3 Easy Boundaries to Start Today with Work

“Children have neither a past nor a future. Thus they enjoy the present, which seldom happens to us.” – Jean de La Bruyère

My nose was glued to my phone the second we hopped in the car. We were running a quick errand—my husband in the driver’s seat, twin boys in the back all strapped in and watching fire trucks on the iPad—I had about 15 minutes to do some work done on my phone.

Thinking this was the perfect use of my idle time, I was completely zoned in and it wasn’t until the 3rd time my husband repeated himself when I actually looked up and said, “Huh?”

I could feel him roll his eyes as he said the same thing again, this time when I was actually paying attention, “I can’t wait until you’re done with whatever project your working on because you’ve been glued to your phone every second this weekend.”

Oh yeah. It was the weekend, the precious time I wasn’t supposed to work so I could get in quality time with the family.

Suffice it to say, this opened a “lively” discussion about how I don’t have time and I try to use every second efficiently. And, it ended with a realization I may have allowed work to creep into spaces it should never live.

My boundaries between work and play were blurred, and if I kept on this path, my family would suffer (more than they already had).

When you work from home, it can be incredibly difficult to discern when work-time stops, and family-time begins.

But, this isn’t a problem just isolated to those of us working from home.

When I worked for one of the Big 4 Accounting firms, there were times I’d send an email at midnight and get a response from my boss at 1 AM. Or, I’d pull out of the parking lot on Sunday morning after church and check my email only to discover 3 emails came through in less than 2 hours wondering why I hadn’t responded to the first already. And this was SUNDAY morning.

With the advent of modern technology, we’ve never been more connected before. Which is a good thing, overall. But, we also have a major issue with figuring out when to disconnect.

When work can find us at any and all times of the day, we have to wonder if boundaries have been completely smashed by our smart phones and laptops.

Determined to not let technology run my life, I put my phone down, and made myself present for my husband and children.

When we allow our minds to constantly focus intensely on our work, we miss much of what’s going on in the present. Especially during the time we’re away from work.

And when we miss the present, we not only miss those around us, we miss experiencing something even greater: The Presence of God.

I realized, by always staying busy, taking every down moment I had to get a quick moment for work in, I was not just missing out on family time, I was missing sweet moments of time where the presence of God resides.

It’s the wisdom of a Monk from the 17th who I think can help us solve this problem:

“If I were to be responsible for guiding souls, I would urge everyone to be aware of God’s constant presence, if for no other reason than His presence is a delight to our souls and spirit.”

  • Brother Lawrence, author of The Practice of the Presence of God

It’s not that God isn’t present when we’re working or sleeping or doing anything ever. It’s just that we don’t give ourselves a break to even notice He’s there. And if we struggle to pay attention to the people right in front of us (like I was with my husband in the car), how can we possibly pay attention to an invisible presence?

Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10

When it comes to setting boundaries with our work, we need to allow ourselves to be still. Particularly, be still with our work.

But you don’t know how much I have to get done! I don’t have enough hours in the day to do what I already have on my plate. I’m drowning.

To this I say, the truth is, work will always be there. And it will always take whatever we’re willing to give. You ARE in the driver’s seat, and you can say YES or NO to your work.

Say YES to more down-time. Say NO to more work-time.

Say YES to spending time with your family. Say NO to being on your phone checking email.

Say YES to leaving your phone at home sometimes. Say NO to being attached at the hip.

Say YES to peace of mind. Say NO to being stressed out.

If we don’t setup clear boundaries with our work, it will run us over. 

Here are 3 easy steps you can start today to begin establishing boundaries with work:

  1. Leave your phone at home (or in your purse at least): Sometimes it’s ok to step away from our phones. Give yourself permission to NOT check it when you’re spending quality time with family or friends.
  1. No laptop after hours: Set boundaries with your laptop (and/or phone) and make specific times where you will not open it. Just because we can take our work anywhere doesn’t mean we should. Try doing this for your phone too and put it down from the hours of 6-9 PM and spend uninterrupted time with your family or friends or just quiet time for yourself.
  1. Don’t overpromise on deadlines: You can’t change what you’ve promised clients and customers already, but you can make a change going forward. When you give turn-around times to people, be sure they’re realistic for the time you have, factoring in down time for yourself. And if you’re unsure of how long it will take, be honest and let your clients know you don’t want to overpromise and ask them to give you a day or so to come up with an accurate estimate. Taking a bit of time to plan can save you a lot of overwork in the future.

Try implementing these today and watch how much you actually enjoy uninterrupted time.

Just because everything around us is running a million miles a minute, doesn’t mean we have to. In a world that will take whatever you’re willing to give, be sure to protect your sanity and put boundaries in place. And most importantly, pause, be still, and enjoy the presence of God.

Do you have any boundary setting techniques that have worked for you in business? Which of these 3 steps do you think you will implement first? Would love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Dominique Richardson
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