Career Woman

Infographic: How to silence your inner work voice and enjoy your free time

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We live in a noisy age. Surrounded by voices. A media news cycle that won’t quit. Do-gooders and mansplainers. Tweeters and influencers. Everyone, it seems, has a hot take on the state of the nation, the state of the planet – and the way that you’re going about things, too.

Whether well-intentioned or otherwise, occasionally a voice peeps through that resonates because it makes enormous sense. But more often than not, when you find a way to switch down the volume for an hour or two – going for a phone-free walk, switching the light out for bedtime – it’s a massive relief.

Unfortunately for many of us, these moments of quiet are just an opportunity for yet another voice to pipe up: the inner voice that you brought home from work.

It doesn’t help that work already permeates much of our downtime. Through duty or through default, the paths of communication are open twenty-four hours a day. If you love what you do, it becomes part of you; even if you don’t, you worry about losing work, or finding yourself in an even more uncomfortable position than you already are. If you’re in a leadership position, you have a whole bunch of other people to worry about, too.

But it doesn’t do you any good – in fact, it can kill you. The Japanese even have a word for death from overwork: karōshi. And you can only achieve so much with hard work on long hours before the stress and fatigue starts cancelling your efforts out.

Simply knowing this makes it no easier to hush that inner voice than it is to stop that news cycle. What’s required is a shift in lifestyle, paired with incisive in-the-moment techniques, to set your mind where you need it to be.

Establishing an exit plan

What’s your routine when you leave work each day? Most of us have one, even if we didn’t plan it. Day after day, we get into patterns: switch the monitor off, grab your bag and coat, take a route through the office that avoids folk you don’t want to get stuck into a lengthy conversation with. It’s no surprise that when you reach the station, and when you finally reach home, your mind is still in the office.

So, start by making a new exit plan to create clear divides between your work time and your personal time. Even if it takes a few minutes longer than your current routine, it’ll improve the quality of your time off. Tidy your desk. Make a to-do list. Leave your work phone in a drawer, if possible. At least turn off your mobile data when possible so you’re back living in the real, civilian world and not in your virtual office.

Switch off your computer properly, app by app, shutting the whole machine down instead of just the monitor. And get a change of clothes if you can – even a pair of comfortable shoes can send that inner voice a memo that says, “this is MY time!”

If, on the other hand, your problem is not how you leave the office, but an inability to leave it at all, concentrate more on your post-work plans. Make arrangements to meet people, take a yoga class, or to commute with a friend who works nearby – in other words, make a 6pm date you can’t get out of. Start on your ‘exit plan’ before you leave, and you’ve got that inner voice cornered from both angles.

When nothing else works

With the best of intentions, during intense work periods (or if you’re a natural worrier or workaholic) that inner voice can break through the cracks even after you think you’ve achieved ‘closure’ on your working day.

Whether you’re lying in bed unable to sleep or your sunny Saturday afternoon has become locked in the shadow of work gloom, there are pro-active steps you can take to shift your state of mind.

Even a brief meditation session can send that inner voice packing. Meditation can be a scary and mysterious word, but here it’s intended as an umbrella term for any effort at deep focus that utilizes your mind, body, and/or surroundings.

Mindfulness, despite the name, does a bit of both. Focus your mind intensely on an element of your surroundings for a fixed period of time – five minutes is good – and try not to think about anything else. It could be the sounds inside or outside your home. What can you hear when you take the time to unmesh the soundscape of a busy suburban street or garden?

Progressive muscle relaxation is a more body-oriented meditation. Again, you can do this in five minutes, but you might want to take a bit longer not to rush it. If you’re not already in bed, find somewhere to sit or lie down straight, and close your eyes. Take five deep breaths, and then – starting from your toes – tense and release every muscle in your body. If your work voice keeps interrupting, you can chant as you do it: repeat the name of the body part that you’re tensing, or find another word that you like to say.

Great. You just got your civilian voice back. This is the start of the quiet times! If you’re struggling to get into the routine, or you’re interested in finding more ways to stop thinking about work after hours, check out this helpful new infographic from CashNetUSA.

 

Infographic: How to silence your inner work voice and enjoy your free time

About John Cole

John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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