Although I now work from home as a freelance writer, for the first few years of my career I worked in an office at an ad agency. So I know the challenges of establishing a post-work routine, whether I’m working from home or at the office. Some days I’d be delayed at work and too tired to do anything once I finally returned home, or I was still checking emails late into the night before finally falling asleep.
My evenings used to be a mish-mosh of whatever I could fit in until I realized that establishing a post-work routine was a wonderful way to find balance at the end of each day. Part of taking care of ourselves is learning when to unplug, unwind, and relax into the evening. If we’re still checking emails or doing work tasks, our evenings can become a blur of either still doing too much work or not doing the few things we wanted to accomplish at home.
Here are some tips for how to create a healthy post-work routine:
Set a “quitting time”
When I worked in an office, it seemed easy to know when “quitting time” was because I had to physically leave work at some point. However, there was still email on my phone and opportunities to be working without being in the office, which made it hard to fully disengage from my job. When you work from home, sticking to a stop time can be even more challenging because you don’t have to get up and leave. So, one of the things I do every day is look at my to-do list for the day and decide on a quitting time. At that time, I put away my computer and stop working, no matter if I got everything done or not.
Put your phone on do not disturb for one hour
After I reach my quitting time, I immediately put my phone on Do Not Disturb for at least an hour. During this time, I usually go for a walk, start making dinner, or read a book. But taking a break from the constant notifications and pings really helps me switch into chill mode. I find I look forward to this break every day!
Move your body
Whether it’s a full workout, cleaning up around your home, or walking your dog, getting active is one of the best things you can do as part of your post-work routine, especially if you spent all day sitting. Though I temper my expectations of myself on rough days when I just don’t feel like exercising. I don’t force myself to go run three miles after a grueling day (although I totally admire anyone who does!). Instead, I figure out what feels best for me that day, whether it’s going outside for a walk or just straightening things up around my house. Either way, simply moving around for at least 20 to 30 minutes makes me feel better than if I plop myself down for the night.
Unwind before bed
At least 30 minutes before you get into bed, try to find an activity that relaxes you. I usually like to journal or read a book. But some days, I like to indulge in a reality TV show. Taking a bath is another activity I love to do before bed, especially with some candles and a chill playlist in the background. Find what makes you relax and then do that before getting into bed. Letting my body unwind helps me fall into a deeper, more peaceful sleep.
Experiment with what works best for you
Here’s the thing: Your post-work routine has to work for YOU. Depending on your work schedule and your responsibilities, some activities might fit in great and others might feel unrealistic. That’s totally okay—and it can be fun to experiment with what works best. Maybe you need to switch up the order of your routine and work out after dinner rather than going for a walk before. Whatever feels right for you is what you should stick with.
For me, I’ve found a greater peace of mind when I know I’m going to switch off at a certain time each day. I’ve started to sleep better and I get more done, including prioritizing my self-care through both workouts and rest. Establishing a routine was the key for me.