How to Leave Work Stress at the Office (and Keep the Phone on You)

Taking a few minutes to plan ahead can buy hours of leisure time.

For employees who stress about incomplete tasks, the work day never really ends. Truly relaxing almost seems like an impossibility. But that doesn’t have to be the case, according to a new study from the British Psychological Society.

Turning down after clocking out just takes a little bit of planning.

The study, led by Brandon Smit, Ph.D., from Ball State University, used an online questionnaire to study the ability of over 100 employees, faced with 1,127 goals, to “switch off” after hours. Not surprisingly, participants reported that it was harder to detach from tasks that weren’t completed by the time they left work.

One group of participants, however, were told to take a few minutes before they clocked out to write up a short plan detailing where, when, and how they would complete the unfinished tasks.

As Smit describes in his article, published today in the Journal of Organizational and Occupational Psychology, doing this simple task made it a lot easier for participants to detach from work when they needed to.

“If you have an important deadline looming on the horizon, for example, your brain will keep nudging you with reminders, which makes it difficult to get a break from work demands,” said Smit in a release.

“It seems like we have the ability to ‘turn off’, or at least ‘turn down’, these cognitive processes by planning out where, when, and how goals will be accomplished.”

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