“No matter where you go – there you are”
At the heart of what I like to call relaxed productivity there some destructive things you want to avoid.
One of them is the grey zone. It is a twilight zone of the mind.
The grey zone is basically when you are thinking and worrying about work when you are at home. Or when you are thinking about your home life and challenges there when you are at work.
Not a very uncommon habit. But why do you want to avoid it?
Three powerful reasons why I try to stay away from it as best as I can are:
- You become less effective. When you are stuck in thinking about your home life or your private life in some way or form at work then you are not fully focused. You are distracted and that impacts how well you can do you your work.
- You become less motivated and energetic. Being stuck in the grey zone sucks a lot of extra emotional and mental energy. It adds a lot of stress. And all of this often causes you to feel fatigued and your motivation to do something well or to explore new opportunities tends to sink like a rock.
- You might wind up with relationship troubles. One the most important things in any kind of relationship is to truly be there when you are there. To not still be at work in your mind when you are having dinner with your partner, playing a game with your child or hanging out with friends. Being somewhere else is one of those things that do not only annoy the people you are with but also can erode relationships.
Now, how do you go about replacing this habit with something better?
I recommend keeping the reasons above in mind as much as you can during your day. Being conscious about how this habit can damage your life is a good first step towards smarter habits.
A few more things that work well for me are:
1. Take a break every hour.
If you are never free from work for example, if you are never switching things up then your mind will naturally think about work, work, work all day long.
So to break the habit of being in the grey zone it is essential to first fully focus on work. And then to fully focus on relaxing and rejuvenating your mind and body. By focusing 100% on both work and rest each day it becomes easier to fully switch between these modes.
So I usually work for about 45 minutes. Then I take a 15 minute break and I do something totally different. I may take a short walk, eat a small snack, watch half an episode of the Simpsons or just lie down on the couch and read a book.
One thing that has worked well for me is to use a kitchen timer – or the timer on your cell phone – to make sure your work period or your rest period does not become too long.
2. No work after 7 o'clock in the evening.
When you work from home it is easy to start working too much or whenever you feel like it. This can however add stress, get you stuck in the grey zone or just make you spin in circles and get very little of importance done.
So I have set a limit and I do no work after 7 o'clock in the evening. This allows me to wind down after a day of work so that I can sleep well and spend my time with friends or my girlfriend and truly be there with them.
3. No work on weekends.
This is another way of dividing up your work zone and your relaxation or home zone. To be able to fully focus during the weeks and do your best you need slightly longer periods of rest and rejuvenation. Let your weekend be that time.
So if you can, shut off your cell phone.
I work online quite a bit during the weekdays, so during the weekends I often take at least one day when I do not go online at all. And during almost all weekends nowadays I do not check email or do other regular checks online. This certainly makes it easier to not think about work on weekends.
4. Have other important things to do.
By not working after a specific time in your day, by not working on weekends you will have more time when you are truly there with your family and friends. This will also, for example, help you to not feel guilty about not spending enough quality time with them and give you more time and energy to do awesome stuff together and to work on challenges or issues you and the other person(s) might be having.
And so by doing things this way you are also less likely to get stuck in the grey zone at work and think about something that is happening in your family or with a friend.
By setting the limits described above it becomes easier to do the mental switch between fully focused work, fully focused family/friend time and fully focused rest time.
By having important stuff in your life besides work like a hobby, a sport, the people around you and various adventures you can have together it also becomes easier to not get stuck in thinking about what you need to do tomorrow or on Monday at work.
Instead you can fully be where you are right now and recharge yourself. And that makes a big difference in the quality of your life both in the long- and short-term.
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