We’re all stressed out and it’s no wonder why. Our world has been blown wide open by advances in technology and although there are countless benefits, there are also some serious burdens.
We’ve opened up our world and made it incredibly easy to communicate with anyone at any time, but we’ve also opened ourselves up to massive amounts of stress and worry. It’s important to find a way to protect ourselves in order to have a healthy and fulfilling life.
So What’s the Answer?
Taking a look at the boundaries in our lives can be an eye-opening and life-altering exercise. In the first part of this series, we used backyard fences as a metaphor for relational boundaries. In the second part, we discussed how healthy boundaries are essential in romantic relationships. Now, let’s talk a little bit about how healthy boundaries can help us achieve better work-life balance.
Setting Healthy Boundaries at Work
In our careers, boundaries are the lines that define what we accept and what we do not accept. You’ve probably heard the adage “you teach people how to treat you”. Although it may be cliche, it’s also extremely true - especially when it comes to boundaries in the workplace. Technology enables us to be reached at any time of day or night. It can feel like we’re always on call. In some ways, we might enjoy being constantly “needed", and it may feel like an indication of our success. We may worry that our career trajectory depends on our willingness to "put the job first”, so we feel it’s required to be constantly available. However, when it gets to the point where we’re seen as the office pushover, or the one who will ’swoop in’ to deal with an issue, it suggests things have gotten extreme.
Consider trying this:
Often I challenge people to wonder about what would happen if instead of always saying ‘yes’, they warmly started with, “I’d love to help if I can - let me check my schedule and see if I’m able”. This is an example of setting a healthy boundary. If the answer is ‘no’, at least we showed the other person we were willing to help but other demands interfered. If the answer is ‘yes’, we still reminded the other person that we have other things going on and we won't always be available.
Setting Healthy Boundaries Between Home and Work
It’s getting easier and easier to blur the lines between home and work. If you added up the number of minutes in the workday that you were sending/receiving personal texts, swiping through dating apps, or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, chances are you would be shocked at the result. On the reverse, what would we find if we quantified the number of minutes at home that we spend checking our work emails or texting with coworkers? It’s easy to feel like we’re never 100% at home, and never 100% at work either. This results in guilt, distraction, stress, resentment, and all kinds of crappy emotions.
Consider trying this:
Take a look at your daily calendar and consider all of your waking hours. Decide what times will be “work hours" and what will be “home hours”. Here’s an example: I decide that although I wake every morning at 6am, I’m not going to start thinking about work until 7am. At 7am, I’ll allow myself 30 minutes to go through work emails and feel mentally prepared for the workday. I’ll decide to keep my commute for myself and listen to my favorite podcast on the way to work. When I get to work, it’s focused work time, so I don’t distract myself with personal stuff until I stop for lunch. When I get home, I’m 100% home. I check work at the door and focus on my family or myself for the first two hours at home. I’ll make myself available to deal with work for another hour or so, before taking time to decompress and relax before bed. When you’re clear with yourself about when you’re on the clock and when you’re off, it’s much easier to be clear with others.
This example shows how we can take charge of our time and our lives. By doing this, we allow ourselves to really focus on those we care about, and on the work we need to get done. We’re better able to balance it all. Our stress, guilt, and anxiety will fade and we’ll find ourselves feeling calmer, happier and more fulfilled.
Hope you’re having a good day and check in if you need me!