Discover more from Spark
Unplugging and Unwinding
How to hit the off switch and detach from work at the end of the day
Each of my clients has a relentless work ethic. In fact, it’s often this drive and dedication that has got them to where they are today.
However, it’s also the same attribute that can pose one of their most significant challenges: knowing precisely when to step away from their desk and redirect their focus to something other than work.
Despite having full lives filled with friends, families, and social commitments, they often find themselves engaged in work long after their intended "switch-off" time.
And for many, this struggle was particularly pronounced during the pandemic. The ability to disengage, power down their laptops, and establish boundaries became an unexpected hurdle.
When you love your work and thrive on the energy you get from it, it always isn’t easy to detach.
Yet, when you're granted the freedom and flexibility to shape your work environment – deciding where and when to work – the responsibility of self-management becomes paramount.
The gravitational pull of work must not become all-consuming.
Where work is concerned, freedom demands discipline.
The challenge is that when talking about discipline in a business context, we naturally think about the importance of the discipline to work - rather than the discipline not to.
Creating your own equilibrium in life means overcoming the urge to quickly reply to those last few emails, endlessly polish (tinkering with) reports, or just try to get one step closer to sealing a deal.
It’s not unusual to desire a better balance in life. And for many leaders, when really pushed, there is a degree of freedom and autonomy to decide when to unplug.
But the magnetic force that drives their dedication to work is also the force that keeps them going, long beyond their intended ‘log off’ time.
If you find yourself caught in this cycle from time to time, know that you are far from alone.
Below you’ll find a series of questions designed to help you reflect and plan for those moments when unwinding, and detaching, is essential.
Reflect: Start by thinking of a recent time when you finished up your days work feeling calm and complete.
What was the impact?
What was possible?
Observe: Getting perspective on how you tend to work, especially when you’re heads down and in the thick of it, can be hard. Getting up in a helicopter is a useful technique to help zoom out and observe at a broader scale what you can’t see when you’re wrapped up in adrenaline.
So, take a moment and imagine you are up in the sky, watching yourself as the end of the day draws near.
What energy, mindset, behaviour do you want to see in yourself at the end of the day?
How far does the reality of what you observe match what you want?
Know another leader who needs to read this? This post is free, so feel free to share it with them.
Reflect: What keeps you working beyond the time you said you’d stop for the day will be different to what keeps other leaders going. Ask yourself:
When you’re caught up responding to those last few emails, having repeatedly snoozed your ‘Log off now!’ alarm, what is going on inside your mind and body?
What is it inside you that drives you to keep going, when you know you need to stop?
How strong, on a scale of 1-10 is the magnet that pulls you?
Focus: Weakening the strength of the magnet and changing your behaviour takes effort. And new habits don’t stick when you’re trying to change too many things at once.
Instead, focus on building one specific habit and work on it until it becomes your natural way of working. Then identify the next habit and get started.
What is the most easy/challenging/crazy/quick/ thing could you experiment with right now?
Which one thing could have the biggest impact on the way you work?
Cue – the cue that will trigger the brain into action
Craving – the motivational force that will drive you to do it
Response – actually doing the action or habit
Reward – the reward for doing the thing you wanted
What specific cues or triggers in your environment could prompt you to switch your focus to other activities?
How can you connect a sense of anticipation or excitement about the prospect of disengaging from work?
What could be a small reward that you can incorporate?
If you’ve enjoyed this week’s issue please hit the 🤍 button below so that more leaders can find it.
Meantime if you haven’t already, you can subscribe to receive the next issue straight to your inbox.