How often has it happened that your spouse, partner, friend, or child was talking with you when all of a sudden, you realized you didn’t hear a word they said? You were thinking about work instead.
You left the office, but the office didn’t leave you. To help you protect your personal time, here are five ways to stop thinking about work at home:
There’s nothing like a loose end at the end of the work day that nags you the whole evening. So before you leave work for the day or the weekend, tie off loose ends as best you can. For example, make a to-do list for the next day, jot down notes for an important email you didn’t have time to write, or put off brainstorming for the next day. Don’t start what you cannot finish if it’ll bother you.
Use your commute time to prepare for being at home. Relax, take deep breaths, listen to soothing music, unplug. Do what it takes to arrive at home ready to offer your best self. Why should work get your best you? Be ready for your people when you walk through the door. What do you want to know about their day? What do you want them to know about your day? What will you do with your time together?
Smartphones and mobile devices enable you to check work email at any time. While this can be helpful, it can also be invasive and divisive at home. Instead of checking your email every chance you get, establish certain times at which you’ll read and respond to work emails. This shows intentionality, responsibility, and sensitivity at the same time.
Your mind is limited in what it can hold at one time. If a work thought comes up that you don’t want to forget, write it down. Keep a pad and pen nearby for moments like this. Hand-write a note rather than type out a note using your phone. The temptation to do other things is too great. Once it’s written, move on. This way you don’t have to keep remembering it, and your mind is free for other things.
When you’re tempted to lay out the email to your boss as you’re playing with your kids, remember that you’re in control. Just because a thought flickers in your mind doesn’t mean you have to fuel it. If it’s important enough, politely excuse yourself and write it down. If it’s not, redirect your mind to the activity at hand. Practice self control with your thoughts. You don’t have to think about every thought that enters.
Taking charge of your work life when you’re at home will help you live with less regrets.