I answered “3” to all 6 questions below — this topic is clearly something I need to work on. How about you? Where do you rate on your ability to disconnect from the day job?

Article by Benjamin Hardy on Medium.com


1. Recover From Work

“Overcommitment” is a heavily studied concept in psychology. It happens when you have inflated perceptions of work demands, and when you see your own ability to handle those demands as far superior to your “less involved” colleagues.

For most, this perception is a “distortion” which prevents you from accurately making cost-benefit analysis of work behaviors.

The following questions come from a psychological measure assessing overcommitment. On a scale from 1 (low commitment) to 4 (high overcommitment), how would you rate yourself on the following questions?

  1. I get easily overwhelmed by time pressures at work.
  2. As soon as I get up in the morning I start thinking about work problems.
  3. When I get home, I can easily relax and ‘switch off’ work. (reverse coded)
  4. People close to me say I sacrifice too much for my job.
  5. Work rarely lets me go, it is still on my mind when I go to bed.
  6. If I postpone something that I was supposed to do today I’ll have trouble sleeping at night.

Although most people are finding it difficult to “unplug” from work, recent science in the field of “Occupational Health Psychology” is showing how essential it is to unplug, daily.

This article is about setting proper and healthy boundaries/constraints upon yourself. Unless you do, you are not living a sustainable lifestyle. Unless you create healthy boundaries — your work, health, and relationships are being compromised.

For instance, research in several fields have found that recovery from work is a necessity for staying energetic, engaged, and healthy when facing job demands.

“Recovery” is the process of reducing or eliminating physical and psychological strain/stress caused by work.

One particular recovery strategy that is getting lots of attention in recent research is called “psychological detachment from work.” True psychological detachment occurs when you completely refrain from work-related activities and thoughts during non-work time.

Without question, work in a global environment is highly competitive, and thus highly stressful and demanding. Consequently, the stresses of today’s work — which create negative emotions, negative physical symptoms, and psychological impairments — are often fully-consuming, which make it very difficult to psychologically detach.

Proper detachment/recovery from work is essential for physical and psychological health, in addition to engaged and productive work. Yet, few people do it. Most people are always “available” to their email and work. Millennials are the worst, often wearing the openness to work “whenever” as a badge of honor. It’s not a badge of honor.

Research has found that people who psychologically detach from work experience:

Interestingly, other research shows that when a parent has irregular work hours, there can be devastating effects on the development and well-being of their children. These problems are compounded when the parent has depressive symptoms, low quality parenting, reduced child-parent interaction and closeness, and a less supportive home environment.

Again, the likelihood of experiencing some forms of depression are dramatically increased if you don’t properly detach from work. Furthermore, if you don’t properly “unplug,” you’ll lack engagement while at home. Put more directly, you’ll be distracted and burned-out. As a result, you probably won’t have quality interactions or closeness with your kids, spouse, or friends. It’s a vicious cycle.

In his book, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts — Becoming the Person You Want to Be, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith explains that people who are successful in their work are often content being “unsuccessful” in the other areas of their lives — particularly their relationships. In other words, most people are okay with being mediocre spouses, parents and friends, but are not okay with being mediocre in their jobs.

Huge disconnect.

When you’re at work, be fully absorbed. When it’s time to call it a day, completely detach yourself from work and become absorbed in the other areas of your life.

If you don’t detach, you’ll never fully be present or engaged at work or at home. You’ll be under constant strain, even if minimally. Your sleep will suffer. Your relationships will be shallow. Your life will not be happy.

The belief that you must work 8+ hours a day reflects an outdated mental model. The 9–5 work schedule was developed during the industrial revolution for factory workers, whose work was mostly physical labor. Yet, most of today’s work is mental, not physical. According to psychologist Ron Friedman,“Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well.”

Research has shown that addiction to stimulants, such as caffeine, is largely the product of the 9–5 work shift. Mental work is far more taxing than physical work. Again, you only have a few (probably less than 5) really good hours each day. If you optimized your life more for recovery, the life you put into your time would be 10X, allowing you far more time to rest and live.

Rather than spending 8–10 hours in low-focused and high-distracted work, spend 3–5 hours in engaged and absorbed flow. You’ll get more done in one day than most people get done in a week. You’ll also be able to more fully engage in the other essential areas of your life.

In order to do this, you must set clear boundaries and expectations with yourself and others. If you set things up clearly, people at work will respect that when you’re away, you’re not available except in case of emergency.


Where do you rate on your ability to disconnect from the day job?

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