Time to Leave Work

It can be hard to leave your work at work, but downtime at home is essential for your well-being.

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Life is about more than work. We get the irony that we’re a business writing about how there’s more to your existence than your 9-to-5 gig, but bear with us. Today’s culture has made it more challenging than ever to leave your career at your cube. Back in the day, you simply put down the plow, walked away from the field and your work day was done (or so we were told in 7th grade social studies). But now, work follows you, texting you on your mobile, emailing you after hours, even videoconferencing you in the middle of the night (yeah! Global economy!). It’s time to sit back and remember why me-time is important and help you establish some boundaries to make it happen for you.

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Work hard, play hard?

We’ve all heard this beloved old chestnut. But are you living it? All of it? Probably not. If you aren’t investing the same intensity in your personal life that you do for your job, then you are actually doing your career a disservice. You are actually hindering your productivity but not giving yourself ample opportunity to recharge your batteries with some down time.

What’s more, you can become so focused on your job, so myopic, that you may miss something in the bigger picture. Why does this matter? Well, most jobs require a bit, just a smidge, of creative thinking. When you get tunnel vision and are no longer able to visualize anything non-work related, your brain simply won’t be able to make that imaginative leap. No leap, no impressing the boss. See where we are going with this? Feeding your creativity with time to relax will actually make you better at your job.

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Walk away

So how do you start to learn how to say sayonara to your desk when the quitting bell rings? First of all, recognize that trying to “clean off your desk” is a pipe dream. Just like you aren’t going to be asked to join MENSA or win the lottery, you aren’t going to be able to clean off your desk most days (or maybe even any days). And that is ok. You aren’t nine, and you aren’t being forced by your mom to become a member of the clean plate club because there are starving children somewhere.

First step, treat your commute as a time to wind down and decompress from the stress of the day. Don’t rush, and try to find the most stress-free route. No sense trying to shake off your day, while battling the craziest traffic merely to shave five minutes off your commute. And think of this time as for you alone—if you need to vent, do it. If you want to sing at the top of your lungs to bad 70s pop music, have at it. Whatever works for you.

When you do arrive home, pay attention to your people, whether that is family, friends or your furry folk. If you aren’t present for them, you aren’t investing in them the same way you have in work for the past eight hours. Plus, you may be surprised at how focusing on a domestic task, no matter what it is, can help you leave work behind. Whatever plans you have made—meeting friends for dinner, attending your kid’s sporting event—keep your promise and do it. These commitments should be honored just as you would a work deadline.

Finally, recognize that truly separating yourself from work is an act of will, and it may take some practice. The more you do it, the better results you will have. Stick to it, and soon you will have mastered the art of downtime!