Slowing Down the Master Wheels

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Do you have trouble shutting down the hamster wheel? According to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the less you detach psychologically during your off hours, the higher your emotional exhaustion in twelve months’ time. Translation: You’ll have a very cranky hamster with little desire to keep the wheel moving!

Sports psychologist Jim Loehr found that the single, key difference between elite tennis players and less successful players was not so much what they were doing on the court – it was what they were doing between points. Those players that could calm their nerves and regain focus between points tended to win more often. The same can easily be said for working effectively and productively at work – whether it’s taking rejuvenating breaks during the workday or shutting completely off during your off hours.

An overwhelming amount of research suggests that when you check e-mail and text messages at all hours of the day it creates a sense of perpetual emergency which fosters an ongoing stress response. This is why more and more companies are creating “no after-hour email” policies. And it’s why the Denver-based software company FullContact pays its employees to take their vacation and insists they don’t do any work during that time!

While you may not be able to influence your company’s policies, you can take charge of your own health:

  • Break before you break: Take complete breaks by staying off the hamster-stressing technology!

  • Laughter and humor helps – a lot – according to the research, so seek out simple ways to tap into your sense of humor. Watch a funny video on-line, or better still, use a  laugh-line and phone a friend who you know always makes you laugh.

  • Do what so many productivity and time management coaches suggest and only check e-mail twice a day at set times.

  • It’s a small thing, but speaking from personal experience I can tell you that changing the alert tone on my text messages to a gentler, less urgent sounding alert made a huge difference in ow I reacted to incoming text messages.

  • Meditate. More and more companies are training employees to meditate, so take the initiative and learn to mediate on your own. Apps such as Headspace can get you started, and yes, the hamsters will thank you for it.

  • Practice simple focusing exercises, for example, when you’re working on your computer, set regular times to focus on something in the distance – it can help your eyesight and help you regain your thoughts when they start to wander.

  • Take charge and set your own technology “no-go” hours and commit to them. Share your rules with your family, make meals a no-go zone for technology, and consider having everyone adhere to one tech-free day during the weekend.

  • Don’t check e-mails first thing in the day or at the end of the day. Instead, focus on activities that will help you clear and focus your mind.