Whether you travel to an office or work from home in a spare room, like most people in the modern day you probably suffer from “taking your work home ” syndrome.
Whether you can't stop mentioning stuff that happened at work to your partner, or can't stop checking emails on your phone when helping the kids with their homework, we are all guilty of this offence to a certain degree.
Be it a project, office politics or HR related stuff, as much as we try not to, we can't stop the mind churning over those pending tasks, that potential contract, the important email we forgot to send, the points we need to mention in tomorrow's meeting. The list goes on and on…
Needless to say, this isn't good, because it means we never truly leave the office.
Technology is definitely at fault here. We have a virtual office in our pocket at all times, and an internet connection is never more than a finger stroke away. We are able to check email, Google ideas, message a colleague and even work on documents from phones and tablets.
It is so very tempting to just reply to that one email on a Sunday while out with the family and to squeeze in bits of work while at home when you're supposed to be relaxing and having quality social time.
But that one email soon becomes a chain of emails. And that “small” bit of work you need to catch up on quickly consumes your head and puts you right back in the midst of the stress of the office. Before you know it you're in work mode. You're highly alert and annoyed by distraction.
Problem is, the things that distract us at home are way more important than work. These distractions need just as much, if not more, attention and nurturing than work. I am of course talking about partners, kids, friends, pets and hobbies, too.
You know it and I know it. And we're both guilty.
Okay, so work is massively important. We need that money to survive and thrive, and a large number of people reading this will have dependents to support. But there must be a point where we leave the office and allow for total immersion in personal and social activity.
What's strange is that we are fully aware of the benefits of a good work-life balance but continually compromise the opportunity to fulfil that goal.
The first step in achieving this goal is to step out of the non-reality that one day we'll have enough money to not have to worry about work…”if only we work that little bit harder”. Or that one day we'll retire and all that stress, worry, striving and neglecting family and friends will be worth it.
It never will.
The fact is, when you look at some of the richest people in the world, particularly self-made entrepreneurs, they never stop working, no matter how much money they earn. Because there will always be some business that needs attending to or some idea that must be acted upon.
Even if you love your work, the striving becomes addictive and unhealthy. The ego drives the mind forward for more “growth, personal and economic. We lose ourselves in the rat race to get more done and acquire more than the next person – everything must get bigger and better, right?
Not if it comprises sustainability. Most certainly not.
Because in addition to sustaining a certain level of income, sustaining fruitful relationships with family and sustaining good health must be our primary concerns.
The reality is that one day we all have to look mortality straight in the eye, and when we do, it won't be emails or meetings about meetings we are thinking of, nor how much money we have in the bank; it will be, “Why didn't I pay more attention to my partner when he/she needed me back then”. Or, “Man, if only I'd gone to see Molly's school play instead of attending that stupid annual board dinner”.
That sounds a little depressing, I know. But it should be enough of a motivating factor to get you and I to leave the world of work and money, emails and clients and presentations and meetings where they belong on a Friday evening. Sure, give 100 percent when you are at work, but don't come home and only give 65 or 70 percent – because you are short-changing yourself and those around you.
It's not just about your family and friends. This is your life too, and as my mother always says, “All work and no play make Jack a very dull boy”.
Carrying the office around in your mind 24/7 is not only stressful for you but also for your family. It negatively impacts on your interaction with them and vice versa. So make a change this weekend and LEAVE YOUR WORK AT THE OFFICE!
Once the laptop lid is shut, and the clock hits 5.30 pm, let it all go until Monday. Don’t check emails on your phone, don’t take work calls and don’t Google work-related things. If need be, make it known to others that you are not going to give work a second thought this weekend and will be unavailable until Monday morning.
For those with huge work responsibilities, particularly managers and CEOs, this is probably going to be a very difficult task because no doubt you're used to never quite being out of work mode. But I ask you to consider this for a moment: is there anything that can't wait until Monday morning?
Seriously, what could possibly need doing between Friday night and Monday morning that if not done will jeopardise your position or income?
Let it all go. Don't act on anything until you are back at work on Monday morning. Be fully present at home with yourself and your family. Remember, this is not just your time, it's their time too and they want to share it with you.
If you do have a light bulb moment, rather than email it to someone or call your colleague or partner, quickly write it down in a notebook and forget about it until Monday morning. Get the idea out of your head and onto paper and let it go. This will stop that idea swirling around in your mind and distracting you from being fully present at home.
Lastly, put the notebook outside of the house. It doesn't matter where you store it – behind a bush, in the garden, in the car boot – just don't leave it in the house. You need that work-related idea to be as far away as possible from your social space. You don't want to see the notebook again unless you have another burning idea that won't let you settle.
You might also like to give this notebook a name. My suggestion is to write “Closure” on the front cover. The name represents the fact that once the idea is inside the pad it is not to be thought about until you take the pad to work on Monday morning. Write your thought/idea down and go back to what you were doing. Once the notebook is closed, and placed outside of the house, it is out of sight and out of mind.
Once you entrain the mind to let go of the office on the weekends, you can start to implement the same practice on weeknights, too.
You'll find that doing so not only improves the quality of time you spend with your partner and/or kids, but also helps you relax more and sleep better. As a result your productivity in the office and quality of work will increase twofold.