Work Life Balance. Here Are 5 Ways to ‘Un-blur’ Your Work and Personal Life
According to a few searches on Google, the definition of a ‘boundary’ is a point or limit that indicates where two things become different. Back in the days when there were no mobile phones, no internet and few people worked from home I’m pretty sure this was an easier boundary to define….and stick to.
But we don’t live in those days anymore, and with the advances of technology there has been a marked shift to define and achieve a healthy work life balance. Why? Burnout, depression and anxiety are but a few reasons why you shouldn’t ignore striking a healthy balance in your life, and setting boundaries.
Unfortunately, it’s not as straight forward as you might like to think.
For starters everyone is different, and what constitutes a healthy boundary between work and personal time for one person, may be very different for another. Added to the fact that there are often unclear expectations and guidelines set down by managers, and it’s hard to know where to start.
Un-blurring your work and personal boundaries
Fortunately here are a few ways (five to be exact) on how you can create healthy boundaries between your work and your life, leading to a healthy work life balance.
1. Become aware of what your boundaries look like
Maybe you’ve never even stopped to notice what your current work life boundaries look like, so this is a good place to start. Ask yourself (and be honest), how many hours are you working each week? How often do you get to do the things you love? When was the last time you caught up with friends for dinner or had a weekend with no laptop?
Often we can get carried away by the day to day activities of life, without pausing to check to see if it’s the direction we actually want to be going in. In order to un-blur the boundaries of your work, you first need to understand where these are and how you want them to be.
2. Get expectations clarified
It’s all too easy to assume what our managers are thinking or what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be doing. You may think that in order to show your commitment and strong work ethic that working weekends is a must. But is it really? And are you really expected to monitor your emails 24/7? It is absolutely crucial to have expectations clearly set out and discussed. If in doubt, ask.
I remember back in my advertising days that some members of my team liked to stay late because that’s when their creativity came to life. For some of the juniors, seeing a few people staying back meant that staying late was therefore ‘the thing to do’. It wasn’t until I sat down and spoke with them about why they’d started to stay back that I understood their mistaken assumptions and set them straight. Talk to your manager about what to do when emails come in after hours, or your workload is too heavy and late nights have become the norm. From time to time work does get busy, but it should never jeopardise your health and wellbeing.
3. Decide on your own level of personal ambition
You may be at a point in your life where you’re 180% committed to your career, and that’s great! Late nights, early starts, weekends and everything in between are just all part of your current path. The difference with this scenario is that it’s a conscious, thought out and chosen direction. Everyone’s boundaries are different, and if at this stage in your career you have set them more towards investing additional time into your field/industry then I congratulate you on your clarity.
There is no right or wrong with any of this, and it’s important to realise that extra hours do not necessarily equate to climbing the corporate ladder any quicker. Remember, it’s about what you want and how you want to create and set your boundaries.
4. Put rules in place and stick to them
Once you have set your boundaries and you’re happy with them, it’s now important to stick to them. One important reason for holding true to your boundaries is the fact that we teach others how to treat us. If we train those around us to understand that early mornings are for your family, and after 6pm during the work week you won’t be checking emails, then it’s a lot easier to un-blur the boundaries.
Here are a few examples of boundaries you may like to put in place and why they’re good for you... and those around you!
Boundary 1: After 6pm I’ll stop checking my emails. If something urgent happens, call me.
Why it’s good for you: You can allow yourself to switch off and focus on your personal life (like not being on your phone over dinner….). You know that nothing urgent requires your attention, and if anything does happen you’ll get a phone call.
Why it’s good for them: Chances are they’ll follow your lead and give the emails a rest too. They also know that unless they organise themselves and email you before 6pm they’ll have to wait until the morning for an answer (unless it’s a near-death emergency….in which case they can call you).
Boundary 2: Leave the office at 5.30pm on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Why it’s good for you: Go to the gym, head to a meditation class or catch up with friends for dinner. All of these will benefit your health and wellbeing and actually make you more productive! In addition, knowing that home time is a fixed time on these days will help you cut down on unnecessary tasks, non-essential meetings and focus on what actually needs to get done.
Why it’s good for them: Workmates know that on these days you’re up and out the door. This encourages them to catch you while they can e.g. stops them organising 5pm meetings that run over…. It also sends a positive vibe to the rest of your team and chances are, just as in the above example others will follow your lead.
Boundary 3: Taking a 30mins lunchbreak EVERY day
Why it’s good for you: There are countless studies demonstrating the many benefits of taking a lunchbreak – from increased wellbeing, lower levels of stress, higher levels of productivity and increased concentration and focus. If you are unable to get out for 30mins at ‘lunchtime’ e.g. 12pm- 2pm, then make a date with yourself in Outlook and go when you can, even if this is at 3.30pm.
Why it’s good for them: You’re actually helping those around you get into good habits too by sticking to this one!
5. Start small and build up your work life balance
Chances are if you attempt to put in place lots of boundaries all at once you’ll become quickly overwhelmed and feel like a failure as they all topple in on you.
Pick one area and start from there.
It’s much easier to commit to one step at a time and build up.
So ask yourself, what is most important to you right now?
Where are the blurring of lines causing you the most stress? Perhaps it’s in the evenings and checking emails over dinner. Perhaps it’s about starting a new exercise regime and committing to leaving work at a certain time. Whatever it is, identify what you most want to change and put in place a small goal. For example, if checking emails has become a habit, then aim to not check your emails after 6pm on a Thursday and Friday….and then add extra days as you gain confidence in keeping this boundary!