Would you like to leave work at 5pm? What’s more, would you like to do it both physically and psychologically without feeling guilty?
It doesn’t matter who you are or what level you work at, feeling overworked and overwhelmed is common. Working long hours, sleeping too little, staying late, responding to emails, finishing off just one last thing and jogging from one meeting to the next is all too familiar.
Literally plugged in 24 hours a day, many of us sleep in a virtual office with phones and laptops by our side. Physically leaving work no longer means psychologically disconnecting. In fact, this is such a significant issue that entire countries are taking a stand. France recently passed a new law to tackle the problem while Germany did so in 2013. Not to mention science tells us that consistently working 60 hours per week is damaging to both our physical and psychological health. Yes, there are times when demands are high, but if out of hours’ work is ongoing it is time to take notice.
So how can you reclaim your evenings and weekends in a simple, practical and efficient way? The following are some simple steps.
10-minute steps to leave on time
Do you have a habit of staying late to the point where it is expected of you? Would you love nothing more than to leave on time every day? Start by taking baby steps. If your finish time is 5 pm but you don’t leave until 6pm, begin to leave 10-minutes earlier every day for one week. Set your alarm for 5.50pm and commit to leaving work. The following week leave at 5.40pm and keep doing this until gradually, 10-minutes at a time, you work your way back to leaving at 5pm. Baby steps make it less stressful for you and others tend not to notice the gradual change.
Turn notifications off
If you have your work emails, get texts or are a member of a work WhatsApp, which let’s face it the majority of us are, turn off your notifications. Make a personal decision to no longer respond to emails, text or group messages after work. If you don’t feel comfortable going cold turkey, choose a time that you feel comfortable with, maybe 7 pm, to train yourself to literally plug out and disconnect from work. Remember, there will always be more. More work, more jobs, more emails, more meetings and more projects. More to do tomorrow. So pick a cut off time and stick to it. If Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington can finish at 5.30pm every day so can you.
Get a Fun Phone
If you have a work phone, or if your private number is now your work number, buy a new SIM and use an old phone as a fun phone. Share your number with only your CLOSEST friends and family. Connect only your private emails to this phone. Sign up to newsletters about fun things, add playlists of your favourite music and download apps that set you into relaxation mode. At 6pm turn off your work phone and turn on your fun phone. If this isn’t practical at least put your work phone on silent, checking it only once over the course of the evening. On Friday evening shut down the work phone. Put it in a drawer, in your work bag or leave it in the glove compartment of your car. Out of sight out of mind. In the evenings and weekends switch over to your fun phone and begin the process of switching off.
Swap leisure for recreation
We all have evenings of ‘leisure’. Exhausted after a long day, you collapse on the couch, barely moving again before bed. You check Facebook, scroll through WhatsApp, watch television and check Facebook again. The furthest you venture is into the kitchen for food. There’s nothing wrong with an evening like this. But there are more productive and more rewarding things you could do.
Start with an evening of ‘recreation’ which is something slightly different. Recreation, literally meaning to recreate, isn’t just lying on the couch or staring at your phone. It is doing things that rejuvenate and recharge you, leaving you better prepared for work the following morning.
Start to invest time in yourself. Join an exercise class, buddy up with a friend for a weekly walk & talk, practice yoga, begin meditation, sign-up for that pottery class you have always wanted to do, start a course, begin a movie night, commit to a date night, learn a new language or read a book. Ultimately it does not matter what you do so long as you are active and doing things outside work that boosts your enjoyment of life. The options are endless. But by fitting them into ‘leisure time,’ you suddenly find extra time each week to refresh, relax and rejuvenate yourself.
Start with one evening per week and as time passes up the ante. Build towards three or more evenings of recreation per week.
Remember, change is hard but worth it.
Changing any habit takes time and effort. Work is important to us all, as is progressing in our career. But ask yourself at what cost. Make time to take time off in your evenings and weekends. At the start, you will feel uncomfortable, maybe a little guilty and self-conscious, but as time passes so too will those feelings.
Remember, time is your most precious commodity. Treat it with the same level of importance you might a work task. Hit the ‘off’ button, even as an experiment for one week, to see how you feel after a break. Very often you don’t realise you need the break until you take it.
By Sinead Brady