Save your sanity with work boundaries

Things are crazy right now. Are we working from home or not? Are kids learning in school, virtual, hybrid, or home school? Do we go out or do we stay home? How can I get a break from being on 24/7? Can we get delivery, carry-out or do I need to cook again? It’s exhausting!

Add on to all that stuff workplaces are ramping back up. More work is needing to be done, often by less people or in fewer hours per week. Some of this would be overwhelming alone, and all together it’s way too much for anyone. So, it’s time to give yourself credit for all you’ve accomplished and the fact you have kept things together so far.

How can we move forward without going completely off the deep end? First, know you are not alone, even if it feels like it. The world is upside down right now. We all need to find our balance again and we will find it.

Now that you’ve accepted that you are managing to get through the mountain of challenges it’s time to create a strategy for maintaining your sanity. It starts with boundaries at work. There is so much work to be done to get things going again, yet there are still only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Hopefully, you aren’t working all of them and your boss doesn’t expect that. Whatever your work schedule is now, it’s important to get the most impact out of your time by clearly defining what you will be doing.

5 Strategies for setting boundaries

  1. Prioritize results. Get with your boss on what results need to be achieved first. By starting with results, you are looking at the end game and can better understand which tasks matter most.
  2. Use 80/20 rule. The Pareto Principle is still utilized for a reason, it works! Simply said: 80% of your results will come from 20% of your effort. Focus on the 20% of the things you do that provide most of your results. This is will help you get the results needed.
  3. Know when to say no. It’s easy to get sucked into wanting to help and pitch in where needed. Unfortunately, if the requests don’t support your agreed upon priorities you will dilute your efforts. You may need to say a version of one of these phrases: “I’ll be able to do that next week, is that okay for you?” “I’d love to help; however, Project X will need to be delayed by at least a week. Does that work?” “Let me check with my boss to see if I can fit that in.” “I can’t right now, but Person X has experience in that, maybe they can help?”
  4. Communicate clearly. Stay in touch with your boss on your progress and priorities. If you are getting overwhelmed with requests, check in to see if you need to adjust priorities. Be honest about challenges, timelines and capacity.
  5. Get help when needed. With everything going on it can feel like we must carry it all on our own. That’s not true. Get help before you sink. I’m not condoning dumping and running or using the hated phrase “It’s not my job to do that.” However, there are times when we need a hand, so speak up and make a specific ask. State what you need, when you need it and how it will help you get the desired results. The clearer you are the easier it is to get help.

The better you are at defining what you can do, the easier it is to stay sane and get things done. Building a clear understanding of the priorities, capabilities and timelines will help you know what needs to be done, by when and how you will accomplish it. Getting control will help save your sanity.


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