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How to Stop Obsessing Over Work When You’re Not at the Office

How to Stop Obsessing Over Work When You’re Not at the Office

Person working on the laptop

American author Annie Dillard once famously said: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” For a large majority of us, around nine hours of the day are spent in the office (yikes!). That means ⅓ of our lives is spent at work, according to psychologist Andrew Naber (cue tear of desperation on our cheeks). Despite dedicating so much time to work, we somehow always want more, or that’s what it seems like. We let it creep into our personal lives, by turning our 9-to-5 jobs into 24-hour-long obsessions. From slacking our coworkers at 9pm to checking our emails as soon as we wake up, the work-life balance is completely out-of-whack. The work stress, office goss’, and tight project deadlines weave themselves into our dreams (turned to nightmares), our grocery notes ( “call Pat” instead of “kumquat”), conversations with friends (incessant venting). Taking work with you back home everyday is draining and unhealthy. That being said, here are three methods to stop obsessing about work when you’re anywhere but. 

Plan ahead.

Let’s say you haven’t completed your work goals for the day, which most perceive as a failure (even though that’s not always the case). You take that feeling of regret into the night, work your mind, and build stress around it. But instead of anxiously thinking about it, make a note of the uncompleted objective, and write down how you will tackle it the next day (before heading out of the office). By creating an action plan, you’ll relieve yourself from a feeling of uncertainty and disappointment. And if your boss asks you the next day about how you plan on completing the project, you’ll have a smart, well-organized, and concise answer. 

Keep your mind busy. 

By giving your brain another problem to solve, you’ll stop ruminating about work. Plan a girls’ night out with your besties, watch the new Bill Gates documentary that you’ve been meaning to stream, or try out that new sushi restaurant down the street with your foodie friends. Focusing your mental energy on non-work-related events will help keep work thoughts out of your mind so that you can cultivate your interests, hobbies, relationships, and all the other cool stuff life has to offer outside of the office.

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Mark the end of work with a transitional ritual.

Find a physical action that separates you from work. For some, taking the subway back home marks the end of a work day. For others, maybe turning off Slack notifications on your phone symbolizes that you’ve made your status switch to “offline.” Whatever it may be, find a consistent ritual that will indicate your transition from work life to personal life. The more you get in the habit of doing this, the less stressed out you’ll feel, and the healthier you’ll be!

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