update: how can I get away from work on the weekend and in the evenings?

Remember the reader who asked how to get away from work on the weekends and the evenings, because her managers never stopped emailing? Here’s the update.

I have a happy update to this. First off, I changed the email settings on my phone so that mail needs to be manually checked on the weekends. I sometimes find that I forget to even look all day, which is so much more relaxing. As long as I eventually get to it (in one session, usually late afternoon in between other things), I don’t miss too much. I’m sitting out a few conversations, maybe, but it’s a trade-off for sanity and nothing majorly bad has happened. If something really needs an immediate response, people know to text me, but that’s happened maybe once.

Also, I turned off that little “ding” that my phone did every time I got an email – I didn’t even realize the pavlovian effect it was having on me. In short, having a million emails is less stressful if you don’t know they’re there.

Another idea from your blog that helped me – occasionally, when I’m at the office and I’ve gotten through everything I need to do that day, I just go home. This helps to regain a little bit of balance and, since I know I’m going to be filling in those hours and minutes during off times later in the week, it’s better not to waste what time I have mindlessly waiting for the clock.

So I’m still working a little bit at random times, but I’ve learned how to turn it off and relax when I can, and I’m feeling much happier and more balanced than I was a few months ago.

{ 21 comments… read them below }

  1. Ruffingit*

    It’s great to hear you’ve found some balance OP! And also that you’ve come to realize that the world won’t stop spinning if you aren’t “at the helm” 24/7 at work. Good for you for reclaiming that all important mental space that work was occupying way too much!

    1. Erik*

      I simply stopped checking email. Problem solved. If something is really *THAT* important, my phone better ring. Then I know it’s important.

      99.99999% of the time emails sent on the weekend are junk that can easily wait until Monday.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        I go one step further and screen all my calls outside work hours too. I check the voice mail as soon as possible… but I don’t respond to anything that isn’t clearly a time-sensitive emergency for at least 10 minutes.

  2. ProcReg*

    The first thing I did with my email Outlook, was turn off the ding AND desktop notifications. Serenity now!

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        That’s a really good idea. As a rule I try to make my email subject lines pretty generic if there’s something sensitive in the content, after hearing a rumor about a manager getting a desktop notification when a highly confidential email landed in his Inbox with the topic in the subject line….while projecting his laptop to his entire department during a meeting. Eek!

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly, those dingy noises interrupt everything. You can make a time to look at that stuff. Much better.

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    Glad you’ve been able to find some balance, OP! We all talk about wanting work/life balance, but we need to be active in obtaining that.

    It is SO easy to feel like you’re tethered to your phone 24/7. And it feels weird to disconnect because you feel like you’re not doing your job, even if it’s the weekend. But then once you do it, it’s a great feeling.

  4. Victoria Nonprofit*

    I love this, and remember with pleasure when I turned off my email notifications over the weekend.

    I do have a question about the “when I got everything I wanted done, I leave for the day.” I’m not snarking, I’m genuinely curious: Do people experience this? Because in my current role there’s never any “done,” and never any “enough.” I leave when I decide I need to leave for my sanity.

    1. abby*

      I am not the letter writer, but I can share what this means to me. I cannot remember the last time that I got everything “done”. However, I am making an effort to better prioritize my work and set goals for each week and each day. There have been times I’ve achieved my goals for the day, even though many other things remain undone. When that happens, I feel the day is a success and I am comfortable leaving, even if it’s a bit early. Perhaps this is what the letter writer means.

    2. AVP (OP)*

      First of all thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions! I’m excited too.

      Victoria, I’m not at a nonprofit so the workload might be a little different. I usually have plenty of things on my to-do list, but yes, sometimes I get through it! On those cases there’s generally something I could do if I really wanted to, or if I want to get a jump on the next day or next week, but leaving at 4pm once every few weeks is way more fun.

      I should say though, I almost never take midweek days or hours off and rarely go out for lunch. And my company works from project to project, but I stay on full time, so this happens mostly when one ends and the next is yet to begin.

    3. AB*

      My work is project-based, so there are plenty of times when I got everything I wanted done for the day! For example, if I’m specifying requirements for 3 software projects, and I’ve already completed the requirements for the first release of these 3 projects, and am now working on release 2 of each of them. Any time I complete a task and feel I need a break is a good time to stop and just go home, even if it’s just 2pm.

      First, the dev team (who may have a question for me) is in India, so they only want to talk to me in the evening or next morning (on my timezone). Second, release 2 may have a huge change in scope based on the user feedback when they start testing release 1, so anticipating too much of the work is probably just going to be a waste at that point, and the company would much rather I saved these hours for an eventual Skype call whenever the dev team needs me.

    4. Jamie*

      I am with Victoria – I don’t get the concept of “done” due to the nature of my job…so I leave when I am at a clean breaking point.

      If I wanted for done I’d live here, and quite frankly the emergency shower isn’t up to my standards.

  5. Bea W*

    “In short, having a million emails is less stressful if you don’t know they’re there.”


  6. Darcy Pennell*

    So glad to hear that the OP has been able to get some distance from work email on weekends. Like them, I’ve found it hugely helpful to turn off email notifications on my phone. I still have access to the messages but I don’t feel obligated to read each one as it comes in.

    While on vacation I have to be available in case of emergency, but I don’t want to get in the habit of doing routine work during time off. I disable the work account on my phone and use company webmail to check my messages once a day. If a message doesn’t look urgent from the subject line, I try not to even read it. It has made it a lot easier to relax and forget about work while I’m away!

  7. WWC*

    I have a co-worker who is an orthodox Jew, they never work the Sabbath etc. I like this reminder that there is sacred time.I think when we lose who are in our work, we get burnt out. This co-worker is always a Jew first; my take away is to be true to yourself, your beliefs, your family first. When we answer “the call of our employer” at all times, regardless of importance, we have relinquished why we even work- to live outside of work!

    1. Ruffingit*

      Totally agreed. It’s much the same where my husband is from in Europe. Sundays are considered a rest day and time or the family. The idea that shops are open on Sundays in the US was a bit of a shock for him.

  8. Cath@VWXYNot?*

    I cured myself of needing to frequently check my emails while away from the office by going to Cuba, where I had zero cell phone or WiFi connection for two weeks – it just wasn’t available (2009). For the first few days I still checked my phone every couple of hours, just out of habit, but by the end of the trip I was using it just as a camera and nothing else.

    I appreciate that this option isn’t available for those with government-mandated Cuban travel bans, but I highly recommend it (or an equivalent) to those free to travel :)

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