Whether we realize it or not, we are usually either very balanced with clear-cut boundaries, or—in this technology and business-centric day and age—we tend to stand at the edge of workaholism. In order to maintain a balanced professional and personal life, we must be willing to identify what our limits are (everyone is not the same), as well as a few basic action steps to create, and sustain work-related boundaries.
What are you prepared and able to offer in the workplace? Better yet, what can you endure for long periods of time, but don’t necessarily have to enjoy? What are your limits regarding the balance of your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health? Go ahead and answer these questions thoughtfully first, before you take these next three action steps, in order to help you create better boundaries at work.
Step #1: Review Your Job Description
One of the first steps you can take—no matter how brief or long you’ve been with your current employer—is to obtain and review your job description. Although this may sound like an elementary action step, you would be surprised at how many individuals are never offered, or even ask for their job explanation. In some cases, a basic narrative may have been written and filed away, ready to take out, only if truly necessary. That’s why it is always up to the employee to ask for a copy. If one does not exist, then you can offer to draft your own, and work with your boss for approval. At this point, most employers will appreciate your initiative and respect your desire to pin down the exact responsibilities your job holds.
Whatever the situation may be, you should be able to review what duties your position calls for, so that it is clear what you are and (most importantly) are not responsible for. If this step is not accomplished, you may find yourself extremely overworked. It may be helpful to print the description out and keep it handy in your office or cubicle. This way, if a co-worker or your boss comes to you with unrealistic expectations, or extra projects (not included within the umbrella of your job description), then you will have the written proof you need to make your case—in a gentle, polite, yet firm manner, of course.
Step #2: Determine How Much Work You Can Do
The next step is to find out how much time it takes in order to complete your daily tasks, meetings, calls and other responsibilities. Determine how much overtime you are willing and able to work. Then, set up a tracking list of the tasks you need to complete in the next week, as well as month.
With this information and your work experience up to this point, then you can sit down and estimate the amount of hours it will take to do your job efficiently. You must be realistic, though, even if it’s tough to face. If the task load is much higher than your allotted work time, it is best to approach your boss with a few options: hire a freelancer to assist with specific projects, drop a project or two down from the priority list, or to hire someone else. Although this step may seem a bit daunting, it is better to face what is uncomfortable now, rather than later.
Step #3: Discover and Pursue Your Hobby and/or Dream
Everyone should know what they enjoy doing for leisure, as well as what dream(s) call their names. Although, it is much easier for people to determine that they enjoy fishing or sewing to unwind, rather than to pinpoint what dream(s) they should pursue.
For example, I loved to write poems, stories and essays when I was a child. I also loved being in front of the camera acting out skits, commercials and plays. This brought me joy. Through adolescence, these constructive activities dwindled down until I left them behind completely. Sports and other seemingly more important extracurricular activities took their place. Then, as an adult, I began to focus all my mental capacity on work, worries and fear of other personal situations in my life.
Finally, through much soul-searching, I rediscovered my interest in both writing and acting. Most of the time, the things we truly love to do are buried somewhere in our childhood. It is up to each one of us to go back in our minds and remember what we did, how we felt when we followed what we were meant to do, and then ask: Why am I not actively pursuing these dreams in my life today?
As an extra benefit, the “dream” activities help to lure us away from work, but to still keep us engaged in an active pursuit, instead of spending too much time with passive activities, such as watching television. Taking small steps toward our dreams and interests are critical to building up our self-worth, spirit and boundaries in our lives.
by Crystal Gettings