There is no separation of work and life anymore. Gone are the days of a having a clear division between our job and anything else outside of our job. Our bosses text us at night, we check our email during dinner, and work during our vacation.
Work and life are now intertwined in a way that has left many feeling depleted, stressed, and unwell. If you have felt this too, you are not alone.
Here’s the thing, anytime anything changes, new knowledge and skills are needed.
The problem is that this change, the blending of work and life, just oozed its way in without any of us properly preparing for it. It was happening before the pandemic but the pandemic’s sudden and dramatic push to working from home made it all the more real.
For many, this mash up has resulted in surviving their professional lives, not thriving in them.
In addition, the “quiet quitting” craze put a spotlight on the need to set boundaries that intend to restore some division again between our work and life. We covered that topic (How to Set Boundaries at Work) and it sparked conversations and comments like,
“Agreed. I need boundaries. Big time. But I’m so swamped I can hardly think of any to set.”
“Where do I begin? It feels like I have so many boundaries to set I don’t know where to start.”
“I can set boundaries all day. But will I stick to them? That’s a different topic entirely.”
This is the reality of boundary setting. We know our work/life needs them, but putting them into practice is where we can stumble.
Improving our work/life, this blend of both worlds, can begin with setting two small, yet powerful boundaries. These two are within our full control and not dependent on others following or respecting them.
Give one or both a try for two weeks and see what impact they have on you.
Boundary 1: End Your Meetings Early
Most organizations have a dismissal meeting culture. Meetings at these institutions are poorly planned and executed. Those bad meetings also occur back-to-back leaving little room for completing deliverables or self-care (read: eating and going to the bathroom).
The lack of getting real work done and attending to these basics needs ruins our sense of accomplishment and wellbeing.
Combat this by ending all your meetings 5-10 minutes early (5 for 30 minutes meetings, and 10 for 60-minute meetings). These are the meetings you have control over. Get one or two of your friends at work to do the same and do it even if you don’t have another meeting scheduled after.
No need to blast a big communication about it or explain it. Just do it. As a small group, you will model the behaviors you want to see out of others. It will catch on.
Then, during that 5-10-minutes before the next meeting, take care of yourself. Eat, stand up and stretch, walk around your living room if at home or use the restroom a floor up if at the office.
These micro-breaks throughout the day help you restore your energy and have some left over at the end of the day.
Boundary #2 – Stop “Screen Eating”
At first glance, I thought it was referencing some weird tendency to chew on your phone. In reality, it refers to something we’re all guilty of, eating while scrolling or using any device.
It also refers to not taking a lunch break. Many eat their lunch at a desk staring at their computer or with their phone in hand. Both work against performance and wellbeing.
It's all about distractions. Eating while working is really just working while distracted. This means, work suffers. Eating while scrolling is distracted eating which leads to consuming too much and missing those important cues of feeling full.
Setting this boundary not only leads to a healthier lifestyle, but it also leads to better work/life behaviors overall. For example, a 2019 survey found that those who don’t take a lunch break were more likely to say, “I am willing to work late or on weekends.” Meaning, those who gave up their free time at lunch, gave it up elsewhere too.
It could also be that those who are likely to work late or on weekends are also more likely to give up lunch. But the point still stands – you must start somewhere – why not start with lunch?
Restoring boundaries to create some division between our work and our life can be the difference between thriving and feeling good about our day, or just surviving it. Give these two boundaries a try and recruit some friends or family to follow suit. It’s worth it.
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Until next time!
Amy Drader is a management consultant and credentialed coach with over 20 years’ experience in HR and operations. She knows first-hand the joys and challenges of leading people and is dedicated to helping managers and teams advance their performance. She is the owner of Growth Partners Consulting, a boutique leadership and team development consulting firm that provides customized training and coaching.
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