“ How do I leave work at work ?” I ’ m frequently asked this question and its countless variations : “ How do I separate my work time from my personal time ?” “ How do I stop my brain from constantly thinking about work while I ’ m at home ?” I could go on but you get the idea .
Most recently a participant at an event I hosted asked the question . At the start of the event I asked the participants to share their desired outcomes for the event – the one thing that if they learned it , it would make their investment of time and money both valuable and profitable . Their outcomes included how to reduce stress , achieve work / life balance , be more productive , and leave work at work .
When you dig a little deeper , you discover that you can reduce stress , achieve whole-life balance , and be more productive when you leave work at work . Stopping the Monkey Mind from constantly thinking about work while you ’ re at home is the gateway to achieving your desired outcomes . So , how do you solve the problem and leave work at work ? By emptying your head .
I ’ m going to share with you a system I have used over the years that has allowed me to leave work at work and be fully present when I ’ m at home with my family . The genesis of the system is derived from the book Getting Things Done : The Art of Stress- Free Productivity by David Allen .
Before creating and using this system , I would leave work for the day or weekend or even a vacation and my mind would constantly think of all the things I had to do ... or even worse , forgot to do . As this endless loop continued to play in my mind , I became stressed and anxious and would spend my time while at home with my family thinking about work , checking email , and sneaking off to my home office . Sound familiar ? That ’ s when I decided to empty my head .
The science behind the system is that whenever you accept or create a task for yourself , your brain stores that task in your unconscious mind ( or what David Allen calls your Psychic RAM ) as an open-loop or incomplete task . And that task will “ eat away at you ” because your Psychic RAM has no concept of time and wants you to work on all your tasks all the time until their complete . Your mind then constantly replays these open-loops which causes pressure to build-up resulting in stress and anxiety . Similar to releasing the pressure on a computer ’ s RAM , you need to relieve the pressure on your Psychic Ram . And that ’ s done by getting the tasks out of your head and written down .
Once all your incomplete tasks are out of your head and written down , your mind is free to stop working on them . Your stress and anxiety will be reduced , and you ’ ll be more effective , efficient , and productive . Cognitive neuroscience refers to this as Distributed Cognition . Basically , you are distributing the thought process of remembering and working on the incomplete task from your mind to the inanimate object – the piece of paper or computer program .
Okay , enough of the science – let ’ s focus on emptying our heads . Remember that email you opened this morning but didn ’ t respond to ? Or that discovery response you considered doing but haven ’ t started ? Even better , what incomplete task did you think of while reading this article ? All those items are open-loops taking up space in your head causing unnecessary stress and anxiety .
The only way to close those open-loops are to complete them or get them out of your head . So the first step is capturing all your incomplete tasks in one place . This part usually takes the longest because if you ’ re anything like me you have dozens of openloops at any moment and you might have them on your to-do list , in your computer , on your phone , in text messages from your significant other , on random post-it notes , written on your work calendar , written on your home calendar , scribbled on scraps of paper in your car , or just floating around in your mind . Until you have captured your entire universe of incomplete tasks in one
PALMBEACHBAR . ORG 24 place your mind will keep searching and searching for more .
Once you ’ ve captured all your tasks , the next step is to process them . Decide what the task is and what to do with it - if anything . If there ’ s nothing for you to do , throw it out or file it . Don ’ t leave it sitting around taking up space .
If there is something for you to do , can you do it in two minutes or less ? If yes , do it ! If no , delegate it or defer it to a later time by tracking it in a trusted system that you consistently review and update .
Once you have captured all your incomplete tasks in one place and processed them by either deleting , doing , delegating , or deferring them into a trusted system , your mind can let go and you will leave work at work .
Allen , David . Getting Things Done : The Art of Stress- Free Productivity . Penguin Books ; Revised edition ( March 17 , 2015 ). Print .
Similar to a computer ’ s RAM ( random access memory ).
Distributed Cognition is a branch of cognitive science that proposes cognition and knowledge are not confined to an individual ; rather , it is distributed across objects , individuals , artefacts , and in the environment . David L ., “ Distributed Cognition ( DCog ),” in Learning Theories , February 25 , 2007 , https : www . learningtheories . com / distributed-cognition-dcog . html .
This is a much abbreviated version of the custom system I created and use . If you ’ re interested in a comprehensive explanation of the complete system from its original source , I highly recommend David Allen ’ s book : Getting Things Done : The Art of Stress- Free Productivity .
Brian M . Moskowitz is the Founder of Attorney Revolution - a solo practitioner in Boca Raton , and a member of our Solo and Small Firm Committee . Brian can be reached at brian @ attorneyrevolution . com