Why is it so hard to leave work at work? When you leave the office, thoughts of work often linger and take away from free time. It is impossible to relax and to connect with family and friends when work is on your mind.
A phone that is always on may be partly to blame but studies suggest another major culprit: unfinished business. Our brains are wired to hold onto the item we never got to on the to-do list, the ongoing project, and the uncompleted goal. We tend not to think about what we accomplished. It is the incomplete tasks that stand out. They linger long after the workday is over and that can spoil precious downtime. Even if we decide to turn our phones off in the evening or leave our briefcase at the office, for many of us, work still weighs heavily on our mind.
A new study offers an effective strategy to prevent the stress of your day job from creeping into your precious evenings:
- Make a LIST of the most important tasks you didn’t get to at the end of each workday.
- Make a clear ACTIONABLE PLAN of exactly WHERE, WHEN and HOW you plan to tackle each one. Don’t leave out any details. Here is an example: “Before checking email or returning calls, I will send an email to X first thing tomorrow morning detailing the proposal.
The participants who engaged in this exercise in the study were more at ease and less bothered by the tasks they had left undone. By creating a concrete plan, they were able to take their mind off of the unfinished business and it became easier to unwind and relax.
Let it Go
To echo the defiantly persistent earworm song from Frozen, the best strategy to improve work/life balance is to let it go, let it go…
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Samantha Boardman