It's very common to think 'Why can't I stop thinking about work?!' It can be incredibly frustrating after spending an entire day working to come home and not be present for yourself, your family, partner, or friends. It makes sense why it's challenging to stop thinking about work - you take pride in what you do, work inevitably consumes mental load and is challenging, and you spend more time there than anywhere else. In this article, we're going to share some different strategies and tactics to get you to stop thinking about work while you're home.
Create a ritual when the workday ends
Right now, we're still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the majority of people have transitioned to working from home. This actually makes it more challenging to naturally separate your work life from your home life. Commutes, though inconvenient and challenging, are a handy tool to help you unwind after a day's work and transition spaces. Adding a commute doesn't make a lot of sense when you're working from home, but adding on a ritual at the end of your workday is a valuable tool to help signal to your mind 'the workday is done now, let's transition out of this space'.
There are several different ways you can signal to your brain it's ready for a switch through creating a ritual for yourself. One ritual is changing your clothes out of your work garb into clothes that you want to exist in. This is a physical reminder that that part of the day is done. Another method is working out post-work. This helps you provide a reset for your mind and gets you into the present moment or your body. This doesn't have to be a high-intensity workout, but even going for a walk in your neighborhood can help transition you into a new headspace.
While you're working at home also consider where you're working. If possible try and create a space for you that is specifically for work - whether this is an at-home office or a particular chair you sit-in at the kitchen table, help train your brain to know that when you're in that one spot that's for work, and when you're in other places it's for play.
Instead of getting annoyed or upset at yourself when you start thinking about work when you don't want to be, take the time to simply acknowledge in your head what's happening. For me, that looks something like this: "oh, I'm thinking about work again. Thank you brain for wanting me to do well, I'm going to now focus my attention on X.' This is a way to practice being kind to yourself and what your brain is helping you do and redirect your energy into what you want to be focusing on.
We don't always have the ability to control what our mind does, but we do have the ability to respond to it in a way that doesn't make the situation worse. Having a meditation practice is a great way to start observing what your mind does and bring its attention back to the present.
Remind yourself that it's all going to be okay
One reason why many people bring home work with them is they're worried about what's going to happen next. Is my client going to be pleased with the presentation I just delivered? Is my boss mad or upset with me? Am I going to meet my sales goals for the month? There's a lot of room for worry outside of work and that can be incredibly frustrating when you want to simply be present. This is a good time to practice that shit doesn't hit the fan every time you go home and that things can wait for tomorrow.
Help manage expectations with your clients and bosses that once you go home, you won't be available. This will help create a clear transition space and not have you worried if you're going to miss something. Another helpful strategy is to turn off notifications for your email, slack, and other channels where work communicates with you. Don't allow work to consistently pop up and bring your mind back to the place you were trying to avoid.
There are dozens of different strategies to help you stop thinking about work, the key is to decide for yourself what is the best tool for you. Be patient and kind with yourself in the process- this takes time to master and learn.
If you're interested in learning about how to set other personal or professional goals for work, check out this article.