How To Smell The Flowers

How do you forget about work when you’re not working? This is the problem, especially these days with that b*&%$ technology around us all the time! I have listed three ideas derived from cognitive behavioural therapy (therapy used to treat, amongst other things, mood disorders such as depression):

  • Focus on what you’ll do instead. We often fail to change our behaviour because we focus too much on what we are not going to do rather than on actions that we will take instead. If we try to focus on a goal of not thinking about work – a negative goal – we will invariably fail. Two reasons for this: firstly, your habit system will only learn a new habit when you take an action, not when you don’t; and secondly, when you set negative goals (I will not do this) you need to be constantly vigilant about that behaviour, otherwise you will invariably end up doing what you don’t want to do. That sounds familiar! So decide what you are going to do and develop a plan that will make it happen, including those specific actions you will need to take

  • Change your environment to support the new behaviour and discourage the old one. If you don’t want to be emailed and phoned all the time while you are on holiday why not try to switch the b…… thing off! For planned lengths of time. You would have informed those that are looking after things in your absence that you will not be available 24/7 and intend to check you phone 3 times during the day, for example. Also, as an action to take at home where you may think of work when you don’t really want to (again, sounds familiar), identify a place in your home where you will never work. It could be a special chair, a corner or a room. And go there when you don’t want to think about work. Go there to read a novel, watch movies or simply talk (not about work though!) Don’t have your phone there, don’t have anything that could be linked to work. The more you go to that special place, and not work, the more it works. Get your partner and family to help you with this. They need to be vigilant too!

  • Step away from work — and watch disaster not strike. Even if you do put those plans in place, and have a place to go to, you still need to be willing to disconnect from work for a period of time. That can be anxiety-provoking. You could miss that important email; something may go wrong; important work might be done badly, or not at all. This is where another lesson from cognitive behavioral therapies may help. Studies suggest that a great way to reduce anxiety is to expose yourself to the scary situation, and gradually learn that the situation is not as threatening as you thought. If your anxiety is around missing an important email, go a night without checking your email. Then see that the world hasn’t ended. Then start to extend the length of time you go without your email “fix.” Try an entire day during the weekend (gasp!) Then even an entire weekend (OMG!) You may find that your people have managed to solve some of their problems if you don’t get back to them. And that’s good too. They learn something and so do you – you are not indispensable!

Stay well, be focused and smell the flowers


Phil Pickford

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