How do you switch off?

I like my work (a lot). Yet a challenge is that it is tough to keep up. There is always something to do. In order to deal with the potential for stress, I have started to “switch off” at the end of the day.

My switch off process: 1) Make a to do list for the next day, 2) power down my computer, and 3) turn off my phone.

The process closely follows the work shutdown ritual that Cal Newport‘s suggests:

…I initiated it as a New Years Resolutions this past winter. I didn’t have a lot of work related stress at the time, but I liked the idea of getting the absolute most out of my relaxation time.

I’m happy to report that it has worked better than I imagined. I’ve basically eliminated stressful work-related thoughts from my evenings and weekends. As you might expect, this has really improved my ability to relax and focus on other things.

Cal even goes as far as saying a termination phrase: “shutdown complete.” BTW, you can go big and shutdown for an entire day.

(Photo credit M. Winchary.)

Does it work? I think so. Sabine Sonnentag, a professor at the University of Mannheim, recently published a paper that shows the ways that switching off is beneficial. The abstract:

Psychological detachment from work during leisure time refers to a state in which people mentally disconnect from work and do not think about job-related issues when they are away from their job. Empirical research has shown that employees who experience more detachment from work during off-hours are more satisfied with their lives and experience fewer symptoms of psychological strain, without being less engaged while at work. Studies have demonstrated that fluctuations in individuals’ psychological detachment from work can explain fluctuations in their affective states, and have identified positive relations between detachment from work during off-hours and job performance. Trait negative affectivity, high involvement in one’s job, job stressors, and poor environmental conditions are negatively related to psychological detachment from work during off-job time.

Sonnentag, S., Perrewé, P. L., & Ganster, D. C. (2009). Current perspectives in job stress recovery. Research in organizational stress and well-being. 7, 114-118.  Another paper that is similar.

Give it a try or let me know how you “switch off.”