No Trespassing! 7 Ways to Re-build Your Boundaries
“I have so much to do and everyone wants my time – my boss, co-workers and parents! I don’t have any personal time. Work days are long and often extend into the evenings and weekends. I have good intentions to play with the kids and spend time with my wife, but these often get neglected. I’m working at home in my personal time just trying to keep up!”
James, a Coaching Client
Have you ever felt like this?
I started my career working in a retail bank in the north of England. It was in the days when there was one computer in a branch – it was huge! ‘Newbies’ weren’t allowed to touch the ‘machine’ (as we called it) until they’d worked in the branch for at least 6 months! The first time I used it, I was terrified!
Each day we’d get an internal mail bag containing memos and reports that needed to be worked on. It would be distributed around the office. We instantly knew our workload. This was our ‘inbox’ for the day.
Looking back – work was predictable to manage (though it felt hard at the time!).
Fast-forward to 2010…
Today we are living in what is called the Information Age. Advances in technology has created a world where we have 24/7 connect-ability and information overload. While this is a positive thing, it’s hard to keep up with all the demands that are placed upon us.
Work time haemorrhages into our personal time as we find ourselves at the mercy of other people’s urgent and unpredictable demands, expectations and agendas.
It’s like getting one of those internal post bags every few minutes!
We react by sacrificing our personal time (evenings, weekends and holidays) in the hope that we can keep up with all the demands. We teach others that it’s okay to trespass on our personal time. They climb our fences, erode our boundaries and walk right across our land!
Here’s six ways to repair your boundaries to stop allowing other people’s demands trespassing on your personal time:
1. Start with Intention – If you know that things aren’t working, answer the following questions: What do I want? What don’t I want? This is a great place to start. Think about your working time and your personal time. Get clear on what YOU want.
2. Be Selective – The rising tide of information and requests aren’t going to stop. You have to learn how to be selective. Get in tune with your intention and values. Focus on your high value brilliant work. Low value stuff can be 1) automated, 2) delegated, or 3) deleted. This could be at work and at home!
3. Re-define Your Boundaries – Make a clear distinction between your working time and personal time. Plan in advance how long you intend to work each day. Sometimes the unexpected happens, but if you don’t know when you intend to finish work, it is easier just to carry on. Plan a week ahead what you intend to do. Schedule dates and times for important activities in your planner, e.g. Wednesday – leave work at 6pm. Or Thursday 6.30 -7.15am Go to the gym.
4. Begin Your Day Email Free – If your job isn’t email-based leave your computer off for the first hour each day and do something more important! Check your emails at set times during the day, e.g. 10.30am, 12.30pm, and 4.30pm.
5. Discipline – Show up, Switch on, Stop! This will prevent work time haemorrhaging into your personal time. Using a timer set for 60 minutes can help you start and stop activities, so you can make progress and then move on to the next task. It stops you getting distracted and keeps you focused. Try it!
6. Dis-connect – If you’ve become addicted to your devices it’s hard to be fully present for anything else because you are always checking in with your technology. Switch-off your technology and be 100% present for your friends, family and for YOU.
7. Learn to Say No – Be realistic about what you are able to achieve. Sometimes we say ‘Yes’ when we should be saying ‘no’ because we already have so much work to do and we’re frightened to let other people down. “Give me more to do. Look I can do it all!” So your employers, families and friends increase their demands upon you.
Who’s trespassing on your personal time?