Own the job; don’t let the job own you.
When you work with a group of people setting boundaries can carry risks. If you work for a company that frowns upon employees taking their full vacation allotment or leaving earlier than the norm to pick up children at daycare, bucking the prevailing unstated rules may lead to unpleasant consequences. Think about the risks of having your job overwhelm you: poor health, conflict with your spouse and burnout. Are those consequences a fair tradeoff for a bigger bonus or a promotion?
Depending on the particulars of your job and your company’s culture, your ability to balance work demands with your personal life may be quite doable or it could be limited. The most important thing is to be aware of the tradeoffs you are making as you prioritize the time spent on work, family, social activities, exercise, hobbies, etc. We can get so wrapped up in our professional lives that we don’t fully realize what we’re sacrificing in our personal lives until we reach a point of crisis.
As we go through different stages of our lives, our ability and willingness to put in long hours may vary. When we are in our 20’s and have not yet started a family, for instance, 70-hour workweeks may not have been a burden. They are when we are raising young children. I advise taking periodic assessments, say, once a year, of where you are in your career and life. Using this information, decide whether the work situation is appropriate to your life goals and your company’s mission.
What may have been a great job three years ago may no longer be so hot even though the job itself has changed little. It may be that your lifestyle has changed and the job now creates too many work-life conflicts. You may need to change the requirements of the job.
To avoid having your job completely take over your life, make a list of weekly activities outside of work that you need to sustain your well-being and healthy state of mind. These may include:
• At least one weekend afternoon with your kids
• One evening out with your spouse
• An hour of exercise every other day
• At least one relaxed, unhurried meal a day
• A few hours spent on recreation or a hobby that you enjoy
Schedule these activities into your day planner in ink. Treat them as the most important meeting of the day.
Negotiation and trade-offs
Now comes the hard part, negotiating with your boss for a more balanced schedule or explaining to your employees why you won’t be available during certain periods of the week. Before you have this talk, keep in mind that, though it carries some risk, the consequences of not changing the status quo also carry risk. Don’t be afraid to take some risks when necessary.
When you have one of these conversations with a supervisor, it is probably best to start by accentuating the positive. Explain what you like about your job before going into the negatives. Present the changes to your job requirements that are necessary for you to remain productive. Make the point that you will serve clients better when you are fresh and undistracted by work/life conflict issues. Many managers are fairly enlightened about these issues today; you may be surprised at how amenable to change yours is.
Make A Commitment: I will set work and life boundaries