There is no better feeling than removing your devices from your bedroom at the end of a long day — if lingering work tasks aren’t keeping you from doing so, that is. A work colleague might have sent a last-minute email, or maybe you’re finding it particularly difficult to unplug as the boundaries between work and home continue to blur. No matter what is holding you back from disconnecting, one thing remains true: Each time you convince yourself to log back in to finish one more task or answer that one last email, you’re depriving yourself of much-needed downtime and a good night’s sleep.
If you’re struggling to plan your day or respect the work-life boundaries that allow you to unplug at night, it’s time to rethink the work habits that might be making it difficult. Here are three particular habits that are likely culprits for extending your workday, and what you should do instead so you can practice your Microstep of escorting your devices out of the bedroom at night.
Maintaining an “always-on” mentality
Working from home during the pandemic has proven to be very challenging. Parents with young children are now tasked with juggling childcare, homeschooling, and their usual job responsibilities. Those without children are also finding it hard to draw a line between their personal and professional lives, as they work, live, and find ways to socialize all within the confines of their homes. And on top of it all, many are struggling to remain productive as pandemic-related stress and anxiety sets in.
As a result, we’re working longer and harder to simply keep up, sacrificing sleep and upping our screen time in the process. Multiple studies and surveys have shown that “internet congestion” is increasing as we continue to self-isolate, and our workdays have been extended an average of three hours since mid-March. Our coronavirus worries and anxieties are also keeping us up at night, effectively limiting our sleep when our bodies and minds need it most.
We are paying the price of the always-on mentality. By replacing the idea that we need to be reachable 24/7 with hard-and-fast boundaries, like logging off at a specific time and turning away from our devices at night, we can take back our sleep (and our sanity).
Compiling a massive to-do list
It’s a routine many of us know all too well: You open up your laptop in the morning, check your email, and begin crafting a to-do list with no end in sight. Before you know it, the end of the day has arrived, and you’ve only made it through half of your tasks. At first, it can feel worthwhile — productive even — to have a written account of the things you need to get done. And in many ways, it is. A 2018 study in Perspectives on Psychological Science shows that writing lists can help us remember things when we are stressed. However, writing down your tasks without a sense of prioritization or time can actually limit your productivity and leave you fretting over your to-do list long after working hours are over.
Instead of aimlessly jotting things down, try writing down your priorities at the top of your list, and alternating between stimulating and draining tasks. Perhaps most importantly, try identifying low-priority tasks, or tasks that can be delegated, relentlessly prioritize them, and stop doing them! Developing a method behind your to-do list madness will help you stay aware of what matters most and keep you organized throughout the day, so that you can truly turn away from your devices at night.
Feeling uncomfortable with incompletions
When the end of the day rolls around, you might feel disheartened if you haven’t accomplished everything you wanted to get done. In some cases, you might continue working long into the night. But how are you ever going to feel recharged if your workdays, well, never end? While you might initially feel frustrated, having an unfinished task or two could actually be a sign that you’re successfully prioritizing throughout your day. Plus, we continue adjusting to our new normal, taking care of our most pressing to-dos, and preserving energy where we can, is proving to be more and more important.
If you are uncomfortable with incompletions, it’s time to reframe your mindset. Arianna Huffington, Founder and CEO of Thrive Global, says if you complete absolutely everything you need to get done each day, that’s a sign that your job might not be sufficiently challenging. Have patience with yourself, and avoid negative self-talk when you don’t get something done. When you’re tempted to keep working long after the workday has ended — or forego your Microstep altogether — remember that incompletions are part of the process, and will ultimately help you grow. Escort your devices out of your bedroom without guilt, so you’ll get a good night’s sleep and be ready to take on tomorrow.