By Thanasis Papapostolou
In my work as a mentor and coach, much time is spent discussing setting boundaries around work and personal life. Without clear boundaries, your success can be systematically undermined. On a deeper level, setting unclear boundaries sends the message, to yourself and others, that your personal time is worthless, which can ultimately hurt self-esteem and performance.
So in order to protect your career, health, and improve your chances of success, you should consider setting clear boundaries in the following key areas:
1. Get Comfortable Saying No
It can be hard to turn down requests and extra responsibility, such as tasks or chores that don’t directly relate to your work, for fear of being perceived as lazy or a bad team player. This can lead to you feeling inefficient in other areas of your work or life, contribute to fatigue, and even build resentment. When you are unable to say no, you are interrupting your own personal growth and rest.
If you can relate to this, here are two exercises that may help:
1) Say no to three things every day, no matter how small, as a way of training your brain to get comfortable with the idea. Starting with smaller requests will make it easier to say no to other more demanding situations.
2) Look around you for people who are successfully balancing work and life, learn from them and emulate their behaviour. If they can do it, so can you.
2. Your Phone is Not Your Best Friend
One area most people have difficulty setting boundaries is around their technology usage and consumption. The new 24-hour culture that has been prevailing makes disconnecting and decompressing, which everyone needs, very difficult. For example, many if not most of us sleep with our phones nearby on our nightstand in order to check notifications even late into the night.
An easy way around this is to set your phone to silent mode for at least one hour each afternoon and abstaining from screentime at least 30-minutes before bedtime. No matter how difficult or trivial it may sound, soon enough you’ll realize that even the most urgent message or email can wait as you enjoy a meal with your partner or take a walk outside.
“Remember, everyone benefits from a better you.”
3. Clearly Define Your Personal vs Professional Relationships
At times, certain situations in the workplace can turn your career upside down emotionally and professionally. It is therefore so important to have a clear understanding and approach to your working relationships. This comes as no surprise, but it’s definitely not a good idea to flirt with a colleague, and even worse, your boss. Staying away from these potentially disastrous situations is a steadfast way to ensure an optimal working environment and peace of mind.
Another thing to consider is setting strong boundaries around your interactions with your colleagues outside of work. For example, if you frequently have social events together, try limiting the number of drinks you have to avoid saying something you didn’t mean and possible judgement from others. Your career in and out of the office is a constant pursuit, and you wouldn’t want to worry about saying the wrong thing or being misunderstood.
Lastly, don’t gossip. You don’t need to know everything that’s going on at work, from colleagues’ private life to team discord. Like a boomerang, gossip inevitably reflects badly on the people who engage in it, possibly jeopardizing chances going into a performance evaluation, where dedication to your job can be questioned. Focus on your performance and productivity, and leave the distracting gossip out of it.
4. Remember That YOU Come First Above All
Most importantly, be aware of your own needs around your health and happiness by setting boundaries that will protect them at all times. This may require a little more planning and self-awareness, but these efforts will only have a lasting positive impact on your decision-making abilities and overall bandwidth as you negotiate new situations and asks.
Remember, everyone benefits from a better you.