Not quite the dream you had in mind is it?
This week we’re moving on to question 3 of my 4 questions to help make 2024 your year:
- Are you investing in your growth?
- Are you advocating for your promotion?
- Are you creating boundaries?
- Are you showing up as that leader today?
When we’re focused on creating our dream career and getting to the top of that ladder, it can often mean sacrificing other parts of our life that matter:
- Time with our family
- Time with friends
The list goes on. And let’s face it, society’s obsession with hustle culture doesn’t help! Whether you’re watching Suits or reading the latest post from that 23 year old founder on LinkedIn, you’re likely to hear all about how they’re pulling all-nighters, forgetting to eat and sacrificing any semblance of a personal life, all in the name of work.
And I’m here to call bullshit.
First, I do want to recognize that there are seasons in life. Sometimes you need to work more to achieve a short-term goal, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But there’s a big difference between putting some extra hours in to get a high-profile project across the finish line and chronically overworking to the detriment of your life.
I talk to so many bright, talented and hardworking women who have ended up in a situation where they have zero time to take care of themselves and never, ever unplug.
- They want to get back in shape, but can’t carve out the time to cook meals or work out
- They know they should take a lunch break and go for a walk at noon, but end up eating at their desk… again
- They’ve heard about the benefits of meditation, but can’t find 10min each day to be still
- Their calendar looks like one continuous row of blocks because there’s no space between back to back meetings
Ladies, this was me to a T some years back. I get it. And I know my fellow achievers are especially susceptible to letting their job take over.
But it DOESN’T have to be that way, whether you’re a solopreneur or climbing that corporate ladder.
What you need to accept is that only YOU are responsible for your boundaries. Hard truth. If you wait for your manager to recognize you’re burning out and fix this for you, you’re going to be disappointed. And probably burn out.
Once you accept total responsibility for your life and the way you spend your time, you can be intentional about creating both the career and life you love.
It’s possible. I’m living proof. Easy? Nah. But possible. And SO worth it.
Why are boundaries important?
Boundaries my friends, are the key to intentionally designing your career around your life so it doesn’t end up the other way around. And many, many of us struggle to create and reinforce them.
Note that boundaries will look differently for everyone, and you’re the only one who can decide what’s right for you and your life. If you love grabbing your laptop to do some work in the evening after your kids have gone to bed, that’s perfectly fine! The problem comes when you don’t feel as though you have a choice or you start missing out on parts of your non-work life because you’re unable to say no. Big difference here.
If you’ve struggled with creating boundaries in the past, let’s dive into 4 key steps you can take today to get started.
1. Decide what you want your life to look like
Maybe grab a pen and paper and journal this out. If you were to envision your ideal life, what would your days look like? Would they start with exercise or journalling? Would you take the time to walk your kids to school?
Once you get clear on what ‘ideal’ looks like, you can intentionally start to create it.
Many of us feel we need to sacrifice the life we really want in the name of hitting our goals or making the company we work for successful. But guess what? At the end of the day, companies will take care of themselves first. It’s harsh, but it’s true. And you may end up sacrificing something truly important to you for a company that lays you off after 10 years of loyalty.
You can work super hard and create amazing results, and still have boundaries.
The first time I did this exercise, it felt so indulgent to imagine doing yoga every morning and meeting a friend for lunch once a week. But guess what? I’ve now created a life where this is not out of the ordinary!
2. Start believing in your value
Time to get a little deep. One of the key reasons I see women overwork comes down to limiting beliefs. They believe their worth is in getting stuff done and being highly productive, and they believe they are only worthy if they are producing and successful.
This is a problem.
Instead, I want you to consider the fact that maybe you’re ‘worthy’ just for being you. That you don’t have to reach that next goal or land that big deal to be worthy.
Now I want you to consider the radical concept that you’re just as valuable as an employee, even if you stop working by 5pm, take a regular lunch hour and unapologetically pick the kids up from the bus.
Most of you reading this newsletter are senior leaders or aspiring senior leaders. Here’s the thing, your value as a leader comes from making the right decisions, managing and motivating your team and creating a culture for success. Chances are, the bulk of the tactical work you’re doing does not need to be done by you.
You can add a ton of value to your organization without overworking yourself.
Which brings me to the next step:
3. Get out of being the ‘doer’
This is for my leaders and senior leaders reading this. The more you can get out of the weeds and effectively delegate the tasks you don’t need to be doing, the more you can free your time up for more strategic work (which will produce disproportionate results) and allow yourself to work less.
When I was an EVP I used to joke that I got paid to think. And it wasn’t all that far from the truth. I spent my time looking at data trends to make better strategic decisions and thinking about what we needed to do differently to hit our goals.
Lots of thinking. Less doing.
This ties in to my previous point, because you need to believe that spending your time this way is the true value you’re bringing to your company. Many women I speak with feel guilty if they aren’t executing on something, when I would argue that spending all of your time in execution mode may actually hold you back.
So look at everything you do, and ask yourself what can be delegated. Set expectations and opportunities to provide feedback. And get some work off your plate.
4. Clearly communicate your boundaries
Now that you’ve decided what you want your boundaries to look like and have freed up some time by delegating, it’s time to communicate those boundaries. If you don’t communicate them, you can expect people to respect them!
If your boss is used to texting you all weekend and you typically reply immediately, consider addressing this directly. You could say something like,
“I’m working to create better balance in my life and unplug on the weekends. Just a heads up if you message me, I may not get back as quickly as usual and if it’s not urgent, I’ll plan to wait until Monday to address it. You can feel free to call me if anything urgent comes up.”
Did your blood pressure go up just thinking about having that conversation? See step 2 😉
Another way to communicate your boundaries is by blocking off your calendar. These days most employees have an open calendar so others can see their availability. Consider blocking ‘dinner’ or ‘picking up kids from the bus’ in your calendar so people know you’re unavailable.
Being open about the way you integrate your life into your day may also encourage others to take this important time. For years I was afraid to make these personal events public in my calendar, but then I realized I was not being the example I wanted to be for my team, and for the other working mothers under me.
Once I realized that, I stopped making “Kids doctor’s appointment” private and leaned into the fact that I can be a successful executive AND a present mom. I don’t have to choose. And neither do you.
So there you have it, 4 steps to creating boundaries.
- Decide what you want
- Believe you’re worth it
- Delegate work
- Communicate boundaries
Once you’re on the other side, you will never go back!