How can you stop working life intruding on your personal time?

Do you find yourself unable to switch off from work when you leave the office?  Is it affecting your mood, distracting you from focusing on your personal life and the people who are a part of it, or even disrupting your sleep pattern?  It is time to take charge and pull back your control over your personal life!

Peter Shallard, a former psychotherapist turned consultant, identified some key changes to make which will result in an overhaul to stop your working life taking over your personal life…

Are you problem solving or problem ruminating?  If you end up coming to conclusions and solutions then great!  However, if you find yourself getting more and more agitated as you simply go over and over the same problem without reaching a resolution, then you are doing yourself more harm than good…and wasting valuable personal time.  If you find yourself unable to switch off immediately from work, then allow yourself half an hour to process and run over things, but after that half an hour is up, tell yourself now is the time to shut off from work.  If you have not resolved something in that half an hour, then using up another half an hour of your personal time is not worth it.  Coming back to an issue with a fresh, open mind the next day could work wonders and provide you with the viewpoint you need to ‘nail the project on the head’!

Get a hobby!   Focusing on an activity which occupies your mind completely forces you to think laterally.  The benefit of this is that you occupy the conscious side of your brain and in allowing more creative process to occur, you may reach conclusions which may not have occurred to you otherwise.  This concept of ‘divergent thinking’ involves taking in more information from the ‘outskirts’ of the topic or issue to provide you with more viewpoints overall.  Shallard comments that a former client who used this strategy through focusing heavily on his swimming form and breathing, found he was able to ‘subconsciously untangle work issues, often times having an “aha” moment through the exercise of distracting himself.’ 

Change your emotional state.  If you leave work feeling stressed and constantly deliberating over work issues, then you need to be proactive in doing something to change this.  Exercising, eating healthy food or listening to music, Shallard suggests, will help change the damaging emotional route you are on.  If we are in a calmer state for work the next day, we are much more likely to have the mental resources to enable us to reach positive solutions and conclusions.

Have a limit to work discussion outside of work!  Set rules on how much discussion about work can be done at home.  The last thing you want to do is discuss work issues and put yourself back in the stressed mental state of ‘work mode’ and create a bad atmosphere at home as well.  It is good to open up about issues you are worried about to get another perspective, but set limits to how much of your personal life is spent deliberating and discussing these issues.

An outside perspective.  If you are finding that work is increasingly intruding on your personal life then it could be time to seek input and advice from someone completely detracted from the situation, such as a coach, therapist or mentor.

Letting your working life become part of your personal life is a slippery slope and needs to be managed before it gets too out of control.  Following small steps such as the above will make a big difference, as long as you ensure you are strict enough on yourself to stick to them!  Let us know your best practices for separating working life from personal life!

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