“I don’t want anything to do with a 9-to-5 mentality”, a freelance developer I ran into boasted. “I work (almost) 24/7.”
Maybe this particular developer thrives when he spends almost all of his waking hours working. But for most of us, it is incredibly harmful to let our work take over our lives like that.
I don’t advocate that we all work from nine to five and then refuse to think about work in the evenings and on the weekends. Far from it! Instead, I advocate taking plenty of breaks from work, which makes us healthier and more productive.
How can we make it easier to take restful breaks from work? How do we stop our work from preoccupying our minds? The key is to accept this one fact:
There will always be more work.
At the end of a work session, there might be things you didn’t get to. You might have many unread emails. You could try to stem the tide by working longer hours, but that’s not sustainable.
Instead, try this:
- Do your work in order of importance. If you find yourself wanting to do more than you can each day, it helps to complete your most important tasks first. That way, the leftover tasks that you don’t get to aren’t the ones that you’ll regret not having done.
- Institute a shutdown ritual. If you work fixed hours, you can create a five-minute ritual at the end of your work day that lets your brain and your body know that it’s time to relax. It doesn’t have to be anything spiritual!
- Take stock of what you did do. Reframe the situation from a negative one (what you didn’t get to) to a positive one (what you did get to). It will remind you of what you’re proud to have accomplished.
It takes effort to internalize the fact that there will always be more work. But the closer you get, the healthier your relationship with your work will be.