Winding Down After Work: How to Hit the Off Switch

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With busy working lives and a wealth of devices at our disposal, disconnecting from the office and winding down is not always easy.

It’s tempting to answer one email, work on a report for a few minutes or make just a few calls when you’re supposed to have finished for the day. Even with the purest of intentions, one email, a few minutes or a couple of calls can soon turn into hours of work – before you know it, you’re asking yourself where the evening went.

It’s entirely commendable to strive to be successful and to be committed to your work, however, even the very best businesspeople know that sometimes your time needs to be YOUR time. It’s all about balance; work, play, rest. If you’re go-go-go all the time, or constantly working, it can have a noticeably negative impact on your life, focus, productivity and even your health.

To perform at your very best, you need to allow your mind and body to rest and recover; not having enough downtime will affect your concentration, productivity and energy levels, meaning your work could suffer in the long-run. Being a workaholic also doesn’t leave much time for a fulfilling personal life – spending time with friends and loved ones, indulging your interests and keeping fit can all boost your happiness. Happiness paves the way to success!

More worryingly, studies have shown that those who are unable to leave work at work are more likely to develop life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and that your mental health can also be compromised.

There are plenty of things you can do to help with winding down after work, here are a few to think about:

1. Use your day wisely

Start the day by planning and prioritising your workload, making a list of key tasks that you can strike off once you’ve completed them. You should get the important tasks sorted first and continue to review the list throughout the day to keep on top of things. Towards the end of the day, if there are tasks that you won’t be able to get done, plan how and when you will do them – this prevents you from panicking over any incomplete work after you leave the office.

Just before you finish for the day, take some time to wrap things up; send those final emails, make any last-minute calls and plan for the next day. Getting things out of the way, tying up loose ends and knowing you have a plan of action will rid your busy brain of a lot of unnecessary stress, letting you switch off.

2. Out of office

Eradicate any possibility of you making an excuse to work well beyond your work day. If you can hear that your phone is buzzing and the emails are ‘pinging’ through, you may be tempted to check them. If you check them, you might be tempted to respond to one or two. If you respond to one or two, you might be tempted to respond to a few more… Do you see where this is going?

If it’s possible for your job, make sure that you turn off your phone and your laptop when you leave work, and forget about them until tomorrow. For peace of mind, it may be beneficial to set up an out of office response or voicemail so that anyone who is trying to contact you knows you will be in touch tomorrow. This leaves you with no reason to take a peek at your phone or inbox – resist that temptation!

3. Once you’ve stopped, STOP!

It’s inevitable that sometimes you’ll want to talk about your successes or have a good old moan about any problems you’re having at work when you get home. However, don’t fall into the trap of constantly talking or thinking about your job. You’ll drive yourself mad (and bore the life out of your loved ones). Take 20 minutes or so to get it all off your chest if you need to, then no more work talk for the rest of the day. Take a deep breath and relax.

4. Distract yourself

Many people find that an after-work ritual allows them to switch off much more easily. Something as simple as getting changed, having a shower or having a lovely cuppa once you get home every night can give your brain the ‘switch-off’ signal.

Make the most of your ‘you-time’ – sometimes we all need to put our feet up and lounge in front of the TV. However, to keep your mind occupied (and away from work-related thoughts), try to fill your spare time with activities.

Spend time on your hobbies, go to the gym, do something new, meet with friends… You don’t need to be told to have fun. However, make sure that you do, even when that ‘I can’t be bothered’ feeling starts to kick in. Regularly doing things that you enjoy or that relax you will make you value your personal time that much more, and helps you to separate yourself from your work life when out of hours.

Looming deadlines, important projects and tough targets can all mean that it may be easier said than done to switch off outside of work. It’s time to be a little strict with yourself – set some boundaries between your work life and your personal life, and stick to them. These great pointers should help you in your mission to start winding down!

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