Define Your Boundaries

I used to have no boundaries. I was traveling every other week from Monday to Friday. When I was home, I was a mess -- waking up in the middle of the night, stressed, and working all hours.  Three weeks before our wedding, my now-husband turned to me and said, "We are not going to last if this continues." This changed my life, kicking off a five-year (still continuing) experiment with creating boundaries to help me live a full life.  Here is what I've learned so far:

  • This is up to you. No one is going to hand work-life balance to you. Companies will take as much as you will give them. You need to own your boundaries -- defining them, communicating them and being honest about how well you are sticking to them. 

  • Understand how you work best. Make sure you are as effective as possible during working hours.  When do you do your best work?  Block that time on your calendar. I get 10x more done in an hour in the AM than one in the evening. 

  • List your non-negotiables. For me, this was not having Monday night meetings (I was taking a class that I hated to miss), doing work after 9 PM (otherwise I couldn't sleep) and disconnecting between 6 and 8 PM for family. Whenever these are broken, I  am stressed and unhappy. 

  • Tell people. Communicate these non-negotiables with your manager. Frame it from their perspective: "I want to do the best work for the team.  My strength is [xxx], and I've found when I am overworked and don't have these boundaries in place, [xxx] suffers."

Start today. Don't fall into the trap of saying, "I just need to power through the next month." Trust me, something else will come up. Do it.