Oftentimes, the projects on our to-do lists feel like they’re all high priority, and the tasks that aren’t completed during office hours wind up occupying our minds after we leave for the day. Maybe you’re mulling over the way you handled a situation with a coworker, or trying to wrap up loose-ends as you sit in bed. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that we can become so engrained in our day-to-day work that it becomes difficult to focus on anything else.
While we might think this mindset makes us more productive, the opposite is true. Like your body, your brain functions far better when it has time to recover. Research from the Journal of Organizational Behavior shows that workplace performance improves vastly after adequate rest time, regardless of how passionate we are about our jobs.
So how do we improve our productivity? Start by leaving work at work.
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s increasingly difficult to find work/life balance. Here are some ways that you can establish an after-work routine to help turn your brain off work-mode and improve your productivity in the long run:
One way to create a hard line between work life and home life is to incorporate physical activity into your routine. Get moving. Prancercise on your walk to the parking lot at the end of the day. Blast your guilty pleasure playlist and dance while you do the dishes. Aerobic exercise will lower stress levels, increase blood flow to the brain, and improve cognitive function.
In order to truly separate your time between work-time and non-work time, you need to establish some boundaries. For example, if you can’t stop checking your email after hours, it might be a good idea to enforce some ground rules, such as no phone at the table or in the bedroom.
France is making major headway in addressing their work-centric culture. A new law just went into effect at the start of the year to limit hours that employees can send or respond to work-related emails. Yes – some of us have jobs that require the occasional after-work follow up. But if you’re serious about balance, you need a hard line that acts as your work cut-off – set a schedule, and stick to it.
Sometimes, we’ve got hundreds of thoughts racing through our heads, and we need to get them out. Try a “brain dump”: for ten minutes, allow yourself to write down all of the things that are on your mind. Write a no-holds-barred stream of consciousness, and as you’re writing, include a list of things you need to get done at work. When you’re done writing, choose three; these will be your main goals for the following day. With all of those ideas that were buzzing around your mind on paper, you’re far more likely to unwind.
Recent studies show that increased mindfulness in the work place is beneficial to overall productivity. Mindfulness, or moment-to-moment awareness, is the process of focusing on the present moment. Some benefits of mindfulness include reduced stress, memory improvement, lower blood pressure, enhanced emotional intelligence, and decreased depression and anxiety.
Try sitting comfortably for ten minutes in silence. No, a verbal “omm” is not necessary; just close your eyes, and focus on your breath. The thoughts that come to your mind might be distracting, but the key is trying to let them go and focus on your breathing. Try doing this either at the end of the day before bed, or early in the morning before work. Note any changes in your stress levels throughout the day.
While it’s easy to obsess about work once you leave, it winds up hurting our productivity in the long run. Avoid burnout by making the conscious effort to leave work at work; with plenty of sleep and other healthful habits, you can face the new day with fresh perspective.