Working hard and providing a great service whilst you are at work is what we expect to do. Many of us find that the working day is extended well into our personal time. There are bound to be times when a particular deadline needs to be met but all too often taking work home physically and mentally with us becomes the norm. It erodes the quality time spent with the family and has the potential to be destructive of family relationships and quality rest and recuperation. It becomes even more of an issue when it is the thinking about work and worrying about things takes up time and energy getting in the way of sleep and peace of mind.

Before you can identify the best way to deal with the problem it is vital to be clear what is actually at the root cause of the problem.

You need to define what this means for you.

Is it being unable to let go of work thinking when you leave the work place? Are you taking on the problems of others? Do you keep going over actions and decisions you have made during the working day? I wish I’d said ------ If only I’d done ------. Are you taking actual work home to do because you do not have time to do it at work? Is the problem caused because you are avoiding dealing with a difficult member of staff? Are you unable to delegate effectively? Do you find it hard to say “no” or you are worried about upsetting the boss? Are you working for an organization which has unrealistic expectations or are you modelling behaviours which are unhelpful to your achieving a good work life balance.

You need to ask yourself why this is?

There is no single answer and for many people the truth is a combination of factors.

Is the job is too big for you or the time scale unrealistic?

How confident are you that you make the very best use of time? Would having better time management skills reduce or eradicate the problem?

For some, the problem revolves around a lack of confidence particularly when faced with making a decision. Having to over prepare or analyse everything can be very time consuming but perhaps even more wearing is the constant rehearsal and post mortem which goes on in your head.

Ask yourself if your heavy work- load has been created to give an excuse to avoid other issues in your life. It is easy to say I’m too busy rather than face up to the realisation that having no one special in your life leaves a sense of loneliness. The cycle continues I’m too busy to create a social life – I have no social life – I keep busy to fill the space – I have no time to socialize.

For others they take on too much work, they find dealing with other people’s problems means they don’t have to tackle their own.

Is there a solution?

The first thing to remember is you have a choice. You could argue that you cannot choose what work you do. The choice is much more about how you react to your work situation. It is in this area an infinite range of solutions.

How to get started?

Keep a diary for a week. At the end of each day consider what you have done outside work. Record if you have undertaken work and consider the reason why it was necessary.

Think about what has been going on in your head. Are you present for your family? Or are you still at work thinking about an issue, which has spilled over? Are you whittling away thinking about a client? All actions have a pay off. A positive intention. Ask yourself what is the payback for you in your reaction to work invading your personal time. Be honest!

Think about the strategies you might use to combat your behaviour.

Does the following statement ring true for you?

Work is taking up too much of my time.

Consider the statement if you replace the word time with life.

Life is not a rehearsal. Few people would want as their epitaph, “If only I had worked longer hours or if only I had worried more about this or that problem.”

In this article I am going to focus on strategies for turning off the “work” mode in your head. Strategies for tackling time management and dealing with colleagues at work are covered in other articles and in “Kick Start Your Career” and “How You Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively”.

Transition activity – use your journey as the transition between work and home. Part way through the journey create a section which will act like the air lock on a submarine. On one side of Pick a particular station or point in the journey and make this the start of the airlock and a second to make the transition out of the airlock into the sea.

The sequence runs:

Work – point one: As usual

Point one – point 2 : listen to a piece of music which is contemplative and relaxing or if you are on a train close your eyes and clear your brain of all work thoughts. Consciously let go of the work thoughts.

Point 2: start to think about being home, what you are going to do that evening. Change the music to something more energetic

You may find it takes some concentration to achieve in the fiurst instance but the brain loves patterns so after a few days the changes in music and the reaching the particular station or point on the route act like a reminder – switch off from work / relax / be in home mode.

The same transitional principles will also work with a routine once you reach home but do eat into your home time.

Physical exercise is great for changing your mood. It will break negative patterns of thought and releases endorphins which make you feel good. Dance is particularly good as it involves sharing something which requires concentration and involves so many senses.

Visualisation can be really helpful. You can use a relaxation tape to help you do this. There are many to chose from – we have a Spanish theme tape available on our website.

Planning time for you and those things which are important to you is important. When you actually book time to do these things they are much more likely to happen than if you just leave it to chance. I use a two week version with my clients. They determine the various elements they want to include and these are listed on the left hand side of the planning sheet. Over the two week period they plan to ensure that everything they value has time allotted. The balance of that time will vary but the principle is that there should be some time set aside for each category. Clients create their own categories but common elements include: work, love and relationships, family, physical wellbeing, learning, helping others, fun and entertainment, spiritual development.

Compartmentalisation works for some people. They actually create compartments of thinking in their brain. Once they finish what needs to be done they mentally close the compartment and move into the next.

Anchoring is a technique used in Neuro Linguistic Programming. It works on the basis of using the memory of how a positive experience made you feel on one occasion available to you at any time. You can choose to anchor any event for a specific emotion or feeling. If you can’t think of a real occasion imagine one – it works just as well. Just as Pavlov’s dog would salivate when it heard the bell the brain is conditioned to feel in a particular way when you press your finger and thumb together to trigger an anchor.

Think of a time when you felt thoroughly relaxed and happy. As you do so what do you feel?

Is the feeling in a specific place in your body? Does it have a shape? Is it still or moving? Is it constant or not? Does it have a texture? Does it have a colour? Is it bright or dull? Pale or dark?
Imagine the feeling is only at 30% turn it up to 70% let it grow to 100% as you feel it pinch your thumb and forefinger together. As you leave the memory release the finger and thumb.

Practice getting into the memory sate. Each time pressing your finger and thumb together.

As the brain becomes accustomed to doing the process you will find you can reach the state simply by pressing tour finger and thumb together. I ask clients to do it several times each day to begin with, as it only takes a minute. The benefits are great as you can find an oasis of calm, a sense of courage, joy, happiness or any other well resourced state at the click of your fingers.

The shopping bag process is useful if you take on others problems and feel weighed down by the end of the day. As each person hands you their difficulty it is all too easy to internalise it and feel dreadful by the end of the day.

As each person hands you their psychological baggage imagine yourself putting it into a bag which you lay at our feet rather than taking on board. It means you can listen and be available for them without getting bogged down in their “stuff”.

Facing your own demons. If you are using work as an escape mechanism I urge you to work with a coach to get thenm sorted out. Unless you deal with them they have a nasty habit of escaping and wreaking havoc however deeply you think you have buried them!

Evaluate your work activities – There is a huge difference between being busy and being productive. One useful way to audit your work load is to make a list of all the activities you do under the heading of DAILY / WEEKLY / MONTHLY / QUARTERLY/ ANNUALLY / AS AND WHEN

Use the traffic Light colours.

High light in green those activities which are done appropriately by you in the most effective and efficient way.

High light in red those activities which are redundant, inappropriate for you to do and you can immediately cut them out as they add no value. You will have immediately saved some precious time.

All those things which raise a query about whether they should be done, or if you are the right person or if you need more training to do them effectively and easily high light in amber.

You can then prioritize how to manage those tasks more effectively. You have something to take to your boss as the basis of a discussion about work load, training or use of time.

Laughter is a great de-stressor. Few of us laugh enough. Finding ways to laugh ideally with others is a great way of switching off from the stresses and strains of the day.

When we live a well rounded and fulfilling life and our batteries are topped up we have so much more to offer in every area of our lives including work. You have this life. It is your choice how you live it and whether work is kept in its place or if it takes over.

Author's Bio: 

Gina Gardiner is one of the UK's leading Leadership Coaches.
Gina supports people at individual or organizational level to develop confidence, leadership and people skills. Gina is the author of two books “Kick Start Your Career” and “How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively and is also a Neuro Linguistic Master Practitioner and a qualified coach.
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