How to switch off from work

5 min read

Thursday 25 Jul 19

With the instant nature of the world we currently live in, where messages are constantly flashing up across our screens, it's become a lot harder to step away and shut off from work.

11 ways to switch off from work

Emails can be answered from in bed. Blogs can be written from the other side of the world. And everyone can reach you at any time of day with the click of a button.

This isn't the most effective way of working.

But how do we stop? How do we make sure we're switching off from work?

Good question! We asked 5 members of the small business community to find out their top tips on how to switch off from work!

We first asked the wonderful Stuart Carter from Simply Mindfulness who offers workshops and short courses that range from mindful movement to mindfulness meditation.

We then spoke to the founder of Orange Box Personal Will Aylward, whose aim is to help people worldwide to transform their mindset and help them to be more mindful in their business.

Next, we chatted to the fab Alex from AGORA who's right at the beginning of his startup story. So we thought, in this busy time, it would be great to chat to him about how he balances his work and home life.

We then got in contact with the lovely Sarah Gregg, founder of The Power to Reinvent who, through motivation workshops, helps people to set goals for themselves to create the work life they want!

And lastly, we chatting to Alexander James from The Mindful Therapist, who told us a little about how he works to help his clients deal with anxiety and stress, and how he helps them to become more mindful in their life.

Thanks to these wonderful businesses for getting involved and we can't wait for you all to see their 11 top tips!

1. Set boundaries

The most important thing is to recognise the value of switching off. We humans have a problem where we believe our 'worth' lies in what we 'do'. We've also been conditioned through school and upbringing to do, achieve, get and have. What we fail to notice is that we're human 'beings' not human 'doings'. Our value isn't related to what we achieve, but who we are. We are each completely unique and bring unique value to the table.

Once we understand our own value (and this takes time), we need to set our boundaries. What are we willing to do, and what are we not willing to do? What breaks do we want to set?

And the hardest part... once we've set our boundaries, we must honour them. Because unless we respect our own boundaries, no one else will respect them. This takes courage, especially when faced with the discomfort of expectations from others.

Set downtime in your diary and stick to it. Get bored. It feels uncomfortable to start with, but you'll slowly understand the value.

- Stuart Carter

2. Know that taking a break is essential

I would, first of all, encourage people to adopt the mindset that taking a break from work is essential and beneficial. Sadly, because of our society's focus on productivity and being busy, many people struggle to switch off from work and even feel guilty.

Secondly, ask some questions like... How do I like to relax? When do I most feel at peace? What activities or experiences do I most enjoy when I'm not working? Use the answers to inspire some new habits, for example, reading or going on a walk when on a lunch break.

Thirdly, if someone has several days (or if they're lucky), weeks, to take a break from work, this is also a fantastic opportunity to ask some questions. What do you need from this time off? Rest? Adventure? How do you most wish to feel during your time off and how can you create that?

- Will Aylward

3. Get a new hobby

Find a hobby or sport that is so different from your normal routine that you are able to try something new.

- Alex Balderstone

4. Remember you’re allowed to stop

Give yourself permission to stop: Remind yourself of the benefits of disconnecting and give yourself permission to take a break, leave the office early and enjoy some ‘me time’.

- Sarah Gregg

5. Silence your ego

The ego loves feeling important. It will tell you that work needs you, that the office couldn’t function if you took some time off. When you hear that voice, tell it to sit down and be silent. You’ll find after disconnecting from work, that you’re not as important as your ego would have you believe.

- Sarah Gregg

6. Get curious about life outside of work

Often we get drawn into work because our leisure time is uninspiring. Get curious about life, discover new hobbies, interests or clubs. Give yourself a compelling reason to stop working.

- Sarah Gregg

7. Practice mindful meditation

During the workday, there are some short mindfulness practices that can help people take a break from work and ground themselves.

One of my clients’ favourite mindfulness exercises is Notice 5 Things. In this exercise, you take a moment and notice 5 things you can hear, 5 things you can see and 5 things you can feel. This is a great way of disconnecting from the busy ‘doing mode’ of the mind to the ‘being mode’, grounding yourself in the space of a few minutes.

Short mindful meditations are also a great way of taking time out from work. When it comes to taking a longer break from work, perhaps make a list of things that nourish your soul, things that make you happy, places you love to go, and people you want to see and go do them all!

- Alexander James

8. Declutter your phone

It's largely about consciously making the split. When I'm at my desk, I work. When I'm not, I don't. My smartphone is very minimal with no email or web browser. I make it hard to do work outside my working environment (because if I don't make it hard, I will probably slip into being switched-on 24/7). Even in the middle of the day I will take a walk outdoors or do something that feeds my soul.

- Stuart Carter

9. Enjoy nature

I like to disconnect from work by stepping away from my home office and the online world and stepping into nature, either taking a walk along the river or in the forest (I'm fortunate to live near both). Studies show that as little as 20 minutes exposure to nature (even just sitting in a park) benefits our physical and mental wellbeing. After a particularly long or stressful day, I'll do some stretching, Qi gong, and breathwork aiming to get rid of any tension I'm carrying in the body.

- Will Aylward

10. Make a transition from work to free time

I build in the transition time between work and leisure so that my mind can recognise that work is over, and my leisure time is about to begin. This can be as simple as going for a short walk after work or writing my to-do list for the next day. In fact, the transition time between tasks has been proven to help us be more present in life and boost productivity.

- Sarah Gregg

11. Travel, learn, have fun... and put the laptop away

Spontaneous trips to Spain, practising foreign languages and playing sport. Leaving the laptop in a drawer is probably the best way to get away from work!

- Alex Balderstone

The right to disconnect

Do we have the right to disconnect?

The answer is pretty obvious.


Of course, you have a right to disconnect from work.

When we asked this question to the wonderful Stuart Carter, his answer perfectly summed up why it's so important that we disconnect from work and, most importantly, that we have to exercise our right to it!

“We have an absolute right to disconnect from work, whatever our position. In fact, I'd go as far as to say we have a duty to disconnect from work. It’s very easy to get caught up in the details, in the duties, in the expectations and if we don't step back from time to time we can end up very busy but completely ineffective. We don't have the time and space to figure out if what we're doing is helpful if what we're doing is the 'right' thing... if what we're doing is serving our employer and/or our own life.”

He then goes onto point out that "there will always be a 'next' thing. Our to-do list will never be empty. And so we can go through life on autopilot, fighting the next fire, or we can actually experience the life that's all around us all the time.

When we take a break, we realise that we are not as responsible as we thought. The world doesn't come crashing down. And more to the point, when we jump back in, we are much more effective.

There is a huge problem with mental health issues and burn-out right now and my observations are that this is hugely related to the level of work that employers are placing on their employees, and (more to the point) that employees are accepting."

Perfectly put, Stuart!

Why it's important to take a break from work

Everybody needs time to recharge, be that by taking short breaks during the workday or switching off after work and at weekends.

As Sarah Gregg put it, "Whilst we are working, our minds are sometimes in the ‘driven doing mode’, actively completing tasks and striving for future goals. In this state of mental stress and negative thought, patterns can build up in the background unbeknownst to us causing potential health problems. When relaxing, our minds have more chance to be in the ‘being mode’, a non-goal orientated state where stress is less likely to build up. A healthy balance between these two states is essential.”

Thank you so much to all the wonderful people we interviewed for this blog post! All of your tips are so great and we can't wait to use them - especially the trip to Spain 🌞

If you fancy seeing more wonderful tips on everything business and freelancing then, be sure to head over to their social channels and see what they've been up to. Check out Stuart's twitter here, Will's here, Alexander's here, and here is Alex's LinkedIn and Sarah's Facebook!

And don't forget to follow Farillio on Twitter and let us know how you've been using their tips!

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