So, apparently almost three quarters of employed folk struggle to disengage with work after leaving the office/classroom/studio/station/(insert your own place of work if not specified). According to the Office for National Statistics, there is something in the region of 30 million people in employment in the UK, so when you work out how many of us struggle to switch off you can see where we have a problem! So, this blog article is a step in the direction of a UK who can press that giant off switch and enjoy some down time.
But first, why is this important? Well, there’s the sleep disturbance, fatigue, negativity, heart problems, alienation of friends and partners, inability to perform at work, lack of sex-drive… oh, and the fact that talking about work all night long will frankly bore everyone you know senseless.
So, here are your tips for switching off after work.
Ever heard of the The Zeigarnik Effect? Probably not, but you will be familiar with the phenomenon of the cliff-hanger. Think of The Italian Job, Inception and Batman Begins; all of these films keep you wanting more because they just aren’t quite finished yet. It’s the same with work; if you start a task and don’t quite finish it, it will play on your mind all night long, like 28 Weeks Later did after you first watched it.
Incompletion is a hindrance on putting something to the back of your mind. Your mind thinks it is worth investing in thoughts of unfinished tasks as it knows you will go back to them, so it plays around in your head all night. Try, therefore, to end your working day on a completed task. This may mean considering which tasks are worth starting at 4.57pm.
Smart phones blur the boundaries between work and home, and invade your private time. Once you have left the office feeling satisfied, step away from the work mobile and laptop! It is common to think that being contactable 24/7 is what is expected of us by our bosses, but often we put that pressure on ourselves, and only then does it become expected from others. If you do need to be contactable throughout evenings and weekends, set boundaries, be assertive and share them with your colleagues. Do you really love your work enough/get paid enough to have a phone attached to your ear every hour of the day? If the answer is yes, good for you; you probably don’t fall into the category of people who need the tips outlined in this article.
Once the work phone has been put to bed for the night, pursue your hobbies and engage your mind in something else. This can be anything you choose from a film night (though maybe steer clear of the cliff-hangers!), going to the gym, shopping, playing football or heading out to the pub quiz. Watching TV might help, but a passive task still leaves room for those pesky work thoughts to creep in, so perhaps head out of the house and enjoy something new every once in a while. Make plans in advance too, so you have something to look forward to!
Following a night of hobby-partaking, go to your ‘epic place’. By this I mean a place that brings you the most amazing feeling, far removed from the stresses of the working day. What feeling would you like to have, to replace the feeling you have when you can’t switch off from work? For some it is calm and tranquil, for others it might be exhilarated and inspired; what is it for you? Now, after reading this post, close your eyes and follow these directions. Think of a time when you really felt epic, which by going back and thinking about it would bring you back all the good feelings from being there. Think about where you were, who you were with, how you felt, what you were thinking, and really focus on those things for a good few minutes. Take a deep breath and just enjoy being back there. Each night, when you’re struggling to switch off, let yourself drift back to that memory and enjoy all the things that make it great. In a future post, I will explain how to create an anchor to that memory so you can find it easily when you need it most (a cheeky bit of Zeigarnik Effect there, did you spot it?!).
It is natural to get stressed sometimes and admirable to want to go the extra mile at work, but you will only give 100% during your working hours if you enjoy some dedicated down time. And remember, we work to live, not live to work. So, give yourself a break, you might find the switched off version of you a lot more fun to be around!