How to not stress about work when you’re not at work

Beth Taylor
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So many modern productivity tools promised to help us finish work faster and increase our free time. But it seems that the opposite happened, and employees are now expected to work the same hours but produce more — or take their work home with them to finish up later. Email, computers and smartphones put us at the beck and call of our employers, or at least it feels that way. It's no wonder so many workers feel a bit frazzled, unable to unplug and escape work stress.

Separating work from personal life may seem like a challenge, but time off for rejuvenation is necessary. Here are three realistic ways to get started.

1. Make tomorrow's to-do list before leaving

This is one of my personal favorites. Before leaving work, make list of what you need to do the next morning when you arrive at work. Jot down anything you need to consider or remember. Make sure you have what you will need the next day. Leave the list on your desk or another convenient place where others will not disturb it. At that point, walk out the door and put work out of your mind. You are all set for tomorrow; the evening is yours to enjoy.

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2. Check work email at work — and only at work

Some may prefer to completely remove work email from their personal phones. That way, you are available for work-related messages while working, but not while you are enjoying dinner, or hanging out with friends, or trying to unwind to get some sleep. It may be difficult at first to break the habit of constantly checking work messages while looking at messages from your friends, but it is well worth the effort. Use personal time to chat with friends, and work time to read and respond to work emails.

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3. Put self-care in the schedule

"Self-care" refers to that things you do for yourself to stay happy, healthy, and to lead a well-balanced life. This might mean making a doctor or dentist appointment, or attending a parent-teacher conference or a T-ball game.

Maintain your personal boundaries by putting personal appointments on your work calendar. You don't have to include all of your details, but you need to preserve time for your personal life. For example, put in "dentist appointment" or just "appointment in town" on the calendar so nothing else gets scheduled during that time block. You will feel decreased stress about meeting your personal and family needs.

The bottom line is that people need personal time. If you are thinking about work, planning work or worrying about work while you are at home, you are still at work. You are not enjoying the benefits of personal time. We all need personal time, so work while you are at work, and leave work both physically and mentally at the end of the workday.

This article originally appeared on PayScale.

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