That email will be there tomorrow. That phone call can happen next week. The Slack message that just came through at the end of your workday will wait. The project you are co-working on will be waiting for you first thing in the morning.
Whether you are old hat at working from home (WFH), or it is a completely new and bizarre reality for you, now is a great time to work on some “done with work for the day” hygiene.
The simple truth is that the work will always be there and it will wait. You have to make and stick to the boundaries around your work.
Yes, you could check that email that just came in at 4:58 p.m., even though you’ve told yourself and your family that you will be off by 5:00 p.m. Let’s be honest with ourselves, though — reading that email at the end of the day has almost always led to us working later, perhaps messing something up that we need to fix tomorrow, or bringing frustration “home” with us.
Now, more than ever, having healthy boundaries around your work is so important. We need to check out from work and check in with home and family and self — to take care of ourselves and connect with those we love.
Here are a few ideas to help you check out of work at the end of the day and back into the rest of your life:
- Have a daily check-out routine. Set up a routine in the last 10-15 minutes of your workday, and do it every single day. Make note of where you are in a project and where you need to start the next day. Clean up your papers and organize things around your work area so that you can start fresh in the morning and not be digging around looking for that paper you just know you saw somewhere yesterday but really need right now! Set yourself up for success tomorrow by closing the day today and giving your mind a rest by knowing that you can show up tomorrow ready to go.
- If you have a door to the room you are working in, close it at the end of the day. You could even put up a sign saying Closed for the Day. See You Tomorrow! Go a step further and put your business hours on the sign as a reminder to yourself and your family. If you don’t have a door, perhaps you can put up another energetic or visual barrier. Or move the computer and papers to a safe place for the night. This may look a little different for all of us given what spaces we do or do not have to work with. The purpose of this is to create a barrier to doing the work when it’s time to be off.
- Ask your partner or roommate if they will be an accountability buddy for you while you are getting into a new routine around being off work for the day. Let them know when you want to be on the clock and when you want to be off the clock, and ask them for a loving nudge, question, or reminder if they see you peeking at that email or project when you’re getting dinner ready.
- Be clear with your co-workers, clients, and anyone else that might be looking for you related to your work about when you will be available and answering emails, returning phone calls, or working on a project. And, the most important part of this is: after you have explicitly drawn the boundaries for yourself, follow through and honor them. Others won’t if you don’t.
With so many changes happening in the way we work it is an opportune time for all of us to practice some work hygiene. What might you want to implement this week to have a more sustainable balance between work and the other parts of your beautiful life that are waiting for you to check in?