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How to Stop Thinking About Work at the End of the Day

  • By Sophie McAulay
  • November 25, 2020

A lot of people find it hard to switch off at the end of the workday.
For freelancers and remote workers, this can be even tougher. Not only do you have so many different things to think about when it comes to running your business, you also don’t have to physically leave the office… So it’s difficult to stick to a hard stop at the end of your day.
But does that necessarily mean that you’re getting more done?
A third of remote workers say that difficulty shutting down is actually their top productivity blocker.

You can stay more productive by working a reasonable amount of hours each day and allowing yourself time to rest.
But if that’s easier said than done for you, you may need to put some tactics in place to help you shut down at the end of the day.
Here are some useful tips to help you stop thinking about work.

1. Put your calls and emails on hold

Nothing will draw you back into your work like a feedback email from a client. Sure, you can tell yourself not to check your emails anymore, but will that really stop you from having one more peek before you close your computer?
Blocking your calls and emails during periods you don’t want to be distracted can be a great way to ensure you don’t succumb to that temptation. Use Boomerang to pause emails after 5pm so you can review anything new in the morning. Create a custom ‘do not disturb’ on your mobile phone that starts automatically after work hours and only permits calls from close family and friends.

2. Set a calendar reminder

You can alert yourself that it’s almost close time by creating a reminder that will notify you 20-30 minutes before you need to stop work. It sounds so simple, but doing it will help you wind up your work activities and remind you not to start any new tasks.

3. Schedule an activity

Make a plan for something you find interesting outside of work—like joining a class at the gym or hanging out with a friend. This helps give you a non-negotiable stop time as well as occupying your mind with other things right away so you can switch out of work mode. The added benefit of exercising is that it will boost the endorphins in your brain, to help you push those worries further out of sight.

4. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation has been proven to help you focus more, sleep better, and stress less. Training to make yourself more mindful will help you stay present in whatever you’re doing after work, rather than letting your mind wander back to what you need to get done. Apps like Headspace are great for training you to meditate.

5. Create a task list for the next day

Just before close time, write down any activity you know you didn’t finish and schedule it for the following day. Do this even if you have an online version of a task list that you’re using. The act of writing the tasks down helps you let go of anything that you didn’t complete, and stop worrying about everything you need to get done the next day. It clears your mind and reassures you that you’re in control, which allows you to give yourself permission to relax.

6. Separate your work environment

Create a specific work environment in your house if you work from home. Make sure you leave this workspace or room when it’s time to finish work, and don’t return until the next morning. If you simply don’t have the space for this, then a café or co-working space can be a good option to help you draw distinct lines between where work happens and where you relax.

7. Find yourself a hobby

Pottery classes, finally writing that book, learning an instrument, or just cooking a new meal for dinner… Whatever floats your boat. Pick something that you’ll be excited to do outside of work so you’ll be eager to shut down on time.

8. Have a work uniform

Something as seemingly simple as having ‘work clothes’ can help you clearly distinguish between work time and relaxation time. Even if it’s your favorite tracksuit, the act of getting ‘dressed for work’ and then into your ‘play clothes’ can help your brain switch into work mode as well as signify when you’ve called it a day.

9. Give clients realistic timeframes

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete your projects so you don’t end up trying to do too many things at the same time. Clients are usually comfortable with slightly longer timeframes as long as you are realistic from the beginning. If you finish earlier – great! But if not, you won’t be left dragging your days out more and more as you scramble to get things done at the last minute.

10. Create a bedtime routine

Many of us focus on creating a solid morning routine, but what about your bedtime routine? To end your day the right way, follow a nightly routine that helps prepare you for a restorative sleep. You might like to have a hot bath, a cup of non-caffeinated tea, or listen to some chill-out music. Put on some fresh pajamas and read a chapter of a non-work-related book until your eyes feel sufficiently heavy. Avoid screens during this time to help you really get ready to drift off into a peaceful sleep.

Put yourself first

Since working more means making more money, it might be difficult to stop work for the day if you’re working for yourself. But remember, and you can’t make money if you’re sick in bed or too stressed out to work. Accept that you have limits, and make your health top priority.
Finally, remember why you chose this lifestyle. There’s probably a good reason that you’d prefer to work for yourself. Whether it’s because of family commitments or because you want to travel while you work, making time for the things that matter to you outside of work is essential if you want to enjoy the benefits of a freelance lifestyle.
If it turns out you don’t have time for these things, you may have to ask yourself, is it really working out for you?

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