By now we all know that managing life, family, and a career can sometimes seem impossible. With the advancement of technology over the last two decades, work tasks have become much easier. However, these advancements have created an always-accessible work expectation. Having worked in corporate America for over a decade, the most important thing I’ve learned is how imperative it is to set boundaries not only for yourself – but for your superiors as well.
Setting boundaries and adhering to them promotes a healthy work-life balance. Working hard does not mean working longer hours or being plugged-in at all times. In fact, working longer hours has proven to be unproductive. The more time you allow yourself to complete a task, the more time you will take to do so. Before long you’ll find yourself overwhelmed and the quality of your work will inevitably suffer.
Working hard by working smart is the key to a successful balance. You must know your limits and know when it’s necessary to unplug. If you allow your colleagues to always interrupt your personal time – this will become habit. If you answer client emails at midnight – this will become their future expectation. Once these behaviors are set, there’s no turning back. I spent many years learning this the hard way. What started out as kind gestures, quickly turned into the status quo. Eventually this environment I created took over my life.
(Picture of me the day after I gave birth – still working)
Accessibility can be beneficial if you know how to manage it. Technology allows you to work from anywhere, but it also allows you to always work. Here are some tips to assist you in learning how to manage your accessibility.
Each day periodically use the DND (Do not disturb) button on your phone.
If you are up against a deadline try to limit all your distractions for at least an hour. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done. Use this button on your cell phone once you get home too, even if it’s only a few nights a week. It allows you to focus on your family and enjoy your free time without constantly checking email or text messages.
Learn to say “No”.
Don’t get the reputation of always saying, “Yes!” Once the word gets out, everyone will bring his or her concerns and projects to you. You have enough on your plate, so it is perfectly acceptable to decline from time to time.
Vacation means you’re on vacation.
Answering emails and making calls while on vacation is a big mistake. It’s rare to even take a vacation, so why not enjoy it? If you seem available, work will make you available.
Prioritize your tasks.
If something can wait until tomorrow – do it tomorrow. I used to be that person who had to clear my desk before I went home. Once I learned how to delegate and prioritize my work in order of importance, I was able to manage my day and get home at a decent hour. Set a goal of what you need to accomplish and work toward it in your allotted time. Anything remaining will be there when you wake up – I promise.
Set your expectation early on.
Let people know your limits. Do not answer calls or emails unless it’s an urgent matter. If you do respond, let people know it was the exception. Don’t feel guilty about taking and enjoying free time – you and your family deserve it.