How to Leave Work at Work

Joe Weinlick
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For many managers, it is impossible to stop working when the clock strikes five. Instead of wasting your evenings and weekends hunched in front of a laptop or worrying about unfinished tasks, employ one or more work/life balance tactics to ensure separation. In doing so, you'll be a more effective manager and a more present spouse, parent and friend.

The first step in creating a comfortable work/life balance is improving your time management systems. When you spend the day feeling rushed and slightly behind schedule, it is more challenging to leave the office with a sense of accomplishment and peace. To help, schedule 10-minute buffers on either side of each meeting or scheduled activity. These small chunks of time will give you time to think, reflect and transition to the next task without feeling overwhelmed.

Managers are often overloaded with employee requests, meetings and supervisory activities. As the person in charge, you may feel obligated to handle everything yourself — usually, at the sacrifice of work/life balance. Instead, become a master of prioritization and delegation. Go through your list of outstanding tasks and mark those that can only be handled by you. Delegate all other tasks to your assistant or other employees on your team. Then, arrange the remaining tasks in order of importance and deadline. In doing so, you won't need to spend time at home worrying about a crucial task that went unfinished.

During the day, many professionals are easily distracted by phone calls, emails and visiting co-workers. Each interruption kills productivity and puts you farther behind, which leads to poor work/life balance. If you're finding it difficult to focus, Forbes magazine suggests using your phone alarm to mark the end of the task at hand. Pick the most important project on your list, set the alarm for one hour in the future and get to work. Alternatively, instead of checking your email every five minutes, set an alarm for every two hours to indicate a dedicated email break. Alarms can eliminate the worry about missing meetings or losing track of time, so you can stay focused and improve overall time management.

For many professionals, mental preoccupation is the major challenge of achieving a healthy work/life balance. On busy or stressful work days, it can be difficult to transition from work to home; as a result, you end up worrying about a client over dinner or struggling to solve a management problem as you're falling asleep. To change your mindset from professional to personal mode, it can be helpful to create a small ritual at the end of each day. Do a five-minute mediation on the train or sitting in your car — close your eyes, let go of all thoughts and focus on your breath. You can also distract your mind by watching a short television show, reading a chapter of a favorite book or stopping to have a cocktail with friends. If you're a fan of fitness, go straight from work to the gym; an intense workout is an excellent way to clear your head.

It takes time to accomplish a comfortable work/life balance, particularly if you've spent years in workaholic mode. However, when you make an effort to leave work at work, you'll be a better manager and a happier person.


(Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /


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