How to stop thinking about work after hours
If you're like most Americans, you're really into your job. This is not to say that you absolutely love what you do, but whether you're working in a dream job or one that just pays the bills, chances are that you work too hard. It's not an exaggeration to say that Americans work harder than anyone else, taking less vacation time, putting in longer hours, and even retiring later than those employed in other industrialized nations. So, it's no wonder that we can't seem to stop thinking about work, even when we're not actually there.
It's difficult to take a break, but it can be done. Here are some tips.
1. Understand the fundamental importance of taking a mental break.
You'll feel more creative and find solutions to problems more readily if you're rested and taking some time away from your job. Similarly, it could be good for your health to take mental breaks, not just every now-and-again but on a regular basis.
You only have so much brain power and mental focus to offer; when the well starts to run low, you need to take a little break in order to let it fill back up again. You're likely to find that your efficiency is greatly increased when you allow yourself some downtime at the end of the day. And, you'll be happier and healthier too.
2. Remember what's most important.
The idea that we should concentrate on the content of our eulogies more than the items on our resumes has struck a chord with many of us since Arianna Huffington introduced it a couple of years ago. Even prior to that, most agreed that Americans are too focused on money.
At the end of the day, your job is just your job. Your personal life matters a great deal as well, and giving that part of your life solid focus, time, and attention is really important. Hold your priorities firmly in your mind, and don't let yourself get swept up in our crazy culture of overwork. If you remember what's really important, it should be easier to step away from work (psychologically) when you're off the clock.
3. Don't bring work home.
This seems like an obvious solution, but it's worth stating outright. Finish up at the office if you possibly can, preserving the rest of your time for other things. It might even be worth it to put in an extra hour at the office in order to avoid carrying things out. If you do need to bring work home, be sure to pack it up and put it away once you finish. It's hard to relax and enjoy dinner when a pile of paperwork is sitting off to the side.
It's funny that many of us let our job worries spill into our personal lives rather than the other way around. In order to preserve the autonomy of both sides of your life, try using your commute to let the worries of one side go and hone in on the priorities of where you're heading.
When you're on your way home, imagine that you're on a bridge, leaving the troubles and concerns of work behind you. You can do the same thing, in reverse, in the morning. Those work problems will still be there to pick up then. Why not set them down for a few hours?
We humans are habitual creatures. The more we do something, the more it's part of our routine and our mindset, and the easier it is to do. As you gain practice and experience with detaching from work when you're not physically there, you'll find it's easier and easier to do. And, it's pretty likely that you'll experience some benefits from the practice too, and that will encourage you to keep up the positive habit.