Setting Boundaries at work
Hello my morning people !! Welcome to yet another episode of Morning Cup of Sunshine podcast. How are you today? It is already February. It’s been almost a year since most of us started working from home. Are you back to the office or still working from home? I am still working from home. I really don’t know at this point when we are going back to office. All this working from home has really been stressful for me. I have left with almost no boundaries between work and home. Even though I love my work and I enjoy working on challenging projects, having zero boundaries between work time and home time has been extremely stressful and tiring. So, I thought this is the high time for me to work on setting some boundaries. While I was working on setting these boundaries in place, I realized I can share some simple tips that I learned along the way. I think most of us are in the same boat, so why not share and learn from each other. What do you think? Are you ready for this episode? I know, I am but before that happy moment of the week.
Happy Moment of the Week
Last week was my birthday. I turned 36 this year. It seems like a big number right? It’s a different story that I really don’t feel like 36, maybe because I am the youngest in my side of the family. I was telling Mihir the other day, how I love to celebrate birthdays, not only mine but I love to celebrate the birthdays of my loved ones in style. On your birthday, it feels as if you are on the top of the world. This year, both Mihir and Maitreyi made me feel so special. Maitreyi was making cards for me every single day for an entire week. She then wrapped her own toys and gifted those to me. She was baking all kinds of cakes in her toy kitchen that ranged from cucumber flavor to pepper flavor, basically every vegetable she had in her toy kitchen turned into a cake. It was really fun seeing her get excited for my birthday. Mihir and Rushikesh surprised me with a real home made cake that turned out really yummy. They made me feel so special that I felt extremely blessed to have such a wonderful family. I got so many phone calls, messages, texts. Frankly, this feels like real wealth. I always say even in my podcast episodes, the real treasure you have in your life is people around you. I am so blessed to have so many loving and caring people around me. Thank you so much for making my entire week extra special and blessing me with your wonderful friendship. You really made me feel extra special. All those birthday wishes and at home celebrations were definitely my highlights of the week. I am enjoying those moments again right now, while sharing these moments with you. Now, it’s your turn my friend? How was your week? Did you have a nice week? What was your happy moment? Don’t forget to share those happy moments with me. I always have a post for Happy Moments in my Facebook group, Morning Cup of Sunshine community. Join this wonderful group to connect the like minded people like you and to share and spread happiness, positivity and joy around.
Alright, I think I am trying to run around the bush this time. It is a little tricky, since I am currently working on this exact same thing. This week, I am not going to speak to give you any advice. Instead this is coming from your friend who is in the exact same boat as you. It is coming from someone who is struggling to set those boundaries just like you. Today, let’s figure this out together. It is more of a collaborative episode. I want this to be a space where we can share and continue the discussion channel open. I am here to share and learn from you as well. With most of us working from home, the work hours are really getting blurry. We all are trying the best to fulfill the needs of our family and at the same time fulfill our work commitments. But this has started becoming stressful. Some of us have small kids at home, some of us have only one parent working from home and manage kids. When we started working from home last March, no one really imagined that this would go on for a year. Now, it’s already February and we are still working from home. I think it is always necessary to have a healthy boundary between your work and home life, but this has become even more important these days. So, what are some ways to create and maintain that boundary?
Step 1 : Believe in yourself -
I think most of us are scared to set the boundaries at work because we think we are not doing enough or we are not skilled enough to be efficient. Sometimes, we put in too many extra hours without even realizing because someone else is doing so. I think the key to having the proper boundary setup is to believe yourself. First trust yourself, that you are the best possible person for the job that you are doing. You have been given this task because you are best suitable for this job. You are enough. If you lack the confidence to complete the job, if you feel that you lack the required skill to complete the job then ask for help, acquire that skill. But first trust you are enough. Give yourself the permission to set the boundaries. You know your limits the best. If a certain task is stressing you out because you feel you are out of your depth this time, then first accept that it is okay to feel this way. Once you accept that you are feeling stressed because of a certain task, instead of just logging long hours to complete that task alone, communicate and ask for help. Paying attention to your own feelings is extremely important. Let me tell you my own experience. You must have heard Monday blues, right? I am sure you must have experienced it at least once in your life. Few days back, I was observing getting those Monday blues from Sunday morning. I could sense a visible difference in my mindset, my mood. I used to feel stressed about Monday from Sunday morning itself. I started picking up unnecessary fights with kids, all my bottled up tension and worries were poured on my poor hubby and kids. By the time Sunday evening rolled around I was extremely anxious and worried about the upcoming week. I started getting palpitations Monday morning. I felt as if I had no energy left in me to even start the day on Monday morning. It was extremely stressful for me and my family too, because they were witnessing how stressed I was. I used to feel like there is no light at the end of this tunnel. I used to feel like I am living my life weekend to weekend. I started feeling no matter how hard I worked that it was not enough. It was time for some serious work on my part. But frankly, I had no clue how to get out of this cycle. At that time, Rushikesh and my sister really helped me to pick myself up. I made some very simple changes in my daily routine. I am nowhere close to having a perfect boundary but at least now, I know I can tackle that Monday blues. I can start my week on a positive note and then keep that momentum going. The first and most important change that I brought in myself was changing my story about Monday. I started thinking that I am doing enough. I am capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of my job by sending reasonable hours at work. I started believing that this is a part of my life not my entire life. It was hard at first, it felt too good to be true. But trust me, it works. I will never talk about something that I have not tried or I am not sure if it works. So when I say, believing in your capacity is the first step to set the boundaries at work then I truly and sincerely mean it.
Step 2 : Focus when you are working
This is extremely important. You need to have focus hours for work. This is the time when you work with most of your ability. I know, it is difficult to get those completely uninterrupted hours these days since everyone is at home. But try to set the boundary there as well. If you expect to finish your work in designated time and have a nice , relaxing family time then you need to have those dedicated work hours too. If you are struggling to have this quiet time during the day due to small kids at home or because there is no help, then you need to look closely into your daily routine. Can you wake up a couple of hours before kids wake up and finish the work that needs your 100% concentration? Can you engage your kids in some busy bags when you are working on something extremely important? We both have been working everyday while both my kids are at home. Mihir at least has school but Maitreyi does not have a structured routine but then we made one for her. We try to set up some activities for her while we are neck deep in our work. Those could be simple activities like, printing out some coloring sheet or giving her sensory bins to explore. We take turns to make sure we get the work done and keep her occupied too. But what I mean here is when it is a work time, it is a work time. Afterall, you are getting paid for it, isn’t it? There are very simple tricks to get a lot of work done in less time. First of all, keep your phone in a different room. Now most of the time you use communicators like Teams, skype, zoom for your office interaction, so you really don’t need a phone for those calls. Don’t scroll through your phone in between your work time. You won't believe it but it saves tons of time. Don’t open any personal searches on your office computer in your free time. Make a task list every single morning for your work. I have an entire episode on work life harmony. I mentioned several tips in that episode for you. It has a number of ideas of how to create and prioritize your to-do list. This is one of my personal favorite episodes as it is extremely relatable. I highly recommend you to listen to that episode. I will put a link to that episode in the show notes for you. Just remember when it is time to work , work with all your might and when it is time to relax , wind down as if your life depends on it.
Step 3 : Communicate -
I am working on this myself. I have said it a number of times, it is hard for me to say no. But I am seeing really stressful consequences of this habit. I am buried under so many projects at the same time that I have no room for anything new and still I can’t say no. I am determined this year to learn to say no politely and professionally. If you are really struggling to keep up with your work, see if you can delegate some of that work. You don’t need to do everything, all by yourself. That is the reason why we have teams. Be a team player and try to work as a team to solve the problem. Delegating some of your work to the right people will free up some of your time so that you can focus on what is really important. Prioritizing is your best friend when you want to set boundaries. Consider you have been given way too much work for your to even handle. Communicate it to your manager or whoever gave you this work. But when you talk to him or her, just be mindful of two things. Be professional and focus on priorities instead of just whining. Ask politely, I have these many projects in my hand and I want to give my best completing these projects. However if I work on all of them at the same time, I am afraid the quality of the work could be compromised and I really don't want to do that. Can we discuss the priorities of these projects so that I Can focus on what’s the most important first and tackle the next in the list once this first one is done? Be professional, don’t bring your stress in this conversation. Focus on what good you want to do and what are the blockers in that. I know this is hard. As I am saying from the beginning of this episode, I am in the exact same boat right now. So, I am trying out all these things and trying to make it as useful as possible for you too. You are one person with 24 hours to a day and you have a life beyond your work. First accept that. I love my work but that does not mean I want to spend all my 24 hours working. There has to be some balance, some harmony, right? Having clear boundaries will help with that. One more tip that my sister gave me is to stop multitasking. I am the queen of multitasking. Really, I am not joking. You won’t be able to even imagine how much I multitask. But I am slowly trying to focus on one thing at a time. It is hard for me because I somehow feel deep down that I am wasting my time. But I have noticed when I focus on one thing at a time, it helps with my stress level. It is again work in progress but yes, it does help a lot.
Step 4 : Take time off
Most of us feel guilty for taking time off. But it is extremely important to take the time off to avoid the complete burnout. I remember before the Christmas break, I was on the verge of breaking point. I was so exhausted and tired that I could not keep myself together. I was so tired that I could hardly play with my kids after a work day. This was the first red flashing signal for me. I love to play with my kids, I love to spend time with them, it is extremely relaxing for me. But instead of spending time with them, I kept on picking fights with them. Then came the most awaited break and the picture turned upside down. I was so happy and relaxed and was more present with the kids. That break recharged me. Even after the work started after the break, my battery was full and I was less exhausted after the work day. That break was a much needed time off. Schedule time offs in your calendar and use them to relax and unwind.
Step 5 : Prepare for some pushback
Life is not a binary system, it is dynamic. It is bound to have changes, challenges, unexpected situations. You might face some pushback from others when you try to establish some boundaries. You might even get criticized for that. When you politely decline to work on weekends or get on a not so urgent call late in the evening, you might find it hard to stick to your position. It is not an easy feat. I totally understand that. As I repeatedly said in this episode, I am in the exact same boat. I have to make hard decisions every single day, sometimes I am able to stand my ground and sometimes if the request is really urgent and genuine, I have to adjust my boundary. You have to do the same. Ultimately, I believe we work as a team and that team spirit is extremely important. So, if you have to give up on your family time once in a while, that too if it is absolutely required then that comes as part of your job responsibilities. But don’t be a pushover. You have to convince yourself that this is an extremely urgent and time sensitive task that needs to be done right away. If you are convinced then you will do it without stressing yourself out. If you want to thrive at your workplace, you need to be motivated to do your work and in order to be motivated you need to have the breathing space so you can think clearly and give your best. I still remember the days when I used to work crazy long hours. I was not even married at that time. I was new and fresh out of college. I was eager to learn new things. I had no other responsibilities. But with time, things started piling up on my plate. I started getting more responsibilities at work as I started getting senior at my job. At home also my responsibilities started growing, I got married, had a family to take care of. There were tiny humans waiting for me at home. Both my worlds started expanding at the same time and that’s when this struggle started and it has been going on for the past 15 years. There are some days when I feel I have got everything under control. There are some days filled with guilt because I could not spend enough time with my kids. But I have decided to count my blessings every day. I start my day with 10 minute meditation that helps me ground and focus more on what I have. At the end of the day, I want to feel accomplished, fulfilled and I don’t think that is too much to ask. For that, if I have to set some boundaries then be it. I want to be challenged everyday with good work opportunities but not at the cost of my and my family’s happiness. I want the golden balance and I know it is hard to achieve but it is not impossible. I firmly believe that it is possible if I can set some ground rules. I might have to change those as the day unfolds, I might have let go of some larger than life expectations but at the end of the day if I can go to bed with a calm mind, niggling my happy and healthy kids then I will count that day as a big success. Just trust my friend, setting boundaries is a way of caring for yourself. It does not make you mean, selfish or caring. It absolutely does not mean that you don’t care for your job, it means you care for yourself too.
On this note, let’s quickly recap today’s episode. Today, we discussed a very important topic that is extremely relevant today and everyday. How to set the boundaries at work. It is crucial for your mental and physical health. Setting boundaries is not easy, nobody said, it will be , but do it anyway and I am here to help you figure out the ways to set the healthy boundaries at work.
Step 1 : Believe yourself -
Step 2 : Focus when you are working
Step 3 : Communicate -
Step 4 : Take time off
Step 5 : Prepare for some pushback
Let’s work on this together and set some healthy boundaries. Shall we? Creating boundaries is about creating healthy emotional limits. Setting boundaries is not about giving up on people. Boundaries show people how we desire to be treated. It is all about taking care of yourself first.