We would all love to know how to switch off from work the second the clock strikes five or six on a Friday evening. Yet, for many of us, it feels like an impossibility. Often, we view our weekends as a time to catch up and deal with overflow rather than time off.
Yet, whilst it may keep our clients happy, it also deprives us of any opportunity to rest. As a result, many of us suffer from burnout and end up doing more harm than good.
So what’s the solution?
Throughout this article, we will explore 6 strategies to help you maximise your productivity without sacrificing your free time. So whilst there may be an occasional fire to put out, working at the weekend can become the exception rather than the rule.
With that being said, here are our 6 ways to switch off from work:
Identify the root cause of your weekend workload
If you want to learn how to switch off from work, you must first identify and address the root cause of your weekend workload. For example, many of us have to put in additional hours during tax season to meet demands. Whilst it isn’t ideal, we all know it’s necessary around that time of year.
However, if you find yourself working on the weekends year-round, you need to ask yourself why that is. Is it because you’re not delegating enough? Or is it because you haven’t set yourself clear boundaries, meaning clients and colleagues regularly contact you on the weekends?
Whatever the reason, you must address the issue if you ever hope to switch off from work. Like we said before, we’re not saying you should never work on the weekends, but it definitely shouldn’t become a habit.
Are you just tired or is it more than that? Take our free burnout self-assessment to find out whether you are in danger of burning out!
Develop a planning system
Some firms will expect you to work eight, nine, ten chargeable hours a day. In which case, it’s understandable that some of your work will spill over into the weekend. However, there are ways you can manage your time to optimise productivity and minimise workload overflow.
Developing a planning system is one of the most valuable things you can you in a high-pressure job. Outlining a plan at the beginning of each week allows you to visualise what you need to achieve each day. You can then rank your daily tasks in order of priority to ensure you’re successfully meeting all of your deadlines.
It’s also worth noting which time of day you’re most productive – for example, if you’re a morning person, schedule your heavy-duty projects before lunch. That way, you’re not wasting time trying to draw blood from a stone.
The key here is to be realistic with your time. After all, you can’t perform to the best of your abilities if you can’t switch off from work. So try scheduling in your downtime alongside your work schedule.
Implement physical barriers
Checking your emails on the weekend is a difficult habit to kick – especially since we all have them linked to our smartphones. So, what’s the solution?
Creating physical barriers between you and your work devices is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to ensure you switch off from work at the weekend. Why? Because you can’t work if you don’t have access to your work-related devices.
So try leaving your laptop at work over the weekend. If that isn’t an option, leave it with a trusted friend or relative and retrieve it on a Sunday evening. Same for your work phone – switch it off on a Friday evening and turn it back on Sunday night. That way, you’re aware of any urgent issues before you return to the office on Monday, and you can plan your week accordingly.
Prepare for the coming week
Now, this is quite similar to our point about planning, but hear us out. Many people struggle to switch off at the weekends because they’re worried about the coming week. Even when they’re away from their laptops, they’re thinking about what needs to get done.
So, in order to combat this issue, we recommend taking 10 minutes each Friday to write down all of your tasks for the coming week. Not only does this help to clear your mind, but it also makes scheduling your week on a Sunday evening much quicker (meaning you can enjoy more of your weekend).
With just a few minutes of prior planning on a Friday evening, you’re able to enter the weekend knowing exactly what you can expect come Monday morning.
Hold yourself accountable
Implementing a new habit requires discipline. Therefore, if you want to learn how to switch off from work, you need to be able to hold yourself accountable. For example, if you catch yourself checking your emails, make a conscious effort to step away. Don’t allow yourself to spend the rest of your weekend working just because you spent 10 minutes sifting through your inbox.
You can also ask your friends, families and colleagues to hold you accountable. Often, they will be less forgiving when you slip up, which will motivate you to complete all your necessary tasks between Monday and Friday.
Set clear boundaries
The difficulty with transitioning away from a seven day work week is that it affects your clients too. After all, if you have always been contactable on the weekends, you can’t just suddenly stop answering calls and emails.
Therefore, if you truly want the opportunity to switch off from work, you have to start setting clear boundaries with your clients and colleagues. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for defining your working hours – it depends on your lifestyle, employer and workload. (Although, offering flexibility Monday through Friday can certainly help preserve your weekends.)
Once you have decided upon your working hours (should you have the flexibility to do so), you must communicate this with your clients and colleagues. These hours don’t have to be set in stone, but it’s always prudent to let people know when you’re out of the office. Before signing off at the end of the day, email your clients to let them know you’re logging off. Or, if it’s Friday, let them know you’ll be back in the office on Monday morning.
It’s important to note that you must maintain these boundaries if you want people to respect them. Sending polite reminders to your clients is a great way to ensure they don’t contact you on the weekends. For example, if you’re waiting on client information in order to fulfil a deadline, you have every right to say, “I need this information by this noon today to allow me to turn it around in time. Otherwise, I will not be able to do it until Monday morning.”
Respect your need to rest
There is a cruel irony in the amount of discipline it takes to switch off from work. It isn’t as easy as shutting your laptop and calling it a day – it requires planning and determination.
However, if you want to consistently perform to the best of your abilities (and avoid burnout), you must respect your body’s need to rest and recuperate. That’s why it is so important to learn how to switch off from work. Whilst it may take some time to adjust, setting boundaries with your clients (and yourself) will allow you to create a sustainable work schedule, ensuring you’re consistently at your best.
Don’t forget to take our free burnout self-assessment to find out whether you are just tired or are in danger of burning out!