How To Stop Thinking About Work When You’re Not Working

If you find yourself overthinking about work outside of work hours, a nine-to-five job can start to feel like it’s 24/7. Thinking about work when you’re not there can be positive — think of solving a problem on a walk or getting advertising ideas from a TV commercial — but too much thinking might make you feel like you can never really “shut off” without having worked in the back of your head. If you want to improve your work-life balance, here are some tactics you can implement to stop thinking about work when you don’t need to.

1. Plan the next day before you leave

To avoid thinking about work after hours, plan the next day before you’re out of office for the current day. Whether you use a pen and paper or a digital tool, getting your to-dos out of your head can help you start your post-work day feeling relaxed. You can plan whichever way works for you, but some popular strategies include time blocking and prioritizing.

2. Design an end of day ritual

Completing an end-of-day ritual is like twisting a dial in your brain from work to not-work. If you work from your office, your end-of-day ritual might look like listening to a relaxing playlist during your evening commute and allowing your brain to let go of work. If you work from home, establishing the end of the workday can be harder — there’s less physical space between you and your work. In this case, maybe your ritual looks like checking your email one more time, taking a deep breath, and closing your laptop for the rest of the night. The key here is to not allow yourself to open it back up.

3. Build a worry window

The concept of a worrying window is a designated time that you allow yourself to worry. You can even schedule it into your calendar. By setting aside a specific time to worry, you can avoid ruminating on work-related stressors when you’re not actually working. When your window is open, allow yourself to contemplate the big and small things taking up mental space. Then, when the window closes, allow yourself to stop.

4. Talk it out

Whether it’s a friend, parent, or significant other, talking to someone about your days can help you release thoughts and shift from work-life into personal life. Think about people in your support system who you can call or see in person after work. You can brainstorm ideas, ask for advice or just vent.

5. Think about something else

If you just can’t let work thoughts go at the end of the day, try thinking about something else. Reading a book, writing in a journal or doing a physical activity can distract you from your current thoughts and help you relax. You might even consider implementing one of these activities into your end-of-day ritual.


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