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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 April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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