For those of you who may not be aware, I am one of those older Millennials raised by baby boomers which means there’s always an internal struggle between the part of me that wants to work like a machine, forever dedicated to getting the job done blah… blah… and the other part of me that wants to start work exactly at 9, wrap up exactly at 5, take breaks, actually use my sick days, and go on vacations.
I seriously think my generation has it so hard. We know we should take vacations but some of us still struggle. I remember early in my career, being that person who ate breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner AT MY DESK! Being able to go for a 10-15 minute walk in the middle of the day felt like a vacation – I also felt a weird feeling of guilt. I remember returning to the building after one of these walks reminding myself that I had permission to do this. My boss said it was OK. She literally said, “Pam, go for a walk,” but I was concerned that it would look like I wasn’t working hard. I was so worried about someone seeing me away from my desk, and assuming that I was slacking off, I rarely left even when I KNEW I needed a break.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Any of this relatable?
It wasn’t long before I was online Googling signs of burnout and sadly realizing I had every symptom.
Eventually (like, YEARS later) after multiple feelings of burnout and flipping out once or twice, I discovered the ONE thing that would make me happier in my career. Doing this thing, although it wasn’t easy helped me shake the guilt, finally get some balance, and comfortably articulate my needs so I receive what I needed from work instead of feeling like I’m always pouring from an empty cup.
Ladies and gentlemen, I learned how to set BOUNDARIES! This is one of those things that sounds like an easy thing to do but for many (like me) it’s the most difficult thing. There are internal and external pressures pushing you into those old habits and dumb social media sayings like “team no sleep” don’t help either.
If you’re struggling like I was, here are a few tips to help you finally set some doggone boundaries at work.
1. Start from the beginning – Establish boundaries from the first day. If you have an existing trip planned, don’t cancel it. Let your job know you’ll need that time off. If you need to block time in your day to pick up your children from school, do that. If you need to end the work day at a certain time, do that. It’s always easier to set the tone at the beginning so spare yourself the uphill battle and do it early!
2. Be consistent. Verbally setting a boundary is only step one. What will truly drive the point home is your consistent action over time. If you don’t want to be contacted after hours, stop being available and responding quickly to emails after 5pm.
3. Practice your poker face. Everyone won’t be as happy as you are about your boundaries. There will be push back, especially if you haven’t had boundaries before. Do not give in to the sob stories or excuses. Practice your poker face & do not react. Be prepared for that and be ready to stand your ground.
4. Release & reject the guilt. Guilt will attack you internally and externally. When it does, remind yourself of why you’re doing this. Remind yourself of all the times you missed vacations and time with loved ones. Remind yourself that all the paychecks in the world won’t help you if you’re not healthy and able to enjoy them. Remind yourself that your well-being comes first.
I hope this helps!