- We need to switch off from work because our work life and home life operate at two different rhythms.
- Our personal lives take a hit when we don’t switch off properly and bring our work rhythm home with us.
- The third space is a midpoint between work and home where you prepare yourself to show up at home.
- In the third space you should:
- Reflect on the day
- Rest and calm your mind
- Reset your mind and think about how you want to show up at home
Have you ever had trouble switching off after work? You can’t help checking your phone for emails or messages or take your mind off all the things you need to do tomorrow. Or it could be more subtle like getting irritated at your family for not having everything all together, or you get impatient and short with them over little things.
In short, you’re the best version of yourself when you’re at work, but your family and those at home face the worst side of you. How can you stop history from repeating itself on a regular basis?
I attended a work conference last week, and whilst most of the content was about tax, (Yay!) there were some outstanding sessions about being your best in your personal life. I want to share with you what I learnt about how to completely switch off after work, so that you can be present and engaged with the people around you. Even if you’re living by yourself, switching off means you can fully enjoy your time away from work.
Switching Off Is About Switching Rhythms
This will sound downright obvious, but your work life and home life operate on two different rhythms. Your work rhythm is likely phrenetic and frenzied. Everything has to be done ASAP and in a state fit for a well-paying client.
Your home life has a different rhythm in an ideal world. If you have young kids at home, it could potentially be chaotic and energetic (in a good way). Or it might be relaxed and calm, where you don’t need to manage people or perceptions. Whatever it is, it’s not the same as work.
You’re Not Switching Rhythms At All
Now, the reason you and those around you feel like you’re not switching off, is because you’re bringing our work rhythm into the home. And I don’t need to tell you that trying to run your home and family life like a business is a ludicrous idea.
Before COVID-19 irreversibly changed our lives, many of you had the daily commute from work to switch off. Whether you read a book, listened to a podcast or doom-scrolled on your phone, you had plenty of time to distance yourself from the workday.
But now that working from home is here to stay, it’s something you need to learn to deal with. You need a strategy to switch off when you don’t have the same transition time that you used to.
Why Failing To Switch Off Matters
The science speaks for itself. When Dr Fraser studied people and their families’ experiences of work-life balance, he found that it didn’t matter how much time or how often people spent together. What mattered was how they showed up when they were present – whether they were engaged and present, or short, distracted and irritable.
Welcome to the third space.
Dr Fraser puts it this way:
“Families understand that you’ll get phone calls and emails sometimes. But what families don’t get is that you treat them like an inconvenience that gets in the way of your work.”
That’s ultimately how you make your friends and family feel when you fail to transition properly and bring the work rhythm back with you. It’s that feeling where you give your best at work and have nothing left in the tank for everyone else. That’s why it’s essential that you transition well from work to home.
The Third Space – The Key To Switching Off After Work
The third space is a middle zone where you bring down the energy and intensity in your work rhythm and prepare yourself to come home. It’s a space where you ask yourself how you want to show up when you come home to your family (or yourself if you’re living alone).
When you’re in this space, follow these 3 steps:
You should start by reflecting on the day and shutting it down. But Dr Fraser recommends that you ask yourself 3 specific questions instead of doing it free flow. Why? Because if you tell your mind to reflect on the day, you’ll end up brooding over all the mistakes you made and all the work you need to do tomorrow. You’re going to make more problems for yourself.
Instead, ask yourself these 3 questions:
- What went well today?
- What did I achieve today?
- How did I get better today?
The point of these questions is to turn your mind to the signs of progress in your work, no matter how trivial or insignificant they are. It gives you a burst of positivity and gratitude, rather than becoming anxious and unhappy about things that didn’t go your way. It helps you transition to your home rhythm with a grateful and positive mindset.
Next, you should spend a few minutes in rest. The idea is to do something that helps your mind feel calm and present. You might want to read my previous post on burnout, where I talk about a daily routine you can use to enter a state of deep relaxation.
It could be doing breathing exercises, closing your eyes and just focusing on the sounds around you or praying (if you’re religious). The idea is that you want to slow down your racing mind to a more gentle pace that’s appropriate for your life at home. You don’t often get too unplug or take a proper break at work. Do it now!
Finally, you want to “reset” your brain by setting the agenda for how you want to show up at home. Ask yourself, “How do I want to show up when I get home? What do I need to do to achieve that?”
As you think through the answers to those questions, it’ll make you more conscious and aware of how you come across.
So if you want to be present and engaged while interacting with your family, enjoying quality time together, it means you’ll be patient and attentive to them. You’ll be more likely to just be yourself and enjoy these moments, because that’s what creates quality connections.
Even if you live by yourself, this step still applies to you. Maybe your intention is to be calm and enjoy a quiet night with a book or cheeky Netflix binge. You might tell yourself that you’ll switch off notifications on your phone and enjoy having the night all to yourself. You’ll be more likely to enjoy your night, rather than checking your work emails or messages and ruining the mood.
If you’re not intentional about how you show up at home, you’ll show up exactly the way you were at work.
You Don’t Have To Commute To Enter Your Third Space
The beauty of the third space is that you don’t have to be on a bus or train to do it. You can do it wherever suits you. Or, you could do it in your home office as you shut down for the day. You could do it while you go for a walk after work. Heck, I do it in the shower after work.
It doesn’t matter where you do it, as long as you stick to it consistently.
Conclusion: Create Your Third Space Today
Work can be tough sometimes – there’s no doubt about it. But you can easily wreck your dynamics at home when we don’t put it to bed properly. Your personal relationships and personal life are on the line here. By using a third space, you can come home ready to be present and engaged, or in the right mood to enjoy the evening.
How do you normally unwind from work? I’d love to hear in the comments down below!