Ever wonder what’s holding you back at work?
It could be something you do when you’re not at work.
Thinking about how you’re falling behind in your projects. Thinking about how a wave of layoffs could be on the horizon. Thinking about whether your co-workers are acting more suspicious than usual. Thinking about why Jackie in HR is giving you the fish eye. Thinking about why your manager keeps their door closed. Thinking about how you can brush the cobwebs off your resume. Thinking about why no one invites you to lunch. Thinking about how you can possibly stop thinking about work.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about thinking, ever since I read “How to Stop Thinking About Work All the Time,” a recent article by Jancee Dunn in The New York Times. And here’s what I think: Dunn is definitely onto something.
So is psychologist and Ted talker Guy Winch, whose practice focuses on “how to limit work-related overthinking.”
According to Winch, “when we succumb to negative work rumination — persistent and repetitive thoughts around issues at our jobs — it feels urgent and important, but it’s actually unproductive.”
When you bring work worries home, you’re not helping yourself; you’re stressing yourself. Nor are you doing your employer any favors. You may believe that spending all night obsessing on work problems will help you find new solutions. It’s much more likely that you will find fatigue and burnout. And that’s crazy.
You really don’t need more reasons to make yourself miserable. That’s your manager’s job.
Are there strategies to help you turn off your brain at the end of the workday? Dr. Winch has some helpful thoughts, guaranteed to make your work life much better. I have added some ideas of my own, guaranteed to make your work life much worse. No need to thank me. Just doing my job.
No. 1: Keep a journal.
Keeping track of how many hours you spend stewing over work issues will be illuminating. It could also be lucrative. Turn your weekly worry report in to the accounting department as a legitimate work expense. Considering how little time you spend thinking during the workday, your late-night cogitations could represent your biggest contribution to your company’s inevitable collapse, and you certainly deserve to be compensated for it.
No. 2: Set guardrails.
Dr. Winch recommends you “establish a clear line when your workday ends, and be strict about maintaining it.” One way to do this is to “ritualize your transition from home to job by changing your clothes.” If you wear casual clothes to work, or work from home in your PJs, establishing clear lines may require you to go to extremes, like ending the workday by putting on a sleek Prada tuxedo or slipping into a slinky Balmain evening gown. A more affordable solution is to simply take off your clothes when the 5 o’clock whistle blows. Trust me, if you want problems to think about that have absolutely nothing to do with work, start commuting naked.
No. 3: Turn ruminative thoughts into productive ones.
Endlessly worrying about work will not improve your job or your mental health. If you’re going to be up all night stressing, focus on finding solutions to business problems that are realistic and actionable. Since these don’t exist, spend your time coming up with nasty gossip that you can start spreading the next morning. This way, you’ll have time for true career-enhancing activities, like toasting your competition and buttering up your boss.
No. 4: Learn the difference between unplugging and recharging.
A recharging activity “leaves you feeling energized mentally and pleased with yourself for doing it.” The activities recommended include working out, crafting or meditation. Clearly, crafting produces the most bang for the buck. Think how grateful your CEO will be when you present them with one of the Popsicle-stick bird feeders that so impressed your mother when you were in third grade. By expressing your creativity, you will be refreshed and recharged while establishing yourself once and for all as a weirdo everyone should leave alone.
No. 5: Distract yourself.
Instead of battling insomnia because you’re fixated on what’s happening at work, “try a memory exercise, like naming every teacher you can remember from kindergarten on up.” Even better, name every bad boss you remember, from simply awful to totally terrible on down. This could make you appreciate the boss you have now. It could also keep you up all night, but I wouldn’t worry.
You can sleep all day at work.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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