We spend 40+ hours a week with these people. Most of them know pretty much all the big things going on in our lives. We eat meals together, we sit in long meetings together, comment on the weather together, and faithfully promise to “See you tomorrow”.
These people are our coworkers, and whether we like it or not, we most likely spend more time with them than we do with our families. That being said, there can be times when we need to protect ourselves from our work lives creeping into the other hours left in a week.
If we develop “professional boundaries” early on in our careers, we will not only preserve the expectations and relationships we have with our coworkers, but also allow ourselves to not be overstretched in our work.
Monitor the amount you work outside of the office. Be sure to set firm boundaries early on so that you can protect what time you have for yourself.
That doesn’t mean that you tell your boss, “I won’t be answering the phone at all after I clock out at 5pm sharp,” but it does mean that you set some general guidelines for when you will return calls and emails. It’s perfectly acceptable to say to your boss, “I will be going away this weekend, which means limited access to email and cell service. But as soon as I return on Sunday I will be sure to check in on everything and handle any issues.”
In some roles, separating yourself like this is impossible. If you are in a management position or in a job that runs 24 hours a day, you may not be able to completely disconnect, however you can still take that vacation weekend if you go through the necessary steps of assigning someone else to handle major issues during your time away. Remember, even if you are the most essential part to your team, you still need to maintain any semblance of work-life balance that you can muster up!
Pace yourself every day. Take a personal day every once in awhile. And don’t overextend yourself on projects.
We all want to be known for our excellent work throughout our careers, but in order for that to be the case, we need to know our limits. This means pacing ourselves every day in order to avoid quickly burning out, or worse: disappointing our teams. We cannot collaborate well if we have rushed ahead on projects, produced sloppy work, or lost so much sleep over a deadline that we walk around like a zombie for days on end.
As I mentioned before, there are professions in which you don’t have a choice in your schedule or projects. But there still must be an element of pacing yourself for your works’ sake. Planning out a personal day a few weeks in advance is possible, but it might require shifting things around to make it work. And asking for help before you mess up on a potentially career-changing project is so much better than dropping the ball altogether, don’t you think?
Take the time you’ve been “gifted” each day and use it to rest your brain.
Take that hour they give you for lunch each day and use it to recharge for the second half of your day. Treat yourself to a nice lunch. Go for a walk. Read a book. Take a cat nap in your car! Do something, anything other than pushing out more work while scrambling to shove down a quick sandwich during your lunch break.
If you work on a computer all day, it’s so important to get up and go outside to readjust your eyes from the screen to real life. This will save you from a headache and significant eyesight issues in the future. And if you’re on your feet all day, take that lunch break to put your feet up for a bit, relax and stretch!
Life is far too short to spend its entirety living out of your office. Setting respectful yet firm boundaries will allow you to enjoy the leisurely parts of your life that are necessary to succeed. There’s a reason the old saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Don’t be dull. Be sharp and attentive to all parts of your life. And remember, you have one life to live. Make it manageable!