Does stuff from work contaminate your family time? Here’s one solution.

Many a time I’ve had clients talk to me about how upset they become that they allow their work to impact badly their family. They’re stressed at work or just have a lot on their mind at the time. They might think they’re fine but before they know it they’ve snapped at the kids or been short with their partner. In no way did they ever intend to hurt the people so precious to them but… they did so nonetheless.

I have a simple question.

“What’s your ‘going home habit’?”

When I ask this question I most often get a confused look. People don’t often think of themselves as actually having a going home ‘habit’. 

That’s why it’s a habit. It’s not in the conscious mind. It has sunk down into the lower brain where it takes next to no processing power and uses next to no resources. That’s why we have habits. To save precious resources and free up our thinking space. 

The brain may only be 10% of our body mass but it’s responsible for up to 30% calorie intake and 60% glucose intake. Start thinking about something new and your energy consumption increases 30%! Do you remember your first driving lesson? I do and I was exhausted by having to process every single little thing. Now I can drive hundreds of miles along a familiar route and hardly think about it….using very little energy.

So we develop lots of habits and one of these is a going home (or stopping work) habit. A lot of the time this involves working, or at least thinking about work, right up to the moment that we walk in the door. There’s no gap. There’s no space to reset, both intellectually and emotionally, before starting to interact with arguably the most precious things in our lives. Don’t they deserve a ‘better you’ than the Mr or Mrs Grumpy they often/sometimes meet when you get home?

The easiest way to change a habit is to attach the new habit to an existing one. Hence my question. For example, one client drove home nearly every day. He would draw into the driveway, jump straight out of the car and walk into the house. If it was a heavy day, it wasn’t long before he was snapping at his kids or wife. 

So we made a little change to this habit, building the new one on to turning the engine off. As he heard the silence, he would stop and breathe, and ask himself what sort of evening he wanted to have with his family. Once reset like this, he could get out of the car and start a positive evening with his family.

If you work from home, like me, then maybe it’s not a going home habit but an ending the workday habit that’s needed. The same messages apply.

So what’s your going home habit?