I’ve got the secret to better work life balance (but you might not like what you have to do to get it).
Tell me if you’ve been here…
You check your email late in the afternoon or evening so that you don’t miss something.
You see a last-minute request coming in.
It stresses you out.
You don’t even think of not doing it.
You just get stressed and irritated that you have to.
Then you work that night or go in early the next day, or you stress yourself about all of these things you need to do to make it work.
This is why work life balance is such a hot topic. It seems everyone aspires to this magical time where you have balance between your career and your home life.
When you look back at your life, you want to know that you spent time with your family, that you did what you enjoyed and that you had standards and expectations.
Not that you were always catering to everyone else and complaining why you didn’t have control over your own schedule.
There will always be people that make their life their career and work all the time.
But if you don’t want that to be you, you don’t have to just because others are.
YOU get to decide what’s important.
And when challenges arise, you also get to choose how you respond to and handle them.
You get to decide every. step. of. the. way.
It’s possible to be less stressed, feel in control of your own time, be more productive and have more energy.
Press play to learn how.
What You’ll Learn
The secret to creating better work life balance
Why you actually don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do
Tips for setting boundaries around your work (and why they’re so important – even sexy)
What you’re really saying when you put others’ needs above your own
How you’ve been helping others set expectations for you (and how you can change them)
Featured in This Episode
Are you questioning if you are in the right career? Take the quiz.
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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills, and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.
Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. This episode is going to be so good. Work life balance is such a hot topic. It seems everyone aspires to this magical time where you have balance between your career and your home life. Now, I can tell you that you can achieve this, but you might not like what you have to do to create it.
This is a topic I work with 90% or more of my clients on. They are checking their emails at night, can’t seem turn off their brain from thinking about work when they’re at home, working evenings and weekends and constantly feeling like they can’t keep up. They think if I just put in these few extra hours, I will be able to relax tomorrow, next week, fill in the blank. But that time comes and, well, they’re still overworking. So, how do you actually get work life balance?
I’m going to let you in on a secret. You have to create boundaries. You may not believe this, but you are in control of how you spend your time. Yes, you will have people competing for your time, demanding your time. You may have bosses who send you last minute deliverables.
You may have people emailing you all hours of the night that you think you have to respond to. But what if I told you that you actually don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do? Now, you might be thinking, okay, Melissa, but I need my job and I don’t want to get fired, and it’s not that easy. I get it. I also want you to consider that you’re not responsible for your company’s poor planning or lack of resources unless you’re the CEO of the company.
I want you to prioritize you first. Honestly, if you’re the CEO, I think you need to prioritize yourself, too. But let’s just assume you’re not the CEO. Now, I want you to think about the boundaries that you would want to have.
Do you want to turn off your computer at 6:00 p.m. Each night? Do you want to not check your work email between 8:00 and 06:00 a.m.? If someone sends you a request later in the afternoon for the same day, how do you want to respond? If you have a doctor’s appointment and a meeting is scheduled for that time, do you want to give up your health appointment for a meeting?
Or do you want to decide that your health appointment is more important? When work competes with your family time, with your child performance or a date night with your partner, what is more important to you? Now, a lot of my clients pride themselves on being hard working, high achievers. For them, that means being available, being responsive, always doing their best work, and never letting anyone down. Well, except themselves, right?
When you’re putting everyone else’s needs above your own, you are saying they are more important than you. When you sacrifice something you want in your life or work, you’re saying your job is more important. So now you might be thinking, okay, but I have meetings with other parts of the world in different time zones, and sometimes I need to attend meetings at night or really early. Okay. How do you want to handle that?
Do you want to adjust your hours that day? Do you want to talk to your boss about taking a half day that week? If you’re working ten to twelve hour days, you get to decide. But what I hear a lot is I have to get on a 7:00 a.m. call and then I work all day and I can’t take a lunch break because I’m just too busy.
And then a meeting gets scheduled at 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. Then I’m working straight through and I just try to fit in dinner. That is your choice. If you want something different, you need to create a boundary.
When do you want to take breaks? Do you have to attend all of the meetings you’re scheduled to attend? When someone sends you something last minute and you have plans, do you accept it? Or do you politely decline and let them know that you have a prior commitment and ask for another time? Because otherwise, here’s what happens.
Your boss didn’t prioritize their time well, so they didn’t do what they needed to do with enough time for you to do your part. So they email you at 7:00 p.m. and ask you to do something by the next morning. Choose your adventure. How do you want to respond to that?
Number one, are you checking your email at seven or eight or nine just so you don’t miss something? If so, do you want to? What if you didn’t? Then you wouldn’t even see the request. Number two, what does your morning look like?
Do you have time? Do you need to prioritize something else to meet this request? Are you telling your boss that you are doing that to meet their request? So if you are adjusting your schedule, are you letting them know that you had to adjust it? Number three, if it isn’t possible to meet your boss’s request due to higher priorities, are you telling them that and asking for a different timeline and/or asking what you should put on the back burner?
Now do you see the theme with this? You get to decide every step of the way. There are a lot of little micro decisions that you’re making from every step from a request coming in to you fulfilling it. But what ends up happening is you check your email so that you don’t miss something. You see the request coming in later in the day or in the evening.
It stresses you out. You don’t even think of not doing it. You just get stressed and irritated that you have to. Then you work that night or go in early the next day, or you stress yourself about all of these things you need to do to make it work. Instead, I want you to look at these things as neutral, as a neutral situation that you have to solve for. What is the priority?
What can you reasonably do? What support do you need or could you ask for? How can you maintain boundaries? You want to be able to meet the demands of your job while also having boundaries in place.
Because when you respond at night, your boss or other colleagues will continue to expect you to and think that they can continue to put these demands on you. There will always be people that make their life their career and work all the time. But if you don’t want that to be you, you don’t have to just because others are. You can even communicate your boundaries with others. So let’s say in that scenario, you don’t look at your email because you created a boundary of turning your phone off at 7:00.
The next day you see the email from your boss. You get to decide, do you have time? If not, you get to respond back and say you just saw the request, share the competing priority or inform that you can do it if you delay the other priority. If they respond with oh, I thought you’d check your email last night. Then you can say something like, I find I’m more productive and efficient when I take adequate rest and give myself time to disconnect from work each day.
So unless it is an emergency, I am making an effort not to check my email after 7:00. If it’s an emergency, you can call or text me. And if that’s abused, so let’s say you do that and then your boss is calling you at 8, 9:00 with things that are really just their poor planning, then you’ll need to address that.
But most likely, once you speak up and share this boundary, it will be respected. The person might be frustrated and you have to be okay with that. You can’t do what everyone else wants from you all of the time because you aren’t then taking care of yourself and living your life for you. Think of it like this. Boundaries are sexy.
They set standards of what is and is not okay. Think of strong leaders you admire. Are they running around crazy and stressed? No, because they have boundaries and standards. And people may not like it, and it may be uncomfortable for you when you start practicing this. Here’s another example. Think of a time when maybe you tried to eat differently, like if your friends and family are meat and potatoes and French fries and tacos, and you want to tweak your nutrition a little bit.
Add in some more fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. When you go to a restaurant and order a salad when everyone else is ordering a cheeseburger, it might be uncomfortable. And the people you’re with may even make some comments about your order. But those comments are about them.
They are from their thoughts about themselves and their order. When you do something different, it makes them uncomfortable. It might make them question their own choices. With boundaries at work it’s the same thing. When you decide not to take the burden of the company and their lack of resources and planning as your problem to your own detriment, it might make people uncomfortable, especially those that aren’t creating boundaries for themselves, especially if you’re in a leadership position and that’s what your leaders do.
You might think that’s what you have to do. So don’t let other people’s reactions dictate the choices you make about your life. Unless your employer said that you are expected to be available 24/7 and you are compensated as such, you aren’t going to be fired for creating some reasonable standards around your work life. When you look back at your life, you want to know that you spent time with your family, that you did what you enjoyed and that you had standards and expectations.
Not that you were always catering to everyone else and complaining why you didn’t have control over your own schedule. So think about what are the boundaries that you want to create? What standards do you want to have? What are some small steps or one thing you can do right now? With one of my clients, she had a separate work phone and she left it in her car when she got home.
Another client decided she wasn’t going to cater to requests made last minute. Another decided when she was scheduled for meetings outside of typical work hours, she would question them. What was on the agenda? Did she need to be there? Could it be rescheduled to a better time?
She wasn’t declining. She just was asking for more information because in her work culture, agendas were infrequently used and last minute meetings were often put on schedules, and she would find that she would get scheduled into these meetings outside of work hours that she never really even needed to attend. And so by just asking for the agenda or asking what was going to be covered to know if she needed to be there, that reduced a lot of her meetings. So you can decide. Another client decided that she was going to put her health, self care and family appointments in her calendar as non-negotiable.
If something was scheduled over them, because I know some companies are not good at respecting blocked times, she would decline because the time was in fact, not available. So what is one thing that you want to try right now that will help you? Once you start creating boundaries, you will find it easier. And it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it, that this is for those of you that want to have a different work life balance than what you have.
Of course, if you want to work all of the time, if you are happy being on call and having meetings all hours of the day and night and you enjoy the work life balance you have, then you don’t need to change it. But I’m suspecting that if you’re listening to this, you think there’s some room for improvement. You would like to have some more time for yourself. You would like to have some more control over your schedule. And so I want you to know that it is within your control.
There are consequences for all of our decisions. But every time you’re attending something you don’t think you need to be at, every time that you’re skipping your lunch break, every time that you’re working twelve hour days or checking your email at night, that is within your control. Those are choices that you are making. And once you make some boundaries, it’s going to be so freeing. You’ll be less stressed.
You won’t resent your job. You’ll feel in control of your own time. You’ll be more productive. You’ll have more energy. So give it a try.
Alright. That is all for this week’s episode. Have an amazing week.
Coaching with me is the best way to guarantee you get happy at work and achieve your career and life goals. Getting started is easy. Head over to www.melissamlawrence.com to learn more and apply. It is the first step to get you from feeling stuck to knowing exactly what you want and have the tools to make it a reality.
I will be by your side the entire way.