Three Methods to Ease the Each day Transition From Work to Household Life
Does that sound familiar to you?
You have just finished a long day of emails, Zoom calls, deadlines, and tasks. You are now switching from work mode to family mode. But for some reason you just can’t turn it off.
You keep thinking about the meeting, the call you had to make, or all the things you couldn’t get through. You live yesterday, tomorrow and five years from now and find it impossible to slow down and be present.
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Psychologist Linda Stone calls this uniquely modern experience the state of “continuous partial attention”. Never fully. Never completely off. We cannot focus our full attention on the things that matter most: our spouse, our children, or even the sight of the sunset, the wind, or the birds chirping outside our window.
How can we make this transition from work to family time smarter? Here are four research-based techniques.
1. Hang up the handset.
The neurosciences are clear: most of us have developed a behavioral addiction to our cell phones. Every time we pick up the device in our pocket, we get a small shot of dopamine, the brain’s primary neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. This current high keeps us coming back to learn more. So it’s not enough just to say, “I’m going to try not to check my phone tonight.” As with any strong addiction, overcoming this attachment to our devices requires radical restraint. Put your phone in the other room. Put it in airplane mode. Lock it in a safe if you have to. Do whatever it takes to break free, if only temporarily, of his grip on you.
2. Change your mindset.
The pace of the modern working day leaves a mental residue. We spend the whole day planning, strategizing and trying to get the maximum productive value out of every moment. It’s the perfect attitude to be productive at work. It is a disaster for family life. So it is worthwhile to end the working day with a short transition phase. Take a few deep breaths. Take a walk around the block. Experience the scientifically proven benefits of meditation. At the end of each work day, do one thing that opens this space to change the way you think from optimizing productivity to optimizing presence and connection.
3. Change your breath to change your mind.
A growing body of research shows that the experience of anger, irritation and fear is closely related to the way we breathe. When we feel tense and tired at the end of the work day, our breath is like a mirror of our mental and emotional state. Just like your fearful or irritable mind, you may find that your breath is short and tight. The result of this research is that all we have to do is change our breath to change our state. And the easiest way to do this is to take a longer, gentler breath through your nose, lengthening each inhale and exhale to about five seconds.
4. Slow down.
Slowing down your breathing is a good first step. But you can go a step further. Try to slow down everything you do. This is usually not what we usually do at the end of the work day. Usually we let the breakneck pace of our work translate into our home pace. So when you’re preparing dinner, eating, or doing the washing up, you’re deliberately slowing down. See what happens when you turn every evening into some kind of short vacation, a time to relax, unwind, be present and experience the rare opportunity to be with the people you love most.
The opinions expressed by Inc.com columnists here are their own, not those of Inc.com.