You Still Need an After-Work Routine When Working From Home

4 steps for separating work from play

Michael Thompson
Forge
Published in
4 min readJun 10, 2020

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Photo: fotostorm/E+/Getty Images

I used to believe there was no such thing as work-life balance. Workdays would often become work nights, and I’d be okay with that. I’d muscle through creative projects, figuring dinner, chores, and texts from friends could wait.

And then I got married and started a family.

My kids don’t care about my job. My wife does care, but I bet not nearly as much as I think. When my workday is over, they want me to be present. They deserve that, and so do I. And so I’ve been teaching myself how to walk away.

Throughout the pandemic, many newly remote workers have found that it was much easier to disconnect from work when their office wasn’t their kitchen table. Whatever they used to do before coming home — listen to a podcast in the car, work out at the gym, or run errands — helped them transition into their personal time. Here’s something I’ve learned in the two years I’ve spent working from home as a writer and career coach: You still need an after-work routine even if you have nowhere to go. It turns out that priming ourselves to play is just as important as preparing ourselves to work.

I’ve created a four-step process that helps me de-stress and get ready for the second part of my day. Try it and see what sticks. The routine should only take about 15 minutes, but your time, both at work and at home, will be better for it.

Get your work out of sight and out of reach — literally

Whenever Tim Urban, creator of Wait but Why, needs to get work done, he stands on a step stool, places his phone on a high shelf, and then puts the stool in another room. He does the same with his router if the task he’s working on doesn’t require the internet. His reasoning: The effort it takes to access these distractions is just as unappealing as working. And so he works.

In the same way, to be present at home, I’ve started locking my laptop in the trunk of my car at the end of every workday. At first, this felt extreme — couldn’t I just tell myself not to look at it? But getting my work out of sight helps keep it out of my mind. As I place the computer down and walk away, I…

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Michael Thompson
Forge
Writer for

Co-creator of two cool kids • Storytelling Coach •.Fast Co., Insider, Forbes • Free storytelling guide here: https://bit.ly/3h1KZeT