A Time Management Article by Harold Taylor

A frequently asked question is “How do you stop thinking about your job even when you are at home or on vacation?” There is no quick answer. But there is a long one.

First, if you are an entrepreneur who owns your own company, you are wearing two hats. You are the owner, and you are also an employee of the company. As the latter, you should be receiving a salary commensurate with the work you do. If not, you have a bigger problem to resolve first.

Let me tell you what advice a typical employee might give to another employee who cannot stop thinking about their job when they should be enjoying their family, friends, and personal time.

  1. Do not bring work home with you. Leave your work where it belongs. The company is not paying you to worry or fret on their behalf.
  2. Do your best during the seven or eight hours you are paid to work. If the company wants more done in a day, they should hire more staff. You need what little energy you have left after a day’s work to spend on your personal life. You have other responsibilities besides your job.
  3. Even if thinking about work could possibly help, an extra 10% in production or sales will probably not be critical to the health of the company. But a 10% increase in stress and worry on your part, will affect your health, and the health of your relationships.

That might be the advice from a fellow employee. But if you really love both your job and the company you work for, and take pride in going the extra mile, just thinking about the company will not help them one bit. But there are ways of increasing your personal productivity while you are at work with equal or less effort. There are hundreds of good books on time management that will tell you how to do that. Or read a dozen or so of the hundreds of articles posted at this website.

If you are also owner of the company, the following ideas are adaptable to both employees and entrepreneurs. So, owners take note.

  1. Recognize that you are not alone. One survey revealed that 45% of us work outside of normal office hours and another 49% of us answer emails when we leave work. A Gallup study of almost 7500 full-time employees found that 23% of respondents felt burned out at work very often or always, with another 44% reporting feeling burned out sometimes. But just because the situation is common, does not mean it is okay. Make up your mind now to change it.
  2. End each workday with closure. Unfinished tasks cause stress as they are mulled over in your mind. So, do not start a new task just before quitting time. Have a plan for each day. In fact, I recommend you plan a week ahead, by scheduling your important tasks in your planner and listing everything else on a “To Do” list, which is a separate section in your planner. When you finish your last scheduled task, which you should have estimated to be finished at least a half hour before the end of your workday, use any balance of the time to complete an item or two from your “To Do” list, organize your work area, and set out any material needed for the next morning’s first task.
  3. Clear your head of work. You must unplug from work by concentrating on non-work activities. If you ride a bike or walk to work and back, that is ideal. Exercise always helps. If you drive home, have your favorite music playing. Remain in the car for a few minutes when you arrive and think about what your family might have done that day and prepare questions to ask about their day instead of using them as a dumping ground for all your problems at work. If you are asked, say your day went great and leave it at that.
  4. If it is appropriate, walk around the block once or twice and while you do this you are combining exercise with the practice of self-control. As you know, multitasking is difficult and personal matters will crowd out any remnant thoughts of business if you focus on your family or evening plans.
  5. As soon as you enter your home, ask your spouse and/or kids how their day went, what they did, and so on. Get involved instead of letting thoughts of work enter your mind. You cannot think of two things at the same time.
  6. At your earliest convenience, change into casual clothes to make the transition complete. If you are already wearing casual clothes, make them ultra casual. Make it obvious to yourself and others that both you and your brain have quit work for the day.
  7. If you live alone, do the same, except for the conversation, and instead, phone a friend. Or work on a crossword puzzle or an adult coloring book or your hobby, whether it is knitting, painting, or feeding the birds.
  8. Do not use the computer. TV is OK early in the early evening, and then you can switch to reading, writing, or whatever you do for relaxation and renewal. The less screen time the better.
  9. Say “no” to yourself whenever you find yourself thinking of work and build the habit of jotting down any business thought or idea that does pop into your mind for review the next workday. Never engage in thinking it through or problem solving in the evenings or weekends.
  10. To avoid business calls it is best to turn off your iPhone altogether. Once you know that someone is trying to reach you, your mind will be back at work again, wondering what it is about.

All this seems difficult. But if you persist, even though you frequently fail, you will eventually build a habit that will keep your life in balance. The less you talk or think about your work when you are home or on vacation, the more effective this time of renewal will become. Your energy will be renewed, and your time at work will become more productive a result.

Use the power of your mind. Nothing is accomplished without effort. Pick up any book on the brain that covers neuroplasticity if you are not convinced that your mind can rewire your brain.

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