When you work for an employer at their premises, you of course have a specific time to finish work, leave the building and call it a day. This helps very well to give you the physical and mental habit of switching off and relaxing.
But when you work at home for yourself, even if you have a set time to finish work, you are still there at your work premises! The double-edged sword of having all the flexibility you want can be a bad thing if you find yourself unable to unplug from work.
One very useful idea I picked up regarding a solution to this was from Sir Alan Sugar… I remember an interview with him, where he was answering business related questions for an audience…
He said that one of the fundamental things he has always done in business since the very beginning is STOP working on a Friday evening. Switch off completely from business thoughts, and relax; do things unrelated to business. Then, bright and early Monday morning, switch back on, “just like switching a light switch” – and get down to business, refreshed, rejuvenated, and with the stamina to perform well.
It’s one of the main struggles for remote workers
It appears that people who ‘work remotely’ definitely struggle with unplugging after work, no doubt even if they finish working at a set time each day.
Whether these remote workers are those working for employers or not, the same thing applies to solo business owners and freelancers working from home. Switching off can be tricky…
The effects of not switching off from work
If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance you’re aware of some of the negative consequences that can be associated with sometimes not being able to switch off.
You may have experienced: fatigue; higher rates of procrastination; less engagement while working or not being able to get into the zone; messed up work-life balance affecting quality of life; strained relationships with family and friends; reduced mental and physical health…
You know something should be done about it, but what?
How to switch off and unplug
Step 1. Setting your working hours and sticking to them
Forming habits is a skill in itself. I’ll not go into that here as that’s a whole other topic…but I’d suggest looking into ways to form new habits. I will say that basically, it’s about consistency and taking regular small steps until the habit becomes natural to you.
Decide on the best time for you to start work each day, and to finish work for the day. Then form the habit of sticking to that. like Alan said, it’s good to give yourself weekends off if you can – or at least one whole day per week.
When the clock, and/or your alarm says STOP WORKING, round up what you were doing, close down any work related programmes, and get away from your desk, laptop or workspace. Have the routine of immediately doing something else. Something specific – such as making a meal and watching the next episode of ‘Did Aliens Invent Reality TV?’.
As you get used to finishing work at a certain time, you’ll be expecting it when the time is approaching, and accommodate the fact into the project you’re working on. You’ll begin wrapping things up in time for the deadline, and not start anything new that you know you won’t have time for.
Setting your working hours, and sticking to them, will help you separate work from everything else in your life – and therefore help you to unplug.
Step 2. Knowing your tasks schedule
Another reason for not being able to shut off is the nagging feeling that certain tasks aren’t finished, or are piling up. Or maybe you don’t know what will need doing tomorrow so you wonder about that.
If you have a good system for managing tasks – and you prioritise and work through your tasks one-by-one – you will never be behind with work.
I can make that bold statement because if you know what you have to do, and have prepared a prioritised sequence of tasks for the day to work through one-by-one, but then don’t complete all the tasks for the day, then there’s no humanly possible way you could do more than that! And overworking yourself into the evening (on a regular basis) isn’t the answer.
So you are on track, and can do no more. So there’s no need to beat yourself up about it.
If you fall behind with work with this method, then the problem is more a case of having too much work to do. In which case it may be time to hire a Virtual Assistant, or take other measures.
Product Management or Productivity software is invaluable in this regard. I have used several over the years, such as Teamwork, Basecamp, Asana, and others. But they were never 100% flexible enough for my needs, and the pricing of some is pretty high.
These days I use ClickUp – which is THE greatest in my opinion. It has everything you will ever need to keep you on top of your work, is extremely flexible to suit your specific needs, and the pricing is very reasonable. Click below to learn more.
If you use a tool with more basic features, such as Trello, that may work good for you, but ClickUp offers so much more and I highly recommend you try it. If you like the drag-and-drop columns system of Trello, for example, ClickUp can work in exactly the same way with your tasks if you want it to – but with more capabilities…
Step 3. Not being too hard on yourself
If you can’t stop thinking about work outside of your work hours, the likely causes are either you are worried about something, or you just enjoy your work.
Doing unrelated activities is good…but, just watching more episodes of ‘Did Aliens Invent Reality TV?’ or going out somewhere, or doing something productive like exercising, or spending quality time with loved ones, or even tuning out/in completely by meditating, won’t stop your mind from eventually coming back to work matters.
At some point your mind will drift back to work, or something will trigger work-related thoughts… This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Browsing prospects on your phone, business networking, noting down a great business idea before you forget, or whatever – is all fine if it doesn’t stress you out. It’s the switching off from set work ‘tasks’ we’re talking about.
In the end, it comes down to training yourself
Steps 1 and 2 above should be enough to help you get into the routine of unplugging from work. So try them, and hopefully you’ll be a master of unplugging before long.
Do you have any thoughts on this? Have you tried the suggestions above but still struggle? Comment below….
Aspect Avenue Founder. Victor has worked at home for 20 years, mainly as a web designer, developer and web consultant since before the days of Google and social media! He has been involved with a variety of business ideas, and worked with a wide variety of business types, large and small. Aspect Avenue is now his main business.