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Do you find it hard to stop thinking about work?

Do you find it hard to transition from work mode to home/private mode? Do you find it hard to stop thinking about work in the evenings or on the weekend? Do you find it hard to stop working? This might be why:

How do you look back at your day at the end of the workday?
Are you thinking about all the things you didn’t do? All the things you did not finish? Do you mostly think about where you got stuck, the things you are not satisfied with? How does this make you feel?

Ending your workday with these thoughts in your head will give you a constant feeling of failing, not being enough and not having done enough. This makes you feel stressed and anxious. It makes it hard to stop thinking about work or stop working in the evening, when you really want to relax or be with family or friends.

These thoughts in your head are not strange since our brain is wired to focus on the negative. Add to this a working environment like academia where the whole scientific review process is so much focused on what is not good, what should be improved.

A BOTH-AND perspective
Of course, there is truth in these thoughts. Yes, there will be a lot of things you didn’t do (because you have work that is never finished and you probably were far too optimistic about what you can accomplish in a day). And for the things you did manage to do, there probably is room for improvement. But it is only part of the story.

Something can be good AND there is room for improvement.

Some things may be unfinished AND there are ways in which you made progress today.

There are things you didn’t do AND there are things you did do today.

So hold a ”BOTH-AND” perspective. You did a lot of things that are worthwhile, and things could be better. Both are true at the same time. Don’t deny yourself the positive. Having only the negative perspective will make transitioning to a relaxed, non-working state so much more difficult.

Conscious and practical action for a better transition
Since your brain and the environment you work in gravitate towards the negative, you consciously need to bring in the positive as well. Taking conscious and practical action to also bring in the positive will help you to make a better transition from work mode to leisure/family mode.

I invite you to experiment with the following this week: 

1) Check in: what kind of thought are in your head when you finish your workday? How do you feel because of those thoughts?

2) Take 5 minutes and make a list of every small step, every small accomplishment of today. Be really detailed and specific. Don’t just write: “I worked on my research” (this won’t give you a positive feeling because it is too general). Instead list every small step you took.

3) Check in again: how do you feel after you’ve made this list?

4) Do this every day for a week and see if you feel more relaxed in the evening, feel more that you really ended your workday.

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© Copyright Samula Mescher