from work correspondence during our weekends, evenings, and even our vacations. “I won’t be checking emails until X date!” our out-of-office messages triumphantly declare. But inevitably, we’ll still find ourselves glancing through our inboxes and perhaps even replying to the odd message. If we truly want to reap the benefits of our time off (which, don’t forget, is part of your compensation package), we need to break this cycle.
According to the Harvard Business Review, we need to value our off-the-clock time as much as we do our hours in the office. “Protect your time outside work as much as you can. You need to be able to switch off from work for your own health and sanity and that of your friends and family. Find a way to refresh and replenish yourself after a week’s work. What do you do to support yourself each week? The gym, long walks, visits with friends, a favourite art gallery or restaurant? What is your weekly source of replenishment?” HBR urges.
3. Give yourself a scheduled reason to leave the office on time.
We’ve all been there before: you stay at your desk past 5pm to finish a project...but while you’re there anyway, you figure you might as well draft some emails for the next morning and approve some invoices and edit some spreadsheets. Then you take a peek at the clock and see that it’s 8pm. Hanging around the office long after the end of your scheduled workday happens to everyone on occasion, but if you’re making a habit of it, you’re sabotaging your own ability to achieve a strong work-life balance.
Need some extra motivation to get yourself up and out at closing time? OfficeTeam district president Brandi Britton recommends making concrete post-work plans to inspire your prompt exit. "Chances are, if you have a fun commitment planned after work, you’ll be more motivated to stick to working only during business hours. Plus, planning an enjoyable and social activity in the evenings is a great way to destress," Britton told Bustle.