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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 October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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