The Science-Backed Simple Trick for Being Happier on Weekday Evenings

published Jan 4, 2016
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(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

Whether you work at home or at an office (or at somewhere other than home), there’s an issue that threatens many of us: It can be really tough to mentally leave your day job at work so you can relax and enjoy your time when you get back home. If you relate to this specific type of work/life balance struggle, you might find relief in this simple trick that doesn’t involve anything more than a pencil and paper.

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According to an article, Here’s a simple way to improve your work/life boundaries, recently published on the Research Digest blog by The British Psychological Society, it might be that uncompleted goals are what’s bugging you when you get home from work — and the thing that’s getting in the way of you really fully enjoying your time at home.

If you’re someone who is really connected and passionate about your job, even if you give a full eight hours (or more) at work in a day, you might find it difficult to stop thinking about work when you get home, especially if there are any unfinished tasks or goals. It’s like your brain knows there’s still work to be done, so it keeps work bouncing around in there. While that might be great for work, it can get in the way of connecting with your loved ones and giving your brain the time away it might crave.

The blog article reports on research by Ball State University’s Brandon Smit. Here’s a possible solution quoted from the article:

“To help prevent this, Smit asked a subset of his participants, once they’d described their incomplete goals, to clearly plan where, when and how they would tackle each one, for example: ‘I will go into work and start at 10:00 AM in a call center in my office. Log into my computer and call customers back…’ By specifying the context for action, this helped the high-involved participants to put the goals out of mind during off-work hours, and as a result their uncompleted goals produced fewer intrusions, almost as if they had the same status as completed goals. Data from a simple measure of work detachment also suggested that, using Smit’s strategy, the participants found it easier to let go of work in general.”

So, jotting down a specific plan for a work task or goal before you leave work (or perhaps right when you get home) might help you tuck away those work thoughts while you’re at home. Try it and report back to this post in the comments to let us know if this research is on to something.