How to stop thinking about work all the time!

Did you ever dream about work? I used to do this on a regular basis. I thought it was normal. 

With the continuous accessibility and increased responsibility of work function as you grow your career, it is likely that you find yourself doing work or at least thinking of work when you are on vacation, have a day off, spending time with friends. 

I would argue that thinking of work is a greater problem because if you do the work (presumably) there is an end to it. It is more tangible and therefore easier to control. But thinking… oh, that compulsive hamster on his wheel… 

See the full article in Harvard Business Review on how methods of behavioral psychology can help you stop thinking about work. Below are a few touchpoints from me.

  • Focus on what you’ll do. When we try not to do something, we have to tell our brain what will we do instead. Try thinking of a “not blue” color, what comes to mind first? You got it! Blue! So create a specific plan of what will you do when you are away from work: baking cookies with your children, watching a movie, meeting with friends.
  • I loved this offer from Mr. Markman “set up a personal training session for 5:30 PM at a gym near your office...”. This will make you 1) leave the office early, 2) get exercise, and 3) stop thinking about work! Brilliant! And tapping into your personal responsibility (the trainer is waiting for you), and financial responsibility (you are paying for it) makes it more likely that you will actually stick with it. Because let’s face it, the environment takes over.
  • My personal favorite is the “brain dump”. Keep a notebook handy and write down all the things that are bothering you. This way you get them out of your system, quite literally. I keep one next to my bed (I get some very good ideas as I try to go to sleep!) It works whether you are thinking about the real to-dos that you need to remember (then you have them recorded for when you are back at work) and if your thoughts reflect anxieties that actually do not require any action from you now (or possibly ever). 

It’s all good but...

Planning actions solves half of the problem. What if you are still thinking about work while backing them cookies? How to actually switch off your mind? 

The author suggests occupying the brain with things such as listening to music or reading a novel. Perhaps... However, at the height of compulsive thinking about work, my brain was running so fast a novel would not have done it for me.

It is scary to admit, but the infamous stories about super high-stress investment bankers doing drugs started having more sense then. This definitely gives a shortcut to switching off the brain. Needless to say, this is not an option I practice or endorse! 

"Control your mind, Luke!"

Stopping excessive thinking of work will require gaining some mental discipline. Because you will catch yourself thinking of your next meeting while making the cookie dough or reading the same page for the third time. You will need to remind yourself to stay focused and it will get better with practice.

And as you learn to control your mind and keep the focus where you want it to be, this will have a positive effect on so many areas of your life, including the job performance!

Having an accountability partner helps a lot. Share your intentions with a family member and give them permission to remind you when they notice you slipping up (and not get mad when they do!) 

Apart from physically stopping the pattern, working on your priorities is key. After all compulsive thinking is an indication that somewhere in your set of beliefs work is at the very top of the pyramid. This is why your mind keeps prioritizing it. 

It is understandable, job is important, it is a huge part of who you are, it provides for your family. And... what can get you comfortable not thinking about work? What are you missing out on by thinking about it all the time? Who are you beyond work, and what value would you add by being present? Imagine that...

Coaching will guide you through this thought process and I would love to support you in exploring this if you feel the urgency to change.

I wish that you to really enjoy the upcoming holiday break and stay present with family and friends!

Send me an email and let me know your thoughts or book a free consultation using this link.


How to Forget About Work When You’re Not Working, By Art Markman


There a few great Apps available to practice controlling the mind:

  • Headspace   
  • Relax Melodies
  • Calm

Sveta Parilova is a career and life coach who partners up with mid-career professionals to help them get rekindled and renewed about their work/career, so that they feel less stressed and more joyful at work and at home. She is passionate about supporting people in their search for purpose and meaning in their work and life, and is humbled and honored to be part of their journey to a more joyful self. Click here to schedule a Complimentary Discovery Session and learn more!


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Svetlana Parilova
Thrive Network International, LLC