A conversation I’ve been having a lot lately with girlfriends is all about setting better work boundaries. It feels timely given all we’ve endured the past two years with the pandemic and how much of our work lives have shifted as a result.
On Setting Better Work Boundaries
I know I have a lot of privilege in setting work boundaries working for myself. The demands on my time and schedule are far less than when I worked for agencies and had bosses. But, in a different manner, I have more demands on my time because there is always, always more work to be done and there is no one to tell me to stop working, take time off or acknowledge company holidays, etc.
When I first started working for myself I was working around the clock. I was so worried about paying my bills and securing new clients and partnerships that I burnt myself out pretty fast. I had a lot of adrenaline I used as fuel but it became unsustainable. I had to exercise a muscle I wasn’t comfortable with – saying “no” more frequently.
I started pausing my inboxes on weekends about two years into self employment so that I wouldn’t see emails from clients or readers and feel the need to respond – or begin thinking about responding or getting annoyed or stressed – when I read them. It would otherwise eat into my nights and weekends and felt like I had no actual down time.
I installed the Boomerang client to my Gmail inboxes and now when I finish work for the day or the week, I pause my inboxes so I don’t see new emails until I unpause them. It was truly the best work boundary I have ever set for myself.
But this year, I’ve gone even further in setting better boundaries for myself.
At the onset of this year I set a goal to have more balance in my life. In order to do so I needed to make some major changes to how I spent my time. One of the first weekends of 2022 I didn’t post at all to Instagram. It felt so good that I realized I should be doing it often…if not every weekend.
Taking Time Off
So, for all of 2022 so far I have decided to no longer be posting on social media on the weekends. It means I share less, get less engagement and get “punished” by Instagram for not being more active on the app – but let me tell you:
This is the best thing I’ve done for my mental health in recent memory.
I also am giving myself the grace of not having five blog posts up a week on the weeks when I am traveling. This allows me to stress less in preparation of preparing and scheduling those posts before I leave and allows me to not worry about promoting posts I worked hard on while I am out of the office.
I feel like I’m letting down you guys when I don’t have a new blog post every M-F but it’s been an important shift for me to make of late.
The world today is more exhausting than ever. We are glued to our screens and expected to be “on” always it feels like. Vacations don’t seem to be respected as much anymore and people are being contacted at all hours of the day. 9 to 5 doesn’t exist (it never did for me? I worked 14 hour days at my first job out of college and some semblance of that until I left corporate America).
And people’s work/life balance seems so out of whack. I feel we all have a collective burnout.
And I particularly see this with my friends who are parents and have had to navigate being a parent to children during a pandemic while they try to work, have kids at home and have a never-ending sea of changes to deal with due to classroom closures, sick kids, kids at home while they try to take meetings, lack of childcare, etc.
We have to really, truly, sincerely seek out down time. Time off. Time spent recharging.
And I think it is extremely beneficial to remember that there will always, always, always be more work to be done. We will never catch up properly.
It’s what led me to focusing on my output vs. my input. It’s something the author of this book I am reading talked about as a way to be more aware of how we spend our time. As such, in order to better protect my time, I have been really focusing on tasks at hand.
I am checking email less, spending less time on social media and trying to be more present with whatever task it is that I am supposed to be accomplishing.
Honestly, this goes against my instincts. I love checking email and being quick to respond. But I’ve realized it makes me less efficient and eats up a lot of time throughout my day. So, to better address a handicap I have in work, I’m trying to do things differently. And continuing to set boundaries around my availability and response time is uncomfortable but I know it will pay off.
My girlfriends have all indicated they’re trying to do the same. To reclaim their nights. Their calendars. Their sanity.
I think, given all we’ve endured the past two years, it is more important than ever to show up in ways that benefits us the best. And it truly does feel so uncomfortable and anxiety ridden. But my hope is that that discomfort leads to growth and more peace.
Because I know we all deserve that, deeply.
I’d love to hear from you guys – have you adjusted work boundaries lately?
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