Four Ways to Make Easier Transitions Between Work Time and Personal Time
The transition to working from home to just being at home can be hard in normal times. It’s even harder to make that transition during a global pandemic.
To do your best job at work (or "at work"), you need to have some time off work as well.
“Physical presence doesn’t always equate to mental presence,” Elizabeth Grace Saunders says in Harvard Business Review. “You could be sitting at your desk but more preoccupied about a home repair than the assignment at hand, or you could be at the kitchen table thinking more about the proposal you have to finish than the people eating dinner with you.”
Saunders offers four ways to make the transition between work time and personal time easier.
Have a starting work routine
On Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Mister Rogers started his time with his audience by taking off his jacket and changing shoes. The routine signaled to himself and to his audience that the setting had changed. It’s not necessarily what you do that is important, but like Mister Rogers, it’s having the routine itself that is key.
You could have a cup of coffee before turning on your computer to read emails. Or, read the news before checking your to-do list for each day.
“Whatever works for you, try to do those activities in the same way each day,” Saunders says. “The point behind this is to prime your brain that this is now ‘work’ time.”
Make a plan
Having a plan for work time and for down time helps delineate the two.
“Knowing that everything has a ‘place,’ such as a time during your work day when you will work on a presentation or a time in the evening when you can research activities for your family, helps you to not feel like you have to do work during personal time or vice versa,” Saunders says.
Prioritize your communication
There are times when you may have to engage in personal communication during the workday, but try to keep it to a minimum. Focus on communicating your work with your appropriate internal or external audiences. On the flip side, try to not answer work emails once you’re done working for the day.
“This will not only keep your time invested in the right places but also keep you mentally present in both your professional life and personal life,” Saunders explains.
Set up a wrap-up routine
By this time, you should have set up a routine to start work. It’s also important to set a routine for the end of the workday.
“This could include doing a final check to make sure that all critical emails have a response, looking over your task list to know that you have completed what’s essential,” Saunders says. “And if you do realize that you will need to work later at night, decide on exactly what you will complete and when.”
Focusing on your work is just as important as focusing on your personal time, so it’s important to take steps to do both.