“No matter where you go – there you are.”
“One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of attention.”
The weekend is almost here again.
And soon, all over the world, people will make a very common mistake and get lost in a destructive habit.
They will get lost in the grey zone. They will go into a weekend that they want to spend with a good book and the family, maybe with friends down at the pub or with going out for a hike or a picnic in the sunshine.
And then they will get lost in thoughts about work.
And so the stress will start to build. The motivation and energy will start to get sucked out. The attention will wander. There is no real relaxation and recharging happening.
And what happens on Monday if you cultivate this habit? Well, it is quite likely that you will at some point start to think and worry about your home life or your relationship with your child, partner or a friend.
No matter when you slip back into the grey zone you are distracted and wasting energy. And being in the grey zone will over time spill over and not only have an effect on your own stress levels and worries.
Now, it is not always easy to avoid thinking like this.
But I have found a couple of strategies that helps me to greatly reduce this issue during my own weekends.
1. Make a firm decision to not even do 5 minutes of work this weekend.
If possible don’t check your email or use your work phone at all.
If not, don't check your email more than necessary (I do it just once a weekend and reply only to critical emails).
And keep your work phone shut off and check it only once a day or once per weekend.
If you take a minute to think about it instead of just reacting then you likely see that almost everything can wait until Monday without the world collapsing.
2. Look at the cost of getting lost in the grey zone.
When you start thinking about work say STOP! in your mind and then remind yourself of the destructive consequences.
Remind yourself that thinking about work during the weekend will probably not help you in the long run.
Instead it will lead to more stress and worries, you'll miss important moments and quality time with your family or friends because you are somewhere else in your mind and you'll reinforce negative habits such as overthinking.
And all of that will probably lead to unhappy times for you, your work and the people close to you.
3. Fill your weekend with activities you love doing.
When time just flies and you are full immersed in doing something then you are a lot less likely to drift off in your mind.
So fill your weekend with things you love doing, no matter if it is intensive stuff like working out or going on a trip or more relaxed things like hanging out with friends at the pub our just lazying around watching movies on the couch.
In my experience, the most effective thing you can do to replace the grey zone with something better is to first remind yourself how destructive it will be not only for you and your health. But for the quality of your work and for your most important relationships too.
And then to step by small step unlearn thinking with no boundaries at all and to replace it with setting limits for when you think about and focus on different things in your life.
It can sometimes be difficult to try to learn to think about things in a fully focused way like this. You’ll most likely fall back into the grey zone.
That’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just nudge yourself back on the more helpful track again.
And continue to create healthier thought habits that both improve your home life and your work life.