Feature Article: How to Leave Work at Work and Enjoy Your Personal Time

Have you ever left work and, all of a sudden, arrived in your garage? You were completely on autopilot and don’t even remember making that turn. You were probably thinking through your day at the office and not concentrating on the road. Many people want to know how to ease into family life after experiencing a crazy day because it’s so hard to turn work off. Here are some ideas to make the transition easier:

1. Plan for tomorrow before you leave work. When you “download” the day’s activities before you leave work, you will be fully present to your family. Planning helps you leave work at work. I know I haven’t gone a good job planning when I’m reading a book to one of my children and I haven’t heard a word I’ve read. I’m only thinking about what I need to do when I’m done reading the book. That’s when I confess to my family that I need ten minutes in the office to download my day, and then I’ll emerge again, fully ready to be mommy and wife.

2. Make any last-minute essential calls on the way home. Make it your goal to complete your work by the time you arrive home. I like to call John on the way home from a speaking engagement to catch up before arriving home. If we can get “business” out of the way before I return home, we can focus on more meaningful interaction in our discussions. Make sure you turn off the cell phone when you greet your family. 

3. Get a babysitter. If I need to run a few errands in the evening and I don’t think I can handle the chaos of dragging three kids along, I call grandma and ask her to come over. I can enjoy the alone time, get my errands done in record time, and provide a quality experience for my children and their grandma. John and I also take one night a week to go on a “date,” sans children, to spend some quality time together. Every couple of weeks, I also plan a Girls Night Out with my girlfriends.

4. Find something that relaxes you. I like to take a bubble bath after the kids are in bed. You might like to curl up with a good book for a few moments of solitude. Do whatever nurtures your soul.

5. Be present. Avoid the tendency to multi-task at home. Some people don’t feel productive when they’re not doing four things at once (such as driving, talking on the phone, drinking coffee, and putting on makeup). If this describes you, shift your focus. You must be especially attentive with children. On weekends, turn off the technology, slow down, and reinvest in yourself. Don’t go to bed physically and mentally exhausted on Sunday night and expect to be alert and efficient on Monday morning. Draw the line somewhere. 

6. Turn off the phone. One of our cherished family times is dinner. To ensure this is a high-quality interaction, we take the phone off the hook. By doing this, our calls go straight to voice mail, and we can focus on each other.

Bottom line: draw a line in the sand. Don’t apologize for making a clear distinction between work and personal time. If you work Monday through Friday, devote every minute of your weekend to your family. Try to do whatever they want to do on the weekends. 

Rarely does work encroach on my weekend time with my family. I’m often asked, “Does ‘The Productivity Pro’ have a normal life?” Yes, I do what everyone else does: sit down to dinner, go to the grocery store, take a trip to the park, watch soccer games, and go out with my spouse. But, just like most of you, I am passionate about my work too. Make a conscious effort to turn off work at the end of the day and wherever you are…be there!
Make it a productive day! ™
(C) Copyright 2004 Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. All rights reserved. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted in your organization or association newsletter, provided the following credit line is present: 
"Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is "The Productivity PRO," (R) helping people leave the office earlier, with less stress, and more to show for it. She presents keynotes and seminars on time management, information overload, and personal productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or [email protected]."