Boundaries vs. Values
Have you ever agreed to do something you didn’t want to? Whether it was too far outside your comfort zone, you already had too much going on, or it was just the wrong time to tackle the task – we’ve all done it. Said yes – when we should have said no – because we were lacking the appropriate boundaries. That’s why it’s so important to set them. To know what we are and are not willing to do.
The problem with boundaries is that sometimes we take them too far and turn them into hard and fast rules. What I mean is we say, “I need work/life balance, so I will leave work every day at 5 pm.” Unfortunately, the demands of our jobs sometime require that we stay longer. If you continue to leave at 5 pm, it can actually take away from your feeling of balance. It can cause you to lose sight of what you really value. For example, you get home and all you can think about is the list of things at the office that didn’t get done. You are at home eating with your family, but your mind is somewhere else. If the work/life balance boundary was set because you value your family, they may not feel very valued at that point.
Staying until 5:10 pm to write down the list of tasks for the following day, writing that one email you know will be on your mind all night, or checking in with your employee/boss/co-worker about that one issue that has been causing stress will free up your mind for the evening, and allow you to remain present. If there’s a small task that can be done to help free up your head space once you’re home, isn’t it worth the extra 10 minutes, outside of your rule?
This same example looks different for everyone. I know some people that keep the 5 pm rule, but when things get overwhelming they bring their computer home to read emails after their kids have gone to bed. Some people head to work early because they know it will be quiet. Others go into work on a Saturday when they know there will be no one in the office, or head over to a local library.
I work from home, so for the most part I set my own hours. Initially, having been used to a 9-5 job, I found it difficult to strike a balance. I forced myself to treat my home office like a work office. Arriving every day at 9 am taking an hour at lunch and then closing out the day at a fairly regular time. Then my boyfriend and his kids moved in. The kids have a regular school schedule, so things had to change slightly to work around that. Complicating matters further, my boyfriend works 12-hour shifts on an alternating schedule. When he’s working he will basically only work and sleep, followed by 4 or 5 day stretches where he’s at home full-time. Trying to keep my Monday to Friday, 9-5 schedule left us little time to see each other. So what did that mean? Well, I needed to be a little more flexible. Sometimes I would get some work done on a Saturday morning while the kids slept in, or leave cleaning that needed to get done until a little later than I would have liked. My boundaries had to change in order to stay in line with my values.
It is definitely important to set and stick to your boundaries. But if the boundary becomes an unwavering rule, there may come a point where it no longer serves you. Go back and review your values, and make sure the boundary or ‘rule’ is still serving what’s important to you.