Just because you’ve clocked off work, that doesn’t mean your day is done. There’s still a lot to do! But where can you find the motivation to get everything done when you’re tired after a long day on the clock? Try an after-work routine.
An after-work routine helps you transition from work to home so you can leave work at work, de-stress, and recharge. Below you’ll find some science-backed ideas for after-work activities that will help you relax and reset so you have the energy to face the kids, dogs, meals, chores, errands, social obligations, and everything else standing between you and bedtime!
Building an After-Work Routine
Build your after-work routine by finding activities that work for you and doing them in the same order each time after work. Keep your after-work routine simple. A long, convoluted routine will simply add to your stress, not relieve it. Use the research-backed ideas listed below that work for you and your lifestyle and ignore the rest.
Close Out Work
For true work-life balance, you must leave your work behind physically and mentally when the work day is done. Research shows that workers with weak work-life boundaries – those who let work encroach on home life – had less time to recover and were more exhausted than those who were better able to compartmentalize.
Make closing out of work part of your after-work routine. Take care of little tasks like emails, phone calls, reminders, or tomorrow’s to-do list right away so they’re not hanging over your head all evening. If you work from home, shut down your computer so you’re not tempted to swing by and check emails “quickly” (yeah, right), and shut the door to your home office if you have one.
Do you ever come home from a stressful day at work in a bad mood and take it out on someone else? You’re not alone; this phenomenon is so common, there’s a name for it in the research literature – it’s called Spillover-Crossover. Work-related stress that’s brought home can negatively affect both the worker and other people in the household physically, psychologically, and emotionally, and put a strain on relationships and the family dynamic.
It’s not fair to your family or roommates for you to bring home a work-induced bad attitude and unleash it on them. When you walk through the door to say hello, you want them to be happy to see you! So decompress emotionally and do whatever it takes to rid yourself of your bad mood before you walk through the door. Some ideas:
- Vent about your day by writing furiously in your journal or a blank doc
- Do a 10-minute guided meditation to clear your mind
- Do five minutes of slow, deep breathing
- Watch funny videos on your phone that make you laugh
- Listen to music that makes you happy or relaxes you
Change Your Clothes
If you’re old enough, you might remember that the first thing Mr. Rogers did when he came home was swap his jacket for a cardigan and change his shoes. You might want to do the same.
Changing into homey, after-work clothes is a strong psychological signal to your brain that you’re leaving work behind and are now transitioning to home. Many studies have explored the relationship between the clothing we wear and the way we view ourselves and even behave, through what some researchers call “enclothed cognition.” Take advantage of this phenomenon by changing into your relaxing and recharging “uniform” when you get home each day.
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Move Your Body
You might not be up for a full-body, high-energy workout after work – it might be the very last thing you want to do – but try to incorporate a little movement into your after-work routine, especially if you’ve been sitting all day long. Just 10 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, like a brisk walk with the dog around the neighborhood, is enough to get the blood circulating and to improve focus so you can get more done.
Jillian Michaels | The Fitness App
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Build in Some Do-Whatever-You-Want Time
You’re not lazy or unproductive for wanting to chill after work. In fact, setting aside time to do whatever you want is good for your well-being and stress levels. A study with data from about 35,000 people found that those with less than two hours of discretionary time per day reported lower subjective well-being scores. People with about 3.5 hours of discretionary time per day, which seemed to be the “sweet spot,” had higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress.
So go ahead and enjoy some do-whatever-you-want time. Give yourself a set amount of time – say, 15 or 30 minutes – in which you can watch mindless TV, read a book for fun, catch up on social media, or do whatever else it is you enjoy doing, guilt-free. You don’t need permission!
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Sample After-Work Routines
Here are some examples of after-work routines for different kinds of jobs.
9-to-5 Office Job
- Get in the car or hop on public transportation and listen to relaxing music you love to decompress emotionally and separate mentally from work
- Once home, put the leash on the dog and go for a brisk 15-minute walk around the neighborhood and move your body
- Returning home, change your clothes so you’re more comfortable and ready to take on the evening’s activities
Work from Home Job
- Make one last phone call and check your email one more time, then shut down your computer so you can close out work. Quickly write up tomorrow’s to-do list and set reminders on your phone.
- Take 30 minutes of do-whatever-you-want time on your phone, catching up on the news, answering personal emails, and playing a game
- Hit the gym and move your body with a 30-minute workout, then follow it up with a shower and carry on with your evening
Physically Demanding Shift Work job
- Get home but before walking in the door, sit outside or in your car and do a 10-minute guided meditation to decompress emotionally
- Once inside, change your clothes
- Move your body by doing 10 minutes of stretches focusing on the feet and legs
You can see that none of these routines are complicated or long. There’s just enough to help disconnect mentally and emotionally from work and regain energy for what comes next. Try an after-work routine yourself and discover what helps you best relax and recharge so you have the energy and motivation to make your after-work time enjoyable and productive.