Why You Need an End-of-Work Routine (Episode 23) - leahremillet.com

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Why You Need an End-of-Work Routine (Episode 23)

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Description: In this episode, we are talking about the importance of having an “end of work” routine and why you need one, especially when you work from home. This isn’t just for you and your sanity, this is for your family!

When I was newly married, I worked in downtown Seattle, and if I didn’t plan my commute just right, it could be the difference between taking 40 minutes to get home and two hours. So yep, I learned the exact moment when I had to be out of my office and walking to my car. I used those drives to listen to books or have a serious car-karaoke session. Sometimes I’d even just pray or rattle off reasons I was grateful, but the point is there was this very obvious transition between work and home because I had that car ride. 

For the last 14 years, though, my work has always been just down the hall from my bedroom. My commute literally takes me 11 steps. I counted it this morning, and that might be very similar for you. The line has blurred between where work ends and where home begins. Add to that, the fact that our work is literally in our pocket at all times, and the boundaries can get pretty blurry!

And that’s why I want to talk about an end-of-work routine: Something that signifies the workday is over, but doesn’t leave you feeling terrible because you didn’t do enough. But what if we could do the work better in less time so that we can have those boundaries and feel really good about it? (Spoiler: we CAN!) 

This will help:

👉 Anyone who wants better work-life balance
👉 Those who can’t seem to shut work off 
👉 Work from home moms to shift gears more easily 

In this episode: 

0:40 Why You Need an End-Of-Work Routine
3:29 Where the 40 Hour Work Week Came From
5:28 Work-Life Balance DOES Exist
8:33 Setting Office Hours
9:40 The Power of an Alarm 
10:10 Final Wrap Up 
11:06 Daily Five and Time Blocking 
12:51 Make a Physical Switch

WORK-LIFE BALANCE ACTUALLY DOES EXIST 

Searching for work-life balance has become a whole industry. In fact, when I googled the phrase, there were over two billion search results. The problem with work-life balance is that the concept can be a little elusive, and that’s left a lot of people shouting that it is a myth and therefore does not exist. This idea drives me absolutely crazy and makes me so upset because I remember hearing that when I was first trying to figure this out, and it made me feel hopeless.

I remember feeling that if this is as good as it gets, I am doomed. But I believe that work-life balance absolutely, unequivocally DOES exist, but we have to understand what it is.

Work-life balance, simply put, is feeling that all areas of your life are aligned and that they feel good. It’s not about the perfect equal amount of time being spent on every single task because that’s ridiculous. It’s not about being perfect in everything, which is also ridiculous. It is more about prioritizing our core values.

CREATING AN END-OF-WORK ROUTINE

Creating an end-of-work routine is an intentional practice that signals to us and to others the switch from work to home. That intentional switch has been a game changer for me in being able to actually achieve that elusive work-life balance. Here are 5 things you can do to create an end-of-work routine and get you on the path to better work-life balance. 

1. SET OFFICE HOURS 

Working whenever and wherever sounds like freedom, but I promise – it can quickly turn into a trap! It’s important to define office hours. I even go as far as to post those hours on my door so that everyone can see them. It does two really incredible things for me. Number one, it removes a lot of interruptions. Someone might come down the hallway, they want to ask mom something, they look and they think, “oh, she’s coming out at noon for lunch. Okay, then I can wait.” It also allows everyone to know that I’m done for the day at two o’clock (or whatever that time is) and if I don’t come out, they are allowed to come get me and keep me accountable.

The posted office hours create the boundary and minimize interruptions so that I can be more productive when I am actually supposed to be working.

2. USE AN ALARM

My number two tip is using an alarm to give yourself a warning to wrap things up. Now, this timeframe needs to be whatever works for you. For some, they might feel like they actually need a two or three system alarm. You might need one that says you have 60 minutes left, one at 30 minutes, and then one that goes off with 10 minutes left to work. Or maybe you just need a 15 minute reminder that helps you wrap everything up. I really like having one that helps me to realize I need to wrap up whatever I’ve been working on and then one more that signifies my final wrap up. 

 3. GIVE YOURSELF SPACE FOR A FINAL WRAP UP 

The final wrap-up is basically a reset. It’s resetting your desk, your desktop, etc. If you use my desktop organizer, which is free, you can grab it right here. This is a great time to just reset your desktop organizer.

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I’m going to put away all my pens and notepads, take any dishes to the kitchen… On my desktop, I’m going to reorganize my folders, move things from inspired project to archive or wherever it needs to go. And then I’m also going to update my Daily Five, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

Taking a few minutes to reset everything, means when I step back into work next time, I feel ready instead of chaotic. 

4. PLAN FOR TOMORROW AND TIME BLOCK

Number four is about writing out tomorrow’s tasks and then time-blocking them. I am a big fan of only writing three to five things per day: The Daily Five. Now, you can absolutely do more than that, but there are never more than five items on my list because it’s really hard to get more than five things done. You don’t want to end up feeling like you weren’t effective or productive or successful.

I have a larger list that’s kind of my brain dump list, which includes all the other things that need to happen, but that’s not what I’m looking at for the day. For the day, I only want to look at three to five things. I look at about how long I think each one is going to take and I time block them.

This does two powerful things. One, it helps me to assess and make sure that what I’m planning to get done tomorrow I can actually fit into the day. And two, it gives me a good sense of what everything is going to look like. 

5. PHYSICAL SWITCH 

Once all of that is done, I usually have a final alarm that goes off to signal the end of the day. Now, when I was working outside of the home this is when a physical switch would occur. I would shut everything off, leave the building, and commute home. Working from home looks different, but making a physical shift to leave work can be a game changer.

Think like Mr. Rogers when he changed from his day shoes to his home shoes or from the blazer to the cardigan. Yours could be switching into slippers. I love when I get to signify that the day is over and I switch in to my slippers. We are signifying to our brains that there is a shift by making a change in what we’re wearing. Think of all the movies where she walks in the door and kicks off her stilettos. When we work from home, we don’t really need to be wearing stilettos, but what could we do to signify this physical switch that says we’re turning off work mode and turning on home mode?

Another idea for taking this even further would be to actually give yourself a commute. And I don’t mean you have to get in the car and drive around, although you can if you want to. This could be taking the dog for a walk. So you carve out 10 minutes and your commute becomes walking the dog around the block.

And so when you leave, you’re leaving your office and you’re walking around the block. And when you’re coming to your door, now you’re coming home. I think it’s really important to have a moment to be in the in between. 

We need the “commute.” That could even mean it’s just a transition where you sit for a minute and take some deep belly breaths, or take a few minutes to tidy up the house before you jump into the next thing. We need the resets. We need something that signifies that we are changing hats.

I know with these tips and by creating an end of work day routine, that you can introduce more work life balance into your life. I would love to know what is one actionable step that you can take from this episode to balance the busy just a little bit better?

And if you feel like you’re a lost cause, that you’re always running just a little bit too behind to have any transition or routine, take it from me: You can change. I was perpetually feeling that tightness and anxiousness, feeling that there was never enough time rushing from one thing to another, running out of the office sometimes, literally, because I needed to rush to the next thing. It is possible to change and to create better. 

If I can change, so can you.

BEFORE YOU GO! Here are some helpful links and mentions from today’s show: 

>>> Get my Desktop Organizer here 

Find out where you’re losing time every day and if your business is taking more time than it should.

Enroll in my FREE course and learn how to drop an entire work day a week!

Come follow Leah on Instagram for more daily tips to balance the busy. 

[00:00:00] Working from home, and even for those who don’t, we’ve lost those boundaries between work and home. 

[00:00:40] When I was newly married, I worked in the city in downtown Seattle, and if I didn’t time my commute just right, it could be the difference between taking 40 minutes to get home and two hours. So you better believe I learned the exact moment when I had to be out of my office and walking to the car. I used to use those drives to listen to books, talk radios.

[00:01:00] Sometimes I’d even just pray or rattle off reasons. I was grateful, but the point is there was this very obvious transition between work and home because it was a car ride for the last 14 years though my work has always been just down the hall from my bedroom. My commute literally takes me 11 steps right now.

[00:01:20] I counted it this morning, and that might be very similar for you. The line has blurred between where work ends and where home begins. Add to that, the fact that our work is literally in our pocket at all times, so we can jump into it at the kids’ game recital during movie night while the rest of the family watches the movie and you’re looking at your phone.

[00:01:45] I can’t help but think of that seam from Hook, where Robin Williams, he is there at his son’s baseball game. He makes it there. On a call and he is working this work deal and he, he’s missing Jack’s game and you see the wife and she’s sad for him and frustrated because he’s missing it. Well, last week I was talking to a girlfriend and she was at her daughter’s basketball game.

[00:02:08] She’s hoping and hollering and cheering, and she realizes she’s the only parent. She gets super embarrassed. She’s like, oh my gosh, maybe we’re not supposed to do this. And she looks around and she was the only person. Whose eyes were actually up on the court. Everyone else was looking at their phone. I can’t help but think how that used to signify like the unresponsive.

[00:02:35] Not their parent in movies back when we were kids, and now it has become normal, but not in a good way. We have to set boundaries cuz here’s the thing, what we’re talking about here is work-life balance, but how do you have that if work is everywhere, you just don’t. And that’s the secret. Boundaries are what give us the balance.

[00:03:00] And that’s why we’re talking today about creating an end of work routine. Something that signifies the workday is over but doesn’t leave you feeling terrible because you didn’t do enough. And that’s the real critical part. We let work spill over because we feel like there’s always more to do. But what if we could do the work better in less time so that we can have those boundaries and feel really good about it?

[00:03:25] But before we jump into all of that, let’s talk about work hours and where the 40 hour work week actually comes from. So the 40 hour work week was only adopted about a lifetime ago. It all started when the US realizes that their workers are putting in more than a hundred hours a week. So on October 24th, 1940, Decades of workers movements.

[00:03:49] The US officially amends the Fair Labor Standard Act and adopts a 40 hour work week around the same time across the ocean. In the uk, labor reformers are working to improve their own lot. The average worker in the United Kingdom at the time is working 14 to 16 hours a day with only the Sabbath day off.

[00:04:08] So six days a week, 14 to 16 hours a day. Finally, the UK agrees to fewer hours for women and children. Yes, those work hours were for children as well. And this is all in the 1940s, but the actual term work-life balance that doesn’t show up until the 1980s, it appears in the UK as part of the Women’s Liberation Movement, its primary purpose was in the fight to get working women, more flexible schedules and maternity.

[00:04:42] Today, the meaning of work life balance has completely shifted, and in the last 40 years, it’s become a full blown billion dollar industry. In fact, searching Google this morning for work life balance, it brought up two and a half billion results. The problem today with work life balance is that the concept can be a little elusive, and that’s left a lot of so-called thought leaders, shouting that work life balance is a myth and therefore it does not exist, which drives me absolutely crazy and makes me so upset because I remember hearing that when I was first trying to figure this out, and it made me feel hopeless.

[00:05:21] I mean, I just remember feeling. , this is as good as it gets. I am doomed and work life balance absolutely unequivocally does exist, but we have to understand what it is. work life balance. Like simply put, it’s this. It’s feeling that all areas of your life are aligned and that they feel good. It’s not about the perfect equal amount of time being spent on every single task.

[00:05:48] That’s ridiculous. And it’s not about being perfect in everything. That is also ridiculous, but it is about prioritizing our core values. So if you think about this, we are talking about 80 years ago. Men and women fighting to be able to create better boundaries, to be able to create more balance, to have a life outside of work, to have more fulfillment, enjoyment, joy, memories with their family, and they worked so hard to reduce the working hours and to create better.

[00:06:27] Then we explode with technology and innovation and accessibility, and now we’re accessible 24 7. And I think a lot of those back fighting for these changes would look at us now and be like, what are you doing? You’re undoing everything we worked for. And I think especially as. An entrepreneurial mom. I look at the way I was running my business and I’m like, what was I thinking?

[00:07:02] I, I’ve gotta, I, I had to fix this. There has to be a better way. And of course there is. So that brings me back to this end of work routine. We have to stop allowing work to spill into every part of our life. And I hope I’ve really convinced you and, and hearing the stories about how the 40 hour work week even came to be and, and what was trying to be solved, and then how we’re undoing that.

[00:07:29] I hope that I’m really just connecting and you’re like, oh my gosh, this is crazy. Yes, yes, yes.

[00:07:37] Remember when you were a kid and this is kind of bringing it all together. I remember that my parents, when they came home from work, they were done with work. I mean, the only way that they could keep working was that they brought papers from their office home in their briefcase, or the office actually called onto our home phone.

[00:07:57] Of course, now, because we can literally run our businesses from our smartphones, our office is in our pocket 24 7, making us accessible, but being accessible at that level. All the time. It hurts two things, our productivity and our families. By creating the end of work routine, I truly believe we’re going to be more productive because there is an obvious end time.

[00:08:24] So we stay more focused to get done what we need to get done, and our relationships are going to be stronger for it. So here’s how we do it. Number one, set office hours. to all my coaching members. You have the office hours, notepad, and the principal. But essentially what we’re talking about here is just setting your hours for the day or for the week, and knowing what time you are planning to be done.

[00:08:50] I post those hours on my door so that everyone can see ’em, and it does two really incredible things for me. Number one, it removes a lot of interruptions. Someone might come down the hallway, they wanna ask mom something, they look and they’re like, oh, she’s coming out at noon for lunch. Okay, then I can wait or.

[00:09:09] It also allows it so that everyone knows I’m done for the day at two o’clock or whatever that time is, and if I don’t come out, they are allowed to come get me and keep me accountable. So it creates the boundaries and it minimizes interruptions so that I can be more productive when I am actually supposed to be working.

[00:09:28] Essentially, this is about. When we work, we work, when we family, we family. When we clean, we clean. When we friend, we friend. We’re just all there when we’re supposed to be all. Number two is using an alarm to give yourself a warning to wrap things up. Now, this timeframe needs to be whatever works for you.

[00:09:47] For some, they might feel like they actually need a two or three system alarm. You need one that tells you at 60 minutes, one that tells you at 30 minutes, and then one that tells you at 10 minutes. Or maybe you just need a 15 minute one that just helps you wrap everything up. I really like having one that helps me to realize I need to wrap up whatever I’ve been working on and.

[00:10:07] One more. That signifies my final wrap up. So the final wrap up that I’m talking about is number three, and that’s just a reset. It’s resetting your desk, your desktop. If you use my desktop organizer, which is free, you can grab it on my website. We’ll of course link it in the show notes as well. But this is a great time to just reset your desktop organizer.

[00:10:28] So on my desk itself, I’m gonna put away all my pens. I’m gonna take any dishes, bring ’em to the kitchen, just tidy that up and on my desktop. Clear out my trash. I’m going to reorganize my folders, move things from inspired project one to archive or wherever it needs to happen there. And then I’m also gonna update my Daily five, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

[00:10:48] But this is just taking a few minutes to reset everything so that when you step back into work next you feel really good and ready and it doesn’t feel chaotic. Okay, so I touched on this, but the daily five. Number four is about writing out. Tomorrow’s tasks and then time blocking it.

[00:11:06] So I am a big fan of only writing three to five things per day. Now, you can absolutely do more than that, but my list is only gonna show three to five. Now I have a larger list. It’s kind of my brain dump list, which is all the other things that need to happen, but it’s not what I’m looking at for the day.

[00:11:24] For the day, I only wanna look at three to five things. So I call it my daily five. There’s never more than five items on it because. It’s really hard to get more than five things done and then you just end up feeling like you weren’t effective or productive or successful, which isn’t true. So I have these daily five, and then I look at about how long I think each one’s gonna take and I time block ’em.

[00:11:47] This does two powerful things, one, and helps me to assess and make sure that what I’m planning to get done tomorrow I can actually fit into the day. And two, it gives me a good sense of what everything is gonna. So once all that’s done, the next thing is you wanna have a second alarm or this just your final alarm.

[00:12:06] Let’s say that cuz you might use several alarms for your wrap up. So a final alarm that signifies end of day, and I highly, highly encourage you to make this one really fun. Like find some really fun song that pumps you up, that gets you excited and. The alarm customized to be something really fun that empowers you to be excited to go, you know, be super present with your family.

[00:12:33] Just doing things that are gonna really help you feel like, okay, this is it. This is the end of the day. And that brings us to the last step, which is to close the office door or the laptop, literally. Physically close it to signify that you are leaving work. You could even take this further and make a physical switch.

[00:12:53] Think like Mr. Rogers from his day shoes to his home shoes or like the blazer to the cardigan. Yours could be switching into slippers. I love when I get to like signify that the day is over and I switch in to my slippers. It doesn’t always work cause sometimes I need to leave the house. So, you know, that doesn’t really make sense, but when it does, I love that.

[00:13:11] And just this idea of, of signifying. To our brains that this is a change by making a change in, in what we’re wearing. You know, you think of all the movies where he walks in the door and undoes his tie, or she walks in the door and she kicks off her stilettos. When we work from home, we don’t really need to be wearing stilettos, but what could we do to signify this physical switch that says we’re turning off work mode and turning on home mode?

[00:13:41] Another idea for taking this even further, another idea for taking this even further would be to actually give yourself a commute. And I don’t mean you have to get in the car and drive around, although you can if you want to. This could be taking the dog for a walk. So you carve out 10 minutes and your commute becomes walking the dog around the block.

[00:14:01] And so when you leave, you’re leaving your office and you’re walking around the block. And when you’re coming back up and coming to your door, now you’re coming home. I think it’s really important, what this all comes down to is having a moment to. In the in between. We go from work time to pick up the kids time.

[00:14:23] And often that transition is you looking at the clock thinking, oh my gosh, I should have already been out of the house and you run off to the next thing. I know I’ve done that, or it’s the alarm going off, but you’re like fully in the zone and now you have to rip yourself away to run to the next thing.

[00:14:39] We need the quote commute. That could even mean it’s just a transition where you sit for a minute and take some deep belly breaths, or take a few minutes to tidy up the house before you jump into the next thing. We need the resets. We need something that signifies that we’re changing hats. I remember hearing this story years ago, and I’m gonna try to tell it the best I can, but there was this man who every day when he came home from work, he’d come up the drive and he would walk up to the door and right in front of the house was this big oak tree.

[00:15:14] And he would imagine himself taking all of his work troubles and stresses and worries and hanging them on the. Outside of the home. Then he’d take this big, deep, full breath, clear his lungs and walk into the house with a huge smile, ready to play horsey, or help his wife finish up dinner or attempt to figure out his middle schooler, his math homework.

[00:15:38] Then each morning before anyone else in the house was up, he’d put on his work coat, he’d walk. He’d pick up all of those worries and stresses about work that he’d hung on the tree and he’d head to the office. I never forgot this because, well, it’s beautiful and it’s selfless and it’s amazing and I want to be like that.

[00:16:03] But how is that possible if every notification is turned on or we believe that we’re supposed to be accessible to our clients 24 7. There are all of those quotes about starting the way we plan to finish, let’s. Add to that, and let’s finish the day in a way that makes us more powerful, more connected, and more ready to start again tomorrow.

[00:16:29] Now it’s your turn. What is one actionable step that you can take from this episode to balance the busy just a little bit better? And if you feel like you’re a lost cause, that you’re always running just a little bit too behind to have any transition or routine, take it from me. You can change. I was perpetually feeling that tightness and anxiousness, feeling that there was never enough time rushing from one thing to another, running out of the office sometimes, literally, because I needed to rush to the next.

[00:17:01] If I can change, so can you. 

[00:17:03] I hope you enjoyed this episode, and thank you for listening to another episode on The Balancing Busy podcast. I’m Leah Remillet here to help you do less, but better.

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