My 7-Day Work-Thoughts Detox

Thanksgiving week is a time that my students have off, so it is a particularly good time for me to try to stop thinking about work for a little while. However, a few things stand in the way, namely emails, goals, and unfinished projects.

Emails are the most obvious one; I automatically check email whenever I log onto a computer and often when I open my cellphone, so I am instantly informed of anything going on at work. Never mind that, this week in particular, most of the emails are big-group emails and don’t have anything to do with me. I still read them, and sadly, I still think about them and let them occupy my headspace.

To detox from email, I give myself two “checks” a day: one in the morning, and one in the evening, after dinner but not right at bedtime. I do what I have to do (usually nothing) and I avoid the thoughts the rest of the time.

Goals are harder; I spend 40 or more hours a week trying to figure out what directions I need to go with my work, so it can be tough to turn off the mind-wandering part of my brain that wants to plan. Especially now, 3 years into my job with not a lot of change in responsibility, the ability to make the job go in a productive, new, and interesting direction is available, but I cannot just magically know where to take my work. I have to plan!

To stop planning as much during breaks, I try to, paradoxically, plan on purpose for a few minutes when I have a waiting moment. I might plug a few notes into my cell phone or Best Self Journal. This way, I know for sure that I’ve thought about the goals and gotten them on “paper” or paper, leading me to stop dwelling on those ideas.

Finally, unfinished threads: I didn’t finish planning my class for next semester, and there are a million small things to resolve as the semester concludes in 3 weeks. It’s so hard not to want to keep working even though I know that there is time enough to efficiently do my work when I get back!

The best way to avoid thinking about the unfinished threads, I find, is to fill my days with activities. I’m not a person who loves total-relaxation vacations, but even a game of backgammon with family or a good book is enough to make the buzz in my brain about unfinished work quiet down a bit.

I feel lucky that I have more than just a weekend this year to think through how to get my work thoughts out and make space for other thoughts of friendship and family, gratitude and community.


5 Comments, RSS

  1. Vera November 22, 2017 @ 10:09 am

    I can totally understand your dilemma! My brain’s working all the time. It cannot stand still for a sec. I always feel the need to the about work items, how to organize stuff, how to resolve a problem. I’m tired of taht. Just like you I’m not in 100% relaxation holiday. I cannot remain still, I have to have an activity. To stop the wheels from turning in my head, I have turned to DIY acticities and that works quite good. Amazing post!

  2. mzukowskiblog November 22, 2017 @ 11:54 am

    Taking a step back and planning is a great strategy. Thanks for sharing and Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. wboyack November 22, 2017 @ 2:58 pm

    This is great! I should do this!

  4. 3C Style November 22, 2017 @ 8:24 pm

    These are very good tips for all of us. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Cindy Anderson November 25, 2017 @ 12:11 am

    Good for for limiting your email exposure. Sometimes I think we get too tied into the habit. 🙂

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