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How to Turn Off Your ‘Work Brain’ and Reclaim Your After-Hours Life

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How to Turn Off Your ‘Work Brain’ and Reclaim Your After-Hours Life

Do you think about work, even when you’re not there? Do you frequently work after hours?

Every job requires a little overtime now and then. But when we can’t stop thinking about work – or stressing over it – it’s time to do something about it.

Negative Effects of Overtime

Recently, Inc. cited numerous health studies that show consistent overtime can be bad for our health and bad for business. Among the findings:

  • Working more than 10 hours a day can increase the risk of cardiovascular issues by 60%.
  • 54% of companies with high overtime experienced absentee rates of about 9%.
  • Injury rates increase as work hours increase.
  • Productivity decreases. White-collar employees working 60 hours or more per week saw as much as a 25% decrease in productivity.

How to Leave Work at Work

Not every aspect of our job is within our control, but there are steps we can take to work more efficiently, minimize work hours and turn off our “work brains.”

Consider these tips:

  • Define what “after hours” means to you. Then, stick to it. Ignore after-hour work calls and specify a time after which you will not be available to respond to messages. Turn off push notifications and turn on “do not disturb.” “If you’re not expected to work beyond your office hours, don’t feel obligated to pick up the phone,” advises Silicon Republic.
  • Create an end-of-work-day wrap-up, says the Harvard Business Review. Finish projects with hard deadlines and respond to any urgent email messages before you leave. A quick review also will help you decide what to prioritize the next morning.
  • Create an incentive to leave work on time, says Lifehacker. Schedule an activity you like right after work, whether it’s a paid fitness class or volunteering. The incentive to help someone else – or the reluctance to waste money on classes you don’t attend – may be the push you need to leave the office on time.
  • Protect your time away from the office, advises The Job Network. “If you do have to take work home, make sure you set strict time limits for yourself, so it doesn’t eat up all of your out-of-office time. Triage the important stuff. Respond only to the most critical emails, then leave the rest for when you’re back at your desk.”

Take Time to Transition

With many people still working from home, “leaving work” may be more of a mental, rather than a physical task. Shut down work devices and don’t go back to them. Transition from work with a simple, relatively mindless task, like washing dishes or folding laundry. Or spend what was previously your commute time on an energizing, stress-reducing walk.

A little planning and resolve can help you control your work habits, so you can focus on other important aspects of your life.

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