But it has also created a constantly connected world where the concept of work/life balance can sometimes seem like a fairy tale. How do you reclaim a little “me” time (for both your health and sanity) when you feel like you’re always on call?
Try these tips for a start:
Turn off your phone
*GASP!* Can she really mean that?
Yes, I do. Turn that sucker off. And not just the ringer—the whole freakin’ thing. Have a cutoff time at which you will no longer be available for whatever emergency someone decides to punt your way.
It also helps to have designated “no phone zones,” like meal times or date nights with your significant other.
Allow yourself a mind dump
Listen to some particularly cathartic music on the commute home. Allow yourself half an hour when you get home to watch that completely mindless reality show you love. Take your dog for a walk and focus on the sights, smells and sounds of being out in nature.
If your s.o. is willing to be your sounding board, allow yourself to vent about the day unrestrained for 10-15 minutes when you get home—and then promptly shut off all further thoughts about work and everything connected with it.
Whatever you do, allow yourself some time to clear your mind of all the work muck and transition into the personal part of your day. Don’t dwell on the stupid mistake you made on that report or the catty thing your arch nemesis said in the break room. It’s bad enough you have to endure the stress and frustration when you’re at work; don’t let work win by allowing it to ruin your personal time, too.
Have glorious, distracting hobbies
The sort of hobbies you love so much you get lost in them. The sort that make it a little easier to get through the work day knowing you have them to look forward to.
Whether it’s exercising, doing crafts or even working on a side hustle, it’s important to have things that bring you happiness and fulfillment in your personal time. They take your mind off work stress, remind you of what really matters and help put all the crappy stuff that happens between 9 and 5 into perspective.
Visualization exercises really can help. Picture your mind as a series of rooms, each one dedicated to a significant part of your life. There’s a room for thoughts about your family, your friendships, your work and any other major parts of your life.
When five o’clock hits, give one last wave to everything that’s in the “work” room, and then picture yourself closing the door firmly and sliding the latch across it. No peeking inside it in the evening; no reopening it till the weekend is over. That part of the day (and your obligation to devote mind space to it) is over. Clearly visualizing that can help make it stick.
Learn to stand up for your time
This one is the most important of them all. You can have all the tricks in the world for separating yourself from the office, but if you aren’t willing to defend your time when the office tries encroaching, you’re doomed.
Put an away message on your work email letting people know that you check your inbox between the hours of ____ and ____ and will get back to them then. If you’re a freelancer or a remote worker, make it clear to your employer(s) when your office hours are—and stick to them.
If you start making exceptions to your own rules and allowing your time to be hijacked, your time will be hijacked. It’s that simple.
If you feel guilty saying “no,” just remind yourself you’re not only standing up for your own time; you’re protecting your ability to get your work done. A burnt-out and stretched-thin employee makes mistakes, gets sick more often and can have horrible morale (which counts for a lot in job performance).
You have every right to some “you” time. If anything, it makes you a better worker when you are at work.
What tips do you have for leaving work at work?
Kelly Gurnett is Assistant Editor of Brazen Life and runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger extraordinaire here.