How to switch off after work
“Technology is a large part of the problem. Mobile communication has increased tenfold over the last two decades. It is a double-edged sword. Our lives are incessantly bombarded and interrupted by emails, texts and phone calls – much of it unnecessary – keeping us plugged in and unable to relax. The economic climate is equally at fault. We all feel less secure in our jobs, so work harder.”
But into this perfect storm of muddled minds and soaring stress levels, Prof Cropley is keen to inject some calm – for which he has attracted plaudits from no less a figure than the internet media icon, Arianna Huffington. In his new book, The Off-Switch, Prof Cropley outlines an arsenal of techniques that could reduce the amount of time it takes us to unwind in the evening – which is, on average, between 30 and 90 minutes – by half.
A 2013 study of 300 white-collar workers, found that those who valued leisure time, and scheduled activities they enjoyed, were more able to detach from work. And while the average worker fails to use six days of paid leave each year, accounting firm Ernst & Young found that for every additional 10 hours of time off taken, employees’ annual performance ratings improved by eight per cent.
Imagine driving a car all day at 100mph – and then pulling in to a residential area. Unless you check your speed, you’re heading for disaster. “It’s the same with work,” says Prof Cropley. “Establishing an ‘unwinding ritual’ at the end of the working day trains your mind to slow down.
During the last half an hour, only begin jobs that are easy to complete, make a to-do list for the next day, clear your desk. With time, your mind and body will come to anticipate winding down.”
Having regular breaks throughout the day is also essential as it stops you from racing into overdrive. “Take a ten minute break every couple of hours, and at least a half an hour lunch.” And plan your leisure time just as you plan work time. “Once at home, if you sit around with nothing to do, your mind will quickly make the short leap back to work,” he says.
“Timetable events: organise to cook a meal, an evening out with friends or work in the garden.” If it’s in the diary, it’s more likely to happen.
References: Daily Telegraph