So, I put “after-work” in quotations because I know the majority of us are not heading into an office every day right now, due to COVID-19. But one day, we will again, and I think this topic applies even if you are working from home at the moment. As someone who works from home even when there isn’t a global pandemic, I know how important it is to keep those work/life boundaries in place. And one of those important boundaries is having an after-work unwind routine.
Why do you need an after-work routine?
You’re probably thinking, “I just got done with my daily routine, now I need another one?” and the answer is, yes. It certainly helps. Having an after-work routine helps set healthy boundaries between your work-life and your home-life, even if they’re currently occupying the same space. Another reason you need an after-work routine is to help you gently guide yourself to a better night’s sleep. Think of it like a gradual transition. Once the workday is done, it’s time to start easing into your bedtime routine, even if it’s 4 p.m. As someone with a toddler and a crazy household, I know this can be easier said than done. But I’m not saying your after-work routine needs to be three hours of silent meditation. Like all self-care, an after-work unwind routine looks different for everyone, but the most important thing is to create that separation of work- and home-life.
A loose step-by-step after-work unwind routine
And by power off, I mean your devices. Turn off the laptop, don’t just close it. Make a physical, intentional declaration that you are powering down for the day by turning off your computer and plugging it in to charge for the night. If you’ve completely powered down, it makes it harder to mindlessly pick the technology back up when you should be recharging. The same goes for your phone. If you really want to unwind, it’s time to put the phone away, at least for an hour. Again, the goal here is to create a clear division between work-time and unwind-time. Even though it doesn’t require any physical effort, mindless scrolling is an energy suck. You’ll survive for a few hours without Instagram, I promise. Bonus points if you put it away until the next morning, since you shouldn’t be looking at screens close to bedtime anyway.
After you’ve powered everything down, step outside for just a few minutes to reconnect with your breath. Whether it’s your backyard, balcony or a quick walk around the block, getting outside immediately after work is so good for your body and mind. It’s a really calming transition for your brain to get out of work-mode and into unwinding. If you like to exercise after work, this is a great time to incorporate that into your routine. Even just a quick yoga flow is a great way to stretch your body after working all day.
Light a candle
It’s amazing the power of a good candle. It can honestly change the entire vibe of your space. Plus, there’s a ritual act of lighting a candle that can transform your mindset. It signals to your brain that the work is done and it’s time for the unwinding to begin. Designate a candle for this purpose only and keep it in a spot that relaxes you, aka not on your desk.
Unleash the beasts
And by this I mean, ditch the bra. But here’s the thing, you need to change into something that makes you feel good, not ratty sweatpants, no matter how comfy they are. I have a collection of loungewear that is so soft and comfy, I get excited to put it on each day, even if it’s for the 100th time. I mean, if your ratty sweatpants get you excited, go for it, but I find a different level of comfort in saving these certain clothing items for the end of a long workday. Even though I work from home, I make it a rule to keep my bra and “work” clothes on until I’ve checked off everything on my to-do list for the day. Again, it’s all about micro-rituals.
Get your space DPR
What is DPR you ask? “Dinner Party Ready,” a phrase I totally stole from Tara Schuster’s book, Buy Yourself The F*cking Lilies. I also like to say you should always use three minutes to get the room “back to ready” before you leave it, but it’s the same kind of concept. You cannot unwind in a messy house. You can’t relax when surrounded by clutter and chaos. It is impossible for your brain to do so in that environment. Take just a few minutes after you’ve changed your clothes to get your space DPR. Put dishes into the dishwasher, pick up abandoned toys, etc. Once this becomes part of your routine, you’ll be able to really unwind.
Tend to your hobbies
When I’m done working, one of the first things I always do (when heading for my outside time) is tend to our little garden and chickens. Yes, even cleaning up chicken poop is part of a calming after-work routine. Next, I’ll read in the hammock for a bit or work on a puzzle. We’re not reinventing the wheel here, friends. We’re creating micro-rituals that will help our body and mind successfully transition between modes. You can try gardening, painting, embroidery, creative writing, etc. Whatever is calming and enjoyable to you that has nothing to do with work, do that.
I like to use dinnertime as a time to turn inward thanks to my handy noise-cancelling headphones. I’ll listen to a playlist of music that makes me happy and get to work in the kitchen. For me, this combination is therapeutic. For you, maybe it’s involving your spouse or your kids in the dinner making process in order to get some quality time. We also always eat our meals at our dining table during the week rather than with the tv on like we indulge in on the weekends. Even if you hate cooking, help your spouse or partner by doing the prep: chopping veggies is surprisingly calming.
Write in your gratitude journal
We’re big fans of the gratitude journal experience here at Team GG. It’s an easy task that has surprisingly large benefits for your overall wellbeing. Set aside time after dinner each night to jot down what you’re grateful for, and you’d be surprised to see how much of an impact it can have.
Indulge in self-care
Nighttime showers are such a dreamy way to unwind, and also help get you ready for better sleep. When you have a quiet moment, maybe after the kids go to bed or you’re ready for sleep yourself, turn the lights down low and take a warm shower. Create a shower ritual that you look forward to at the end of each day. Listen to a quiet playlist, hang some eucalyptus in the shower and lather up with your favorite oils after you get out. It’s the quintessential way to wind down after a busy workday. Or if self-care for you looks like a bubble bath with a cup of chamomile tea and a face mask, do your thing! There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to self-care.
Here’s the key. You should be excited about sleep, not dramatically crashing into bed each night. Sleep is a top priority for your body and your mind. You deserve good sleep. If you’re staying up late answering emails, you’re actually doing damage to your career, not helping it. Sleep affects many of the entrepreneurial and corporate skills that help us thrive in the workplace.
Just like you may plan what you’re going to eat or how you will exercise, think of sleep as your very own spa. Get excited about sleeping. It’s magical for your mind and body. Our brain likes to create routines. Creating a bedtime ritual that you’re excited about will help the brain unwind, relax and recognize that it’s time for sleep.