One thing I enjoyed about working in a professional kitchen was the decisiveness of the end of a shift. The kitchen is a place of intensity, where there is no time to be idle, but when the restaurant's closed, it's closed. And its people are truly off the clock.
This runs very counter to corporate culture in the US, where I daresay that in the quest for "work/life balance" we've become victim to these in-between modes where we're never really 100% on and never 100% off. Normal hours are sprinkled with frequent social media checks and office chatter that keep us from progressing into sustained deep work. And during "off hours," no one is truly off the clock, with emails frequently being sent late into the night/early morning.
I don't think this is sustainable. Of course, there needs to be social breaks during work, and of course sometimes a boss will have to ask an employee to pull something together outside of normal hours. Instead, my concern is how this has become the norm, not the exception. The "always on" hours are often the result of an unproductive day and vice versa.
When we operate in this mode over time, our work quality suffers when we're on and we never reap the full benefits of rest when we're off—like getting a full eight hours of sleep, but with an alarm going off every 20 minutes.
I think this work/rest balance is more important than the "work/life" balance talked about so much. What does "life" refer to in that phrase anyways? It actually infers that work isn't "life," when we know it accounts for a significant portion of it.
Instead, if we focus on being as productive as possible while at work, we earn the reward of true rest. A period of time that when used right, not only helps us recover from the events of the previous day, but puts us in the best possible place to have an even better day tomorrow. And who doesn't want that?
Working on working
Active time to complete: 5 minutes
Athletes condition themselves through interval training, keeping pace of their performance so they can constantly improve. This same technique can be applied to focused work. If you find yourself with a chunk of uninterrupted time to get stuff done, try timing how long you're able to stay in the zone before taking a social media/text/email/etc break. Repeat.