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How to leave it all behind you at the end of the day

How to leave it all behind you at the end of the day

The keys to going home gracefully

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It’s a myth that you will one day be able to go home from a clear desk. It’s never going to happen.

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The plain truth is that there will always be work undone at the end of the day.

This gives you three options:

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1) Go home, but take the work with you and spend your evening doing it. This ensures maximum friction at home, minimum rest, and returning to work next day tired before you start.

2) Drag your body away, leave the work, then spend the evening fretting over what you left behind. Same results for friction and rest. When you get back to work next day, you’ll be tired—and the work will not have been done either.

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3) Leave the work behind gracefully, forget about it, and enjoy a relaxing evening. No friction, lots of rest, return next day refreshed and ready to tackle what’s waiting for you.

Here are some techniques to help you achieve the last of these three options: to make a smooth transition between work and home at the end of the day, have a pleasant evening, and get the rest and refreshment you need.

  • Treat your commute home as a positive time to wind down and start the process of relaxation. Play some favorite music, if you can. Whistle or sing to yourself. Enjoy the drive or the train journey. You might as well, since you have to do it, enjoyable or not. Don’t catch up on the news. It’s bound to remind you of work or depress you.
  • Match your journey time with the time you need to relax. If that means taking the long, scenic route, so be it. If it means stopping at Starbucks, that’s just fine. Your family and friends will prefer you half an hour later in a calm mood rather than half an hour earlier in a foul one.
  • Never hurry home. If you do, every hold-up, traffic jam, late train, or missed bus will be a source of additional stress. Take it easy, even if you don’t dawdle.
  • Treat your commute home as your time—a period just for you. All day at work, you’re at other peoples’ call. Now it’s time to to relax and be yourself. Don’t turn the people at home into imaginary “bosses” monitoring your progress along the way and eager to complain over every lost moment.
  • On a bad day, leave for home early and arrive on time or later. The worse the day, the more time you will need to relax. The worst thing to do is stay late, then rush home. You’ll arrive like a grizzly bear with toothache.
  • If you need to rant and vent, do it along the way. Curse the world in the privacy of your own vehicle. Park up and yell where no one can hear you. Walk to the station the long way, yelling and cursing (silently!) to yourself. Don’t walk in the door when you arrive and start into a rant. Who wants to welcome anyone like that?
  • If you must take work home—and you should treat that idea as you would infecting yourself with a specially repulsive social disease—agree a set time to do it and stick to that agreement. Early is best. If you spend an hour or more working before you get into bed, you’ll be wide awake, probably sleep badly, and start the next day off on a poor footing. Besides, who wants to make love to someone running over budgets in their head at the same time?
  • When you get home, pay full attention to whoever’s waiting for you. Never be present physically and mentally elsewhere—it’s an insult. Even the most insignificant domestic matters can wean help your mind away from work.
  • Always keep your promises. If you’ve arranged to eat out, don’t cancel, pleading tiredness or extra work. If you’ve promised to help your child with homework, do it whatever. Firstly, people who break promises are teaching those around them a dangerous lesson. Secondly, though you may really, really not want to do what you promised, you may well end up enjoying it—and feel far more energized than if you slumped in front of the TV. And lastly, you promised, remember? Don’t be a jerk as well as a wimp.
  • Be firm with yourself. In the end, leaving work behind, mentally and physically, is down to you. You have to want to do it, decide to do it, and then do it—and keep on doing it until it becomes the norm. Slowing down and clearing your mind of the leftovers from the day is an act of will. You may think that watching TV or distracting yourself in some other way is a short-cut, but it isn’t. The minute you ease up on the distraction, all the worries will be back.

Using a few techniques like this can help to send you home as the kind of person your family will be glad to see—the kind of person who spends an enjoyable evening with them, gets a good night’s sleep, and is ready to go back to the office to do a good day’s work the next day.

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Guess what? It will all still be there in the morning. Forgetting about it for an evening will not cause the business to collapse, the markets to crash, or civilization to come to an end. Sadly, all of us are utterly expendable. If you went under the proverbial bus, the world would go on smoothly without you. Remember that when you’re burning the midnight oil.

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life. Recent articles there on similar topics include The Law of Repulsion and What’s your Flyway Resort?. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization, is now available at all good bookstores.

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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