It worries me that there is even a need to ask this question. Do you really ever manage to unplug from work? Are you constantly thinking, worrying about work and deadlines?
Truth be told, we have programmed our brains to imitate modern gadgets. We let our brains enjoy the tech equivalents of “sleep mode” and “hibernation” but seldom “shut if off”.
Computers have three levels of low-power states when they’re not in use: sleeping, hibernating, and shut down. Both in sleep mode and hibernate mode, the computer shuts down portions of itself but saves a history or snapshot of what you were working on. Hibernate mode is a deeper sleep and consumes less power than sleep mode.
When was the last time you shut down your laptop?
When I say shut down, I am not referring to closing the flap of the laptop as you get up from your desk. That is what most of us do.
Geek Squad Agent Derek Meister advises that “even if you do keep your laptop in sleep mode most nights, it’s a good idea to fully shut down your computer at least once a week.”
When it comes to the human brain, I’d say shut it off from work every day. Unplug from work more often.
The secret to maintaining a healthy work-life balance is our willingness and ability to unplug from work – when work is done for the day or when the allocated work hours are over.
The mind and soul need a much deeper sleep to get rejuvenated before resuming work the next day. If all we allow our brain is a “sleep” or “hibernate mode”, it’s not left with enough computing (brain) power to immerse itself completely in other life functions – family dinners, a quiet walk, coffee with friends, a good night’s sleep.
The result – we are there but not quite there.
What happens when we fail to unplug from work?
- We feel drained
- There is no time or energy to celebrate the little things and small wins
- Nagging spouse, complaining children and friends
- An “absent” you from moments you wish you were truly present
A fatigued, overworked and unhappy mind leads to physical health problems too.
How to unplug from work?
Let us use another computer analogy.
Modern computers shut down in an instant. There is no whirring of the fans as you give a command to shut down. Newer models have solid-state equipment that make shutdowns smooth.
The older Pentium and pre-Pentium processors needed more time and energy to shut down.
It’s the same with people.
Some of us are wired to think and act binary. We switch from one mode to another like flipping a switch.
Others though need time to switch from one mode to another.
To unplug from work or from any feeling, we need to identify the “time and energy” to switch off and on.
What helps is developing a ritual to unplug from work.
Develop a ritual to unplug from work
Computers can be programmed and minds can be trained.
Machine learning imitates learning by humans. When we consciously perform the same steps of activities multiple times, our subconscious remembers the sequence like a computer program.
When a preset trigger is applied, the subconscious repeats the steps and hence we have a control on the outcome.
We need to trick our mind to help shut off from work. We could do this individually or collectively.
Program your mind to unplug from work
Start your ritual by clearing the physical work space – shut off the computer, place all the work stationary, wires, gadgets in your bag or drawer. Tick off items on your to-do list. If certain activities could not be completed, set new timelines for each.
While you unclutter and sort your physical working space, it will trigger a similar response in your mental working space.
Your mind acknowledges the new timelines for unfinished work and hence subconsciously advances the need to mentally process information.
You start getting into a “shut down” zone. Like the old PCs, the fans start whirring to shut down for the day.
A few examples of rituals to help shut down from work
- 15 to 30 minutes of reading a book. Do not read business or management books. You need to make your mind wander off – far away from anything that relates to work. Choose fiction or poetry
- Walk the talk: make a phone call to your significant other, parents, children or friends. Walk while you talk to them for about 10 to 15 minutes. Share your day and know about theirs
- Write down your thoughts: writing has healing powers. It is meditation in itself. Keep a notebook and pen and write down your thoughts. You may even write a short story or poetry. If you run out of ideas, write a letter to someone
- Enjoy a post work tea or coffee. Walk to the office pantry or a nearby tea stall. If you work from home, walk into the kitchen and make yourself a cup of tea or coffee. Take time to experience the flavor and taste while you let your mind wander off to pleasant thoughts and memories
- If you are fortunate enough to be in close proximity to a beach or a park or a playground, spend some time outdoors and observe nature and others around you. For the modern day human, shopping malls are a useful alternative. Window shopping is a great unplugging ritual
The list could go on. The ingredients of each ritual has one thing in common – no thought or activity in your daily unplugging ritual should be even remotely connected to work.
You do not want to trigger work deadlines while you shut down your mental gadget.
Hope you enjoyed reading. Practice this yourself. Help others around you to unplug from work effectively and immerse themselves in life’s other pleasures. Do like, follow and comment to support Business Management Blog. Please follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank you.