Raise your hand if you’ve ever sent a work-related text or email at a wildly inappropriate hour—a subversive “Yes, I’m working around the clock.” It can be easy to feel like this is normal, or hell, even expected in today’s culture that glorifies being busy 24/7. But according to career coach Sara Young Wang, it sends across another message: that you have no boundaries between your work and home life.
“The thing is that, through our behavior, we teach other people what to expect from us,” she says. “If, in an effort to please the boss, you work in your ‘off-time’ when it’s really not absolutely necessary, you teach them that you are always available to them for emails and additional requests. Many bosses will take advantage of that.” Spiritual advisor Emilia Ortiz agrees with Wang. She says that although it may seem harmless to log in from home after you leave the office, this habit can have profoundly negative impacts on your physical, mental, and emotional health in the long-run.
Sound familiar? Same. I’m what you call an expert in not having work-home boundaries… but it’s time we change that. That’s why I asked Wang and Ortiz for simple steps we can take to slow down and connect with ourselves at the end of a busy day. If you’re struggling to find time for yourself (I’m guilty of saying this at least once a week), feel like you’re getting burnt out, and can’t keep up with your personal relationships, this article is for you (okay, and for me too).
Prioritize Your Work
This may seem like an obvious one, but it can go a long way in decluttering your to-do list. What needs to get done now? What can wait until tomorrow? Take the time each day to narrow down what you need to focus on while you’re in the office, and delegate other tasks to yourself for the rest of the week. If you’re not sure whether or not something is an immediate priority, don’t hesitate to ask. Here’s an example from Wang:
“So, let’s say you’re out to dinner and you get an email from your boss with a request. You could reply and say, “Hi, I’m at dinner right now, is it ok if I get this to you in three hours? Or when do you need this by?” Often bosses aren’t even really thinking about you and your work-life balance, so it’s up to you to speak up where you can. And when you do, instead of sending the message that you are always available or have no boundaries, you will be making your boss more aware that you have a life outside the office.”
Log Off and Reconnect With Yourself
Okay, so you’re done for the day and heading home—but then you spend the rest of your evening thinking about what still needs to get done this week, or how you’re going to solve a pressing issue that’s come up. Before you know it, it’s the next morning, and you never gave yourself a chance to let loose and just focus on you. Instead of leaving your brain in work-mode after hours, try being present and rechanneling your energy to what’s going on with you outside of work.
“One of my favorites is to take a shower and meditate while I do. To literally wash the day/work from me. So that I have clean energy as well,” says Ortiz. “It’s important to unwind and disconnect from work both mentally and physically…Just meditating in general, or a bath. Cleansing your energy with palo santo, or herbs used for cleansing. Using pink Himalayan salt in the shower, aqua Florida in the bath. Some like to do a tarot, oracle, or meditation card pull to understand what else went on in their day as well.”
Giving yourself a mental and physical break will allow you to return to work the next day ready to take on whatever challenges come your way.
Think About What’s Keeping You From Setting Boundaries
Apart from giving yourself the space to relax and rejuvenate at the end of the day, you also need to be thinking about the underlying causes that make it hard for you to draw the line between your work life and your home life. If we don’t take the time to fully address the issue, we won’t be able to actually establish healthy habits for maintaining balance.
“When it comes to work, take a closer look at what’s going on for you inside that makes it challenging for you to claim your personal time. Confronting some of your fears may be necessary to begin to assert your boundaries,” says Wang. “And remember that many fears aren’t fact-based and there may be very little evidence that what you fear will actually happen if you speak up.”
Once you’re able to be honest with yourself and your boss about what you really need, it’ll be that much easier to accomplish your personal and career goals at the end of the day.
If You Have to Work From Home, Be Strategic
This is one of the things I struggled with the most as a freelancer. There are times where you’ll have to work from home, so use it to your advantage. Don’t let yourself get distracted with household chores or cat videos (since no one’s there to look over your shoulder); it’ll only drag out your work for a prolonged period of time. Instead, set aside specific hours to buckle down and get everything done. No phone, no laundry, no meal-prepping on the side. You’ll thank yourself later when you have the afternoon to do whatever you please instead of feeling like the day slipped away from you (we’ve all been there!).
As Wang sums it up: “We live in a culture that can easily have us believe that our worth is our work productivity and that we should put work ahead of our needs for rest, play and enjoyment. But if we live this way we suffer. Identifying and standing up for our boundaries is actually the most productive thing we can do to support our health, happiness and even career success — we thrive when we work under conditions that allow us to put our best foot forward.”
Feature Image via lalulalang.com