You’ve probably experienced it: You leave some task undone at work, and as a result you “take it home with you” — worrying about the job all evening and spoiling what should be a time of relaxation and rejuvenation.

Well, others have, too. According to a study by a researcher in psychology at Ball State University, employees generally have trouble mentally detaching from work tasks that they’ve failed to finish. The effect is particularly strong when the tasks are considered important.

The study looked at 103 employees who were pursuing a total of 1,127 work goals. The researcher, Dr. Brandon Smit, encouraged one group of these employees to create plans for completing the unfinished tasks, and found that these people managed to detach themselves from work more effectively than the others.

A simple plan
The plans were pretty simple. The employees merely wrote down where, when and how they would finish the tasks that were bothering them.

If you have employees for whom work is so all-encompassing that it hinders their ability to recharge outside of the workplace, you might consider nudging them toward this type of solution. As Smit put it: “A simple change to their work routine like tasks planning near the end of the workday would likely make a real difference.”

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