How to leave your work at work and enjoy your free time | Ladders

How to switch off your work brain and enjoy your free time outside of work instead of thinking about what is awaiting you back at the office.
Office Life

How to leave your work at work and focus on fun in your free time

Workaholism is a pernicious thing. It creeps into your personal life, saps your creativity and can make you downright grumpy.

But in a world of 24-7 smartphone access, even if you’re not actually doing work while you’re at home, you might need a reminder on how to switch off your work brain and focus on the fun you’re having outside of work instead of thinking about the challenges that might be awaiting you back at the office.

Keep yourself busy

Instead of sitting at home and worrying about what will happen when you get back to work, plan things in your downtime that you really enjoy.

For example, rather than fixating on your “negative goals,” or “actions you will no longer take,” it’s better to set positive goals about what you will do, and get started on something proactive, Art Markman,  a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote in the Harvard Business Review.

“You need to focus on what you are going to do instead of working. Create a plan for your time away from work — whether it is an evening out of the office or time on vacation. You need a specific plan, or you will return to your habits and re-engage with work when you should be away from it. The plan should focus on the activities you are going to perform instead of working,” the article continues.

So don’t sit on the couch, telling yourself you won’t think about work while you’re off — go enjoy yourself.

Don’t spend too much time harping about what’s bothering you at work in personal conversations

Peter Shallard, a psychotherapist-turned consultant who works with entrepreneurs, says you shouldn’t spend all of your personal discussions talking about what’s bothering you at work if you really want to move on.

“It can be particularly easy for people who work with a significant other to bring work issues home. If that’s you, and you’re feeling unbalanced, it can help to set rules about how much talking about work can be done at home. Though debriefing during dinner can be OK, talking about work problems reactivates the negative emotions associated with them. It’s actually serving to throw that person straight back into the same neurological state that they were in all day,” Shallard told Inc. 

That said, there is an appropriate place to focus these kinds of conversations, by making appointments to speak regularly to someone who isn’t involved in the circumstances — like a therapist or mentor — in what can be “remarkably freeing,” Shallard wrote.

Think about what you can control

Rather than driving yourself crazy by going over and over in your head about what could possibly go wrong while you’re away from the office, or imagining bad feedback from your boss when you get back, take it easy on yourself and remember that you don’t have control over those things.

Take a step back and think about how even the biggest challenges at work can be a chance to work toward your professional goals and skills, and embrace the things you can control, like your attitude or your peace of mind.

Small, daily meditation or exercise sessions can keep you grounded and healthy, and help you make the most of your time away from the office.