How to Have a Life Beyond Nine to Five

five pm

Photo courtesy of Sister72

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” – Proverb

Perhaps you spend your work day in a busy office helping clients or patients. You might manage a restaurant, teach children, or deliver important products to waiting customers. Regardless of what you do for a living, putting some space between your work life and your personal life is critical.

Many studies have already been conducted on the effects of work stress on our bodies and minds. We are regularly advised to take proactive steps that will make our work day less distressing, enabling us to be more productive employees. Try as we might, many of us are still plagued by job stress day after day.

By allowing the black cloud you couldn’t shake at work to follow you home at night, you’re actually entering into a brand new profession: thievery.  Letting work woes occupy your mind, sneaking away to make a few business calls? Now you’re stealing time from your family.

It’s true that your life is a composite conglomerate – a singular unit made up of many different parts. It would be virtually impossible for you to lead completely separate work and home lives because you are, after all, only one person. Until the day when you can pick up an at-home cloning kit at Walgreens, the next best thing is to put some boundaries into place that will make it easier for you to transition from one part of your life into another.

1. Take a detour on your post-work commute.

Stop off to take a short walk in an easily accessible, relatively tranquil area. Even a 15 minute stroll can be enough for you to mindfully bring your focus into the here and now, and away from the chaos of your work day. Alternatively, give yourself some ‘Talk Therapy’ in the car if your commute is already significant. If you’re worried about looking like a loon, buy a cheap blue tooth headset and pretend you’re talking on the phone.

2. Give yourself a cutoff point.

As you make your way home, it’s natural to have the work day’s events tumbling through your mind. Even if you’ve had a real doozy of a day, pick a physical landmark to signify that you’ve entered the Home Zone. Turn your thoughts toward the positive things awaiting you on the other side of your front door – a smiling partner, happy children, good food, hobbies, or a relaxing bath. It’s impossible to completely push work from your mind, but be sure to give your home life the full attention and nurturing it deserves.

3.  Do not unload on your spouse.

Being able to release your work frustrations is important, but you’ve got to find someone other than your spouse to be your sounding board.  Home should be your ‘Happy Place’, and your spouse sees it that way, too. Bringing home a bad attitude and immediately launching into a daily tirade will get tiring, and your spouse will eventually associate your return home with negativity.

Try calling up a friend once or twice a week, preferably someone who you don’t work with, to let off some steam. Keep these calls short, though, so you don’t kill that friendship or spend too much home time on the phone.

4. Make it count.

By not dumping all of your work worries onto your family, you’ll be moving in the right direction, but take it one step further. Ensure that each member of your family feels that you’re fully engaged in family time. Try to give each child at least 15 minutes of your devoted attention. Make eye contact as they tell you about their school day, or what they read about in a book. Let them feel physical contact from you, too. Research shows that it only takes two minutes of hugging per day to make a significant difference in a child’s self-esteem.

While it may seem like a lot to remember, keeping work out of your home life really is a lot easier than you think. Once your family feels that they’re getting the attention they deserve, everything will flow much more smoothly, leading to less arguments, challenges, and conflict. On the flip side, a happy home life will allow you to focus clearly during work hours, increasing your productivity there, too. Win, win, win.

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    • Laurie

      It is even more difficult to decompress, then give your family 100% of your attention when you work from your home-office. For as much as working from home helps me to juggle my career and home lives, I thought the toughest part was going to be trying to avoid the temptation of work-avoidance to join the family in some of their activities; however, it is just the opposite! I find myself avoiding some family obligations by staying in my office and working even longer hours than when I went into the office. I am trying to drag myself out of my office at 5 to walk around the block as my ‘daily commute’…that helps me a great deal.

      • Adrienne McGuire

        So true, Laurie! I wanted to address those people who don’t work from home with this post, since I tend to focus on people like me. I close up shop 30 minutes before anyone else arrives home. My transition usually involves meditation, but sometimes is as simple as leisure reading or sitting in the sun, not thinking about work.

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