Whether it's demanding clients or an endless series of deadlines, the challenges of running your own business can quickly consume our lives. And the rise of smartphones and social media has made it next to impossible to zone out - greater connectivity has turned us into around-the-clock workers that struggle to effectively switch off.
But although blurring our work life with leisure time may seem necessary, it also takes a serious toll on productivity and mental health. Failing to value our after-hours space can actually hamper our professional progress by draining us of clarity, creative energy and physical strength. It's no secret that learning how to zone out effectively is a powerful and essential skill. Here are 10 ways to fast-track this process.
1. Schedule a daily exercise routine
Setting aside time to exercise is not only important for your physical health, it sharpens your concentration by taking your mind off work. Getting your pulse racing is a sure-fire way to switch off your work brain and focus your energy on other goals. Whether it's jogging, aerobics or swimming, donning your exercise gear will help you zone out.
2. Cast your gadgets aside
Are you addicted to your iPad? Can't tear yourself away from your iPhone? Your gadget obsession could be impacting your downtime and hurting your ability to do good work. Why not cast aside your gadgets a couple of days a week and do something you genuinely enjoy instead - if you add less fuel to your addiction, it's bound to control you less.
3. Revamp your social calendar
If your social calendar is lacklustre, it's no wonder you allow your work to spill into your personal time. But if you schedule events to look forward to during the week into your calendar, you're less likely to punch the clock after hours - prioritising fun can see you quickly and effectively zone out.
4. Embrace rituals
Whether it's heading to your car at 6pm sharp or engaging in a post-work jog as soon as you've changed out of your work clothes, making rituals part of your daily life will help mark out when it's time to focus on work or switch off. Repetition is a powerful way of training the mind and body, so don't be afraid to embrace it.
5. Make an effort to unplug
We live in a hyperconnected world, but to zone out you need to truly unplug. Switching off work emails on your smartphone or trying yoga and meditation will help you instantly switch off.
6. Say no to social media
Social media can be hugely powerful, but it can also spark incessant background noise that can be destroy productivity and stop us from enjoying our leisure time. Although it might seem scary, occasionally maintaining social media blackouts will help you unwind better and quash your fear of missing out.
Commit to working less
Ultimately, productivity isn't about how long you work, but what you're getting done when you're in front of the screen. If you honour your downtime by committing to working less, your productivity will actually increase.
8. Involve yourself in a new project
Are you passionate about art or dreaming about running a marathon? Pick a project that excites you and throw yourself into it after hours.
Seek out inspiration
It's all too easy to become an office drone and forget that zoning out can help spark your imagination and personal growth. That's why seeking out inspiration on a regular basis can help focus your attention on bigger goals. Why not try volunteering for a charity, visiting an art gallery or starting those French classes you've always dreamed about? Breaking out of a rut will give you a new lease on your working life.
Respect your boundaries
To zone out properly, you need to respect your boundaries and make sure your clients do too. If you commit to cherishing your downtime, the benefits will follow.
Switching off is essential to working well, but it's all too easy to make excuses. However, if you make it a vital part of your routine, it's bound to transform your personal life - as well as your career.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Neha Kale is a freelance writer and editor with over six years’ experience in the media and finance industries. She has held senior editorial positions at various business and technology publications and specialises in online strategy, innovation, creativity and management best practices.