How to Leave Work at Work: 5 Ways to Get Better at It

Macgill Davis

As remote work becomes more popular, the line between work and personal life is fading fast. Many professionals struggle with not feeling good enough, which makes it difficult for them to shut down and leave work at work at the end of the day.

If this sounds like you, it may seem like no matter how hard you work, there's always something left to do. Maybe you have a to-do list that never gets shorter or a workaholic manager who constantly sends work emails after-hours. 

Whatever your situation, this article is for you if you’ve ever wondered how to leave work at work. We'll share five tips to help you develop a habit of fully disconnecting from work at the end of each day.

3 Significant Benefits of Leaving Work at Work

Before moving to the tips, let's look at three significant benefits of leaving work at work after-hours.

1. Better Relationships and a Richer Personal Life

Disconnecting from work at the end of the day allows you to be more present and engaged with your family and loved ones. You have more mental capacity to pay attention to their stories and experiences without zoning out and thinking about work. Being present and participating in activities outside of work goes a long way in creating better relationships and a richer personal life. It also improves your overall well-being and balances the work-life equation.

2. Improved Productivity

Leaving work at work may seem counterintuitive, especially when you have a lot to do. But it actually improves productivity and work performance. When you work continuous long hours without resting, your productivity declines and the odds of making mistakes increases. You may make short-sighted decisions and sabotage your progress due to mental fatigue, stress, and other factors. 

3. Better Mental Health

The pressure to always be "on" and available for work can be exhausting. Disconnecting from work helps improve your mental health by creating space and time to relax, engage in extracurricular activities, and replenish your mental energy. This helps you reduce the risk of burnout and develop more mental resilience to tackle your tasks at work with a positive attitude and perspective. 

5 Tips on How to Leave Work at Work  

How to leave work at work: woman using a laptop

Now let’s get right into our five tips to develop the habit of leaving work at work. 

1. Get Work Done at Work

Focusing on work during work time is the very first step to learning how to leave work at work. You may struggle with getting into a flow state, maintaining focus on a single task, or limiting distractions like social media. Or maybe you’re struggling with procrastination or not being clear on your work goals and responsibilities. 

Whatever it is that stops you from working when you should, spend some time identifying these habits and triggers. Then, cut them out so you can become more productive at work. When you work diligently at the right time, you can reduce the amount of work you have left at the end of the day. This, in turn, reduces work stress and anxiety. 

When you do your best work during work, you find it easier to switch off after a long day and focus on other things, like family, hobbies, and relaxation. You can use productivity tactics like eating an elephant (breaking your tasks into smaller bits) or the Pomodoro technique (working in short bursts) to maximize your work time and create more room to rest after work.

2. Stop Working at a Fixed Time Every Day

As you get better at doing your work at work, you will gain a better sense of how much you can accomplish in a day and what’s typically left at the end of the day. This allows you to set an optimal workday end time that doesn't impede your productivity but supports it.

Set a time to stop work every day and stick to it. You can establish a shutdown ritual to signal the end of the workday, to declutter your mind from the day's work, and to reset your mind for the rest of the evening. This ritual might include:

  • Cleaning up and organizing your workspace before leaving your office
  • Mindfulness exercises like deep breathing, venting into a private work journal, or listing all you're grateful for 

Taking time to reflect on your day and intentionally wrapping up work at the end of each day helps improve your overall wellness and perspective. Over time, your brain recognizes your shutdown ritual as the end of a full workday and the start of your personal time. 

3. Plan for the Next Day

The next important tip to leaving work at work is to plan for the next day before you leave work. Planning helps to declutter your mind and ensure you're ready to hit the ground running in the morning.

Go over the day's work: what you accomplished and what you didn't. Make a note of tasks that are urgent and important. Then, list your priorities (the must-dos) for the next day. You can use time management techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix and time blocking to organize your tasks and schedule them.

4. Put Away Work Devices and Turn off Notifications

How to leave work at work: person using a phone

When you've stopped work for the day, put your work devices out of sight and turn off work notifications. You can automate turning on and off your work notifications for a specific time. For example, using the Do Not Disturb feature on an iPhone, you can silence work notifications from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. every workday. This way, you don't have to think about it and can seamlessly move from work mode to home mode.

Putting away devices and silencing work app notifications help you tune out work and be more present to enjoy your time away. Ignoring this tip and simply deciding to ignore your work emails and messages after-hours is not as effective because your brain starts imagining a response or scenario once you see a notification. 

Whether you click or act on it or not, you leave behind attention residue, which drains your mental energy. Putting away your devices and work app notifications fosters a better work-life balance and a quieter mind.

5. Let Your Co-Workers Know When They Can Reach You

Set boundaries that protect your after-work time. It may be tough at first, but it can be done. Let your co-workers know when and how they can reach you and when you’re unavailable after work. For example, you may say, “I’m leaving and spending time with my kids at 6 p.m. every weekday. If you send me an email after that time, I may miss it and will most likely respond after 9 a.m. the next day.”

Being clear about your boundaries and availability after work helps deter unnecessary or avoidable interruptions, allowing you to focus on your personal or family needs when you get off work.

Track Your Time With Rize to Work More Efficiently and Leave Work at Work

There you have it. Our best tips on how to leave work at work. Getting your work done at work, wrapping up with a shutdown routine, and communicating time boundaries with your co-workers help you hone the habit.

To get the benefits of disconnecting after work, you must get better at estimating and allocating your work time. Tracking how long it takes to complete tasks and analyzing how you spend your time helps you know what can realistically be done in a day or week. This shields you from putting too much on your plate and getting stressed and overwhelmed when you can't complete them. Start tracking your time with a free trial of Rize today.