You know the feeling. You work hard for hours, reach the end of your workday, and you just can’t bring yourself to log off. A sense of guilt starts to bubble up, and before you know it you’re back at your desk elbows-deep in work. Learning how to switch off from work without feeling guilty can be a tricky mindset block to overcome and is more common than you think.
It’s a direct result of hustle culture. But taking time away from your business is good for your business, and practicing strong work life boundaries is great for your mental health.
If you struggle to step away from your business, here’s how to switch off from work without feeling guilty.
5 Steps to Switching Off From Work Without the Guilt
Ready to take back your free time and ditch the “clock out” guilt? Here’s how.
1. Identify why you struggle with switching off.
There are tons of reasons you might struggle with stepping away from work at the end of the day. And for most business owners, there are several reasons. Just a few:
- You’re over-connected and have a hard time shifting your thoughts away from your work and being present in your personal life.
- You’re over-dependent on technology and are afraid of missing something–an email, a notification, or a new post–while you’re away from your phone and computer. (If this is you, take a look at my phone detox guide.)
- You’re avoiding your personal life by spending all your time and energy on your work.
- You’ve got too much on your plate and feel like you don’t have the time to rest while your to-do list is so full.
- You’re overwhelmed and overstimulated by the information and content you consume during the workday and once you log off.
- You’re immersed in work talk, either in-person with your friends or on social media.
Whatever your reason, understanding the root cause is the first step in ditching the guilt of logging off and creating a routine that allows you to take time away.
2. Understand where your guilt is coming from.
Struggling to switch off is one thing, but feeling guilty about it is another. In order to ditch the guilt, you first have to understand what’s making you feel guilty in the first place.
Most of my clients feel guilty about switching off because of expectations they’ve placed on themselves. Some of them feel like they have to “keep up” with the other business owners they see online, the ones who seem to work 24/7. Others view rest and relaxation as “lazy,” so they overwork themselves to feel productive. And some genuinely feel like they’re letting themselves, their clients, or their communities down by not working more.
Once you know why you’re feeling guilty, you can start to challenge your beliefs about yourself. Why do you feel like your worth is tied to your productivity? Why do you view rest as laziness? How might more rest and balance allow you to serve your clients better? Get critical and start to rework how you view your work life balance.
3. Get to know the relationship between productivity and stress.
When I was in college, I had a simple rule for myself: after 10 p.m., studying was useless. I recognized that my brain didn’t function well at night, so I didn’t force myself to cram the night before a big exam. It would have been a total waste of time, and I would have woken up feeling exhausted and grumpy.
The same goes for your business. Once you reach your stress threshold, you also reach your limit for productivity. Any work you do beyond that point won’t be your best work. Stress and productivity have an inverse relationship, so the less stressed you are, the more productive you’ll be.
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(Oh, and if you’re someone who feels they do their best work an hour before a project is due, think again. You’re putting yourself into an artificial fight-or-flight cycle, increasing your cortisol levels, and putting strain on your body and mind.)
4. Redefine what “switching off” means to you.
Some of my clients feel guilty about switching off at the end of the day because they feel weird doing nothing. They imagine themselves vegging out on the couch, sipping wine, and binging Netflix, and that doesn’t align with who they want to be.
But switching off doesn’t have to mean doing nothing. There are tons of ways to give your body and mind the rest they deserve while still being active. Pick up a new craft, do a gentle workout, or read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for months. Switching out isn’t lazy, it’s restful!
5. Pick a transition activity.
When you’re deep in focused work, switching off at the end of the day can feel like hitting a brick wall. One moment, you’re working hard. The next, you’re supposed to be still. It’s jarring!
To make the switch easier for your brain, pick transition activity to help slow your thoughts down and get yourself ready for the evening. You might journal about your day, head to the gym, start dinner, or just do some light stretching. Pick something you know you’ll look forward to, something you won’t be tempted to skip in favor of working for another hour or two. Then, put it in your calendar and set an alarm to remind you when to “clock out” and start to wind down.
Want to create a business that allows you to live more, work less and switch off from work without feeling guilty?
Switching off from work is hard with work thoughts consuming your mind 24/7. That's why I've created my Time-Freedom Blueprint that shares my exact strategies to carve out time for myself and only work 4-hour days, even when things are busy.