Have you ever felt like your professional and personal life overlapped in a way that bothered you? Do your job duties interfere with your ability to have a balanced life (however you define it)? Almost all of us know how we want work and life to interact, but creating the ideal blend in reality can be difficult and frustration. To aid you in this process, here are four quick tips to help you better define your work-life boundaries.
- Know Your Style. There are 3 predominant work-life boundary styles: integration, separation, or volleying. Integration means you like work and life to overlap with each other. Separation refers to a desire to have work and life be as distinct and detached as possible. Volleying is a desire to go with the flow, recognizing that some times of year may require more time devoted to work duties while other times can be devoted to family and personal life. No one style is better than an another but you need to know which one you prefer. I conduct work-life boundary workshops that help with this.
- The Smartphone Situation. This point builds off of knowing your style. Smartphones and mobile devices allow us to take work anywhere. But just because we can doesn’t mean we should. If you are not on call and there is not an emergency then consider scaling back email alerts, pop-up and work-specific apps (Orgsync for me). This will allow you to control the amount of work-life interference that occurs.
- Communicate. Conversations with supervisors and colleagues about concerning your work-life needs are essential to establishing and managing your boundaries. The world we live in assumes full integration so we need to be upfront about whether or how that works for us. Opening up communication also allows you to understand the mindset and perspective of your colleagues. A greater understanding of everybody’s preference will reduce conflicts and build trust. If after your boundary preferences don’t mesh after you have the discussion, don’t worry. My subsequent posts will be addressing gauging person-job fit and plotting your career path respectively.
- Flag the Violations. You are the referee of your own work-life. You wear the striped shirt. When a violation occurs then you must address it. This does not mean you have to be combative but it can be as simple as referring back to past conversations or it may involve explaining to a coworker or supervisor why something violates your boundary preferences. It is also helpful for you to take a step back and analyze the situation to see if the circumstance was preventable or not.
Creating and maintaining work-life boundaries is like getting fit; it does not happen overnight and requires patience and constant practice. The good news it can be done and become easier once we continually put these four tips into practice.