The 30-Minute Miracle That Will Change The Way You Leave The Office

I have one word for you today: Transitions.

How am I only realizing this now?

I need time to transition between activities in order to keep my work/life integration, which in the past I’ve called work/life balance but that doesn’t really represent how we blend our work and personal lives any longer, from imploding.

You might have worked this out a long time ago, but it’s only been a few months since I realized this applied to me as well as my pre-schoolers. I think I’ve got this aspect of parenting down and I manage their transitions well:

“We can play for 10/5/3/1 more minute and then we are going home.”

“I’m going to count to 10 and then turn off the light.”

“I’ll sing one more song and then you have to go to sleep.”

But my own transitions went more like:

It’s 5.55am and I leave the house to get my train in 5 minutes. I’ll just put that load of washing on and take the clothes from the dryer upstairs before I put my shoes on.

It’s 4.55pm and I have to leave the office in 5 minutes. I can totally fit in writing another email before I go.

No! It’s no wonder I’ve been so frazzled. I have written before about literally running to meetings. I know people say that you can learn a lot from your children but I really think that managing transition time might be the most important thing they’ve taught me.

Elizabeth Harrin standing in front of a building talking on a cell phone

New ways to manage transitions at work

This is what I am trying to do instead:

  • Set alarms before meetings (Outlook does this for you) and get my thoughts and papers together, even if it means – shock – arriving at the meeting room a minute or two early with nothing to do but wait.
  • Start winding down at work 30 minutes before I need to walk out the door. I no longer have the kind of life where I can stay until I naturally finish my tasks and feel satisfied in my accomplishments, and leave then. I have trains to catch and boys to kiss at bedtime. So I have to have a plan to go, and get myself in a mental state where I’m not trying to jump from ‘work mode’ to ‘commute mode’ in 2 seconds.

The 30 minutes-leaving-work transition is the biggest revelation for me. I start checking my To Do list and making sure the big things are done (and I’ve left myself time to do those straggler tasks like sending that half-written email I started at 8am and haven’t got round to finishing yet).

I mark the most important things for tomorrow so I know what to focus on when I get to work. I do end of day things like change my out of office message, take my cups back to the kitchen, last minute check in with my team.

It means I am leaving the office much calmer and more organized.

Even if my “commute” is just walking back into the house from the shed where I work from home on most days.

If I am working in the office, all those good feelings of being organized and on top of things are normally blown out of the water by the ongoing train strikes and disruption we’ve got on the journey home, but hey, I can’t fix everything!

Could you do the same to wrap up your work day in a more manageable and less stressed way?

Elizabeth Harrin outside with coffee cup