Establishing professional boundaries is an important part of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
It can be easy to fall into a habit of working more than you need to, especially when you’re working from home. You might feel pressured to show how productive you are away from an office, or maybe you want to make a good impression after taking a new position. You may also feel like you’re expected to work longer than the typical 8-hour workday, especially if your coworkers never seem to log off.
Reinforcing your sense of self-worth:
Establishing boundaries that help you maintain a healthy work-life balance can remind you that what you accomplish does not decide your worth. While many people associate what they do with their identity, it’s healthier to understand that what you do is only one part of who you are.
Helping stave off feelings of burnout:
Cultivating an awareness of your abilities:
Developing an awareness and an appreciation for your skills is another way of reinforcing a positive sense of self and may assist you in setting boundaries at work. If you can recognize and have respect for your professional abilities, then it might be easier to insist others do so as well.
Identifying your non-negotiables:
Signing off at the same time each day, keeping certain communication channels open for colleagues while keeping others off limits or not scheduling meetings during certain blocks of time are all ways to set boundaries at work. Making a list of things you’re not willing to compromise on can help keep you focused, and your workday streamlined.
While some things should remain protected, it’s important to remain flexible. You may want to create a second list of tradeoffs, or things you’re willing to compromise on in unforeseen circumstances. For example, if you’re asked to work late one day, then you might sign on a bit later the next day or sign off early on a Friday to make up for it.
Ranking your priorities:
Your time and energy are important. Taking on additional work like stretch assignments can give you a chance to grow professionally, but can also contribute to feelings of stress if you’re trying to balance more than you can handle. Like your non-negotiables, taking time to evaluate what parts of your job—and your life—take priority can help you set professional boundaries that extend beyond your workday. If you have hobbies, personal routines or family commitments that you don’t want to miss out on, structuring schedule around what’s important to you will help you learn to balance both.
Maintaining personal privacy:
You will most likely develop a personal relationship with the people you work with. Still, privacy is an important professional boundary. Having a strategy for how to kindly remove yourself from conversations that make you uncomfortable or setting boundaries on what aspects of your personal life you’re not willing to talk about with coworkers are some ways of maintaining personal privacy while at work.
When you’re up front about what works for you and what doesn’t, everyone knows what to expect. If possible, set up working hours on your calendar and block out chunks of time when you want to focus or take breaks. Clearly communicate your preferences and outline procedures they should follow or people they should contact when you’re unavailable.
Taking time to rest is just as important as completing your work. According to a study from the University of Illinois, prolonged focus on a task results in a drop in the brain’s attentional resources. “The brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time,” which means that taking breaks allows your brain to rest and refocus itself, helping you stay on task.
Taking breaks also allows your brain to process the information using diffuse thought. As opposed to focused thought, diffuse thought lets your mind step back and work through a problem creatively behind the scenes. Ever had a great idea in the shower? This is diffuse thought at work.
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