How to Leave Work at Work

by Laura Sue Johnson

How to leave work at work header

Have you ever struggled to leave work at work? When I was a teacher, it took me close to a decade to realize I needed to prioritize my own well-being ahead of work. The endless stack of papers, lesson plans, documentation, emails, phone calls, etc. were always waiting on me and because I felt like I could never get ahead, I failed to implement healthy boundaries between work and home.

After years of struggling, I did finally reach a point where I had healthier boundaries, however, when I transitioned to working from home, there was a brand-new challenge of not being fully sure when to sign off for the day because there were always more tasks to be done. When you are building your own business, the lines can be so blurry. There is always something demanding your attention and energy. Let’s take a look at steps we can all take in order to create healthy boundaries for ourselves and do our best to leave work at work.

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.

Michael Altshuler

1. Plan for Tomorrow, Today

While it may sound like a line from Michael Scott, taking a moment today to think through your next workday can be a game changer. Use the last few minutes of each workday to prioritize and make note of the top three things you want to tackle the next day. Start by asking yourself if you could only accomplish one thing tomorrow, what would it be? Repeat this process until you have your top three priorities listed. Once you have your top three priorities, be sure to keep a flexible mindset so that you can adapt if it turns out that things need to shift a little (because life happens, right?).

2. Create a Ritual for Transitioning

When I worked outside of my home, my commute time afforded me the opportunity to mentally shift into a natural post-work mindset. I listened to podcasts, music, or audio books and it helped my mind ease into the evening. If you work virtually, it can be harder to transition from work into your evening because in most cases, you’re likely to physically be in your home as soon as you close that laptop or log off for the day. Develop a ritual or routine that signals the end of the workday and facilitates a smooth transition into post-work time. This could involve shutting down your computer (anyone else guilty of not knowing the last time you shut down your computer?), tidying up your workspace, or taking a short walk around the neighborhood. Engaging in a transition ritual helps signal to your brain that it's time to shift gears and focus on non-work-related activities.

3. Cultivate Hobbies and Interests

Another great way to create separation from work for both your mind and body is to invest time and energy in hobbies, interests, and activities outside of work that bring you joy and fulfillment. Whether it's practicing a musical instrument, gardening, cooking, or exercising, engaging in activities that nourish your passions and creativity helps you disconnect from work and recharge your batteries. If you find that your mind cannot stop thinking about work well into the post-work hours, it’s possible that your body may need more movement. Moving our bodies helps our minds process information better! Something even as simple as taking regular walks can make a world of difference. Whichever activity you choose, be sure to make time for them regularly, and prioritize them as an essential part of your self-care routine.

4. Set Technology Boundaries

This may take more discipline than anything else we suggest, but we’d love to encourage you to limit your exposure to digital devices and technology, especially during leisure time, to avoid constant interruptions and distractions from work-related notifications. Consider implementing technology-free zones or designated periods of digital detox to disconnect from screens and reconnect with the present moment. I love limiting notifications on my phone. Establishing boundaries with technology promotes mental clarity, reduces stress, and enhances overall well-being.

5. Seek Support and Accountability

Enlist the support of friends, family members, or colleagues to hold you accountable for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Share your goals and intentions for leaving work at work, and ask for encouragement and support in staying committed to your boundaries. Having a supportive network can provide motivation, perspective, and reassurance as you navigate the challenges of achieving work-life balance.

It is such a gift to have work that you care about, but when the lines between work and living are blurred, it can have a negative impact on our well-being. When we establish healthy boundaries, create transition rituals, etc., we can reclaim control over our time and energy and prioritize what truly matters in life.

Prefer to listen? Check out our conversation below and be sure to let us know what suggestions you have found helpful in your own workdays!

Opening photo by Mikey Harris on Unsplash

Photo of Laura Sue Johnson

Written by Laura Sue Johnson