When I started my business, I made a decision to set boundaries immediately. I was completely committed to succeeding and recognized that in order be as productive as possible, I'd need some downtime. One of the boundaries I enforced — never to work on a Sunday. Otherwise, I was reachable anytime. I was prepared to work whenever and wherever I had to. If it was 7 AM, 12 PM or 12 AM during the week, I’d interact with you. Organize an international call at 2 AM — I was on it. I was equally happy to pick up the phone because I was focused and committed to building a strong business — whatever it took. Except for one day — Sunday. My day of rest. It was sacrosanct.
For you, that could be another day and time of the week. I have to assume if you’re reading this, you’re trying to figure out the work-life balance. First, you have to assume you haven’t set proper boundaries. Next, ask yourself why that is and what is enabling you?
Always connected, an impulse away
Having a tidy inbox makes you feel good. I hate having an inbox full of unread messages and things on a to-do list. Every time I clear emails and digital tasks, I feel a sense of achievement. That achievement is a reward in the form of a dopamine surge. It’s addiction, motivation, and reward wrapped up all in one. Something new, a push notification, a like, a new email. Lure us into clicking and rewarding us with a quick burst of dopamine. You feel good for finishing your tasks and you can relax right?
The downside of attending work tasks during your off time is it creates a paradoxical situation. People you work with are attuned to you being reachable at any time. Which in turn, creates more work. If you’re constantly dealing with work stress, when do you get downtime?
Working from your desktop or phone has to come with boundaries. Put your emails out on a timer so they go out first thing on Monday morning. Set up an automatic reply advising anyone looking to reach out to you that you’ll reply to all messages first thing on Monday morning. Set strict schedules as to when/where you’ll start and complete work tasks.
Take a moment to pause
Give yourself a break. Studies are now showing we’re unable to multitask effectively, we just have a higher perception of our abilities than reality bares. Combining work and leisure time tires us out.
Looking at a blue screen last thing at night can also have an effect on the quality of our sleep because it can prevent your pineal gland from secreting melatonin (another hormone) needed to regulate sleep. Screens emit the similar wavelength of light as daytime light, which ends up delaying sleep. Just a few more minutes on emails could cost you a few more hours, leading to a poor-quality sleep. The always-connected lifestyle in the long run causes irregular sleep patterns that effect your mental focus and productivity the next day. It means working extra late just means you’re playing catch up the next day.
Compromise isn’t a dirty word
Everyone works differently – no pun intended. You have to tailor productivity for your tastes and lifestyle. I believe you should be in control of your own hours as long as you get the work done. There will always be compromises made and sometimes we may have to do what we don’t want to do (for a little) while until we have achieved the success that we desire.
Just remember to set limits, either in the moment or later down the road. The moment you stop having boundaries, the more stress you incur. The less downtime you have, the more work invades your personal life. Don’t let yourself be unfairly expected to put in time on your off-hours. Whether that’s on a weekend or a Wednesday. Whatever day is yours, keep it yours.
Trust in your decisions and communicate them effectively
This will help you keep your boundaries in the long run. We all just want to be happy in our chosen profession. We want to avoid burnout and feel a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. In the meantime – if it’s a Sunday, don’t email me. I’ll be off hiking with my phone in airplane mode...