You wrap up your last phone call for the day and aim to chill with the family. A few minutes later, your phone beeps with a notification and you automatically open it up and are responding to a message/email without realising it. Maybe you were in the middle of a conversation with your kid, or the spouse, or working on your hobby. Now, that's disrupted in a crappy way.
A few days back, I wrote about losing work-life balance. The above issue is central to reclaiming it, or at least, that's what I've found for myself. Previously, our commute back from work helped us to do this. Any left-over tasks or items that needed to be crossed off the list, there was time to mull it over and note things down. But now that most of us are working from home, the commute is a few feet. Without an adequate transition, we make silly mistakes.
Here's what you need to do
Have a method to transition from work-mode to family-mode. Let's say you aim to finish work at 6 pm. Have an alarm that goes off around 5.45 pm. That's your signal to start wrapping things up. When that happens, what you need to do are
- write down things that are pending/incomplete
- write down things that need to be done tomorrow
- write down your thoughts on the stuff you worked on today
And once that's done, you are officially done with work.
A few more clean-ups to do.
- Switch off your laptop. Yes, switch it off. Not just close it.
- Turn off notifications on your phone. If possible, have a work-mode where all email apps are maintained.
On to the actual transition, which is you mentally switching from being at work to being with the family. This can be a 5-minute routine or much longer. A 5-minute routine that can work is simply you sitting quietly without any devices and switching gears in your head. Getting ready to play your role of parent and spouse, rather than just arbitrarily wandering in.
I prefer a longer routine as I need time for myself as well. Especially after a day of interacting with other people, as an introvert, I need to get some energy back by being with myself. So, I spend 20-30 minutes doing breathing drills and my OS resets. And as I am doing this, I gently coax my mind to stop thinking about work and just being in the moment. At the end of this, along with the above "turning off the laptop" stuff, I am done with work and I am free to spend time with the family.
At the beginning, it is hard to do. Things might go wrong. The fix is in finding why that happened and setting a structure in place, and not in breaking your system. Plus, it is important to remember that exceptions can always happen i.e. there might be a real emergency that requires you to continue working.
Red flags are when there's an emergency every week and you keep making exceptions.
Once you transition, you are fully present with your family. You recharge and rejuvenate yourself. You will find stress levels go down and your productivity improve as well.
Learn to transition!