“For our readers who have a hard time setting professional boundaries– they’re burnt out, they’re replying to emails constantly, they never say no, they work weekends– what’s your advice?
When I find myself working around the clock, I remember Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the amount of time given to it, which means that if you never set your own boundaries, you’ll literally ALWAYS be working.
And that not only wears you down–it wears other people in your life down, too. A recent study found 33% of people answer messages in the middle of the night. And you don’t need me to tell you that checking your emails at 3 AM puts you at risk for burnout and emotional exhaustion.
Instead of endlessly working and being addicted to your phone from sunrise to sunset, try this: Set a time today that you will absolutely stop working.
As someone who used to work all day long, I was amazed what happened when I started setting a quitting time, something I now do every single day.
Instead of becoming less productive, I actually got more done. With my quitting time in mind, I was more focused, concentrated, and made even more progress.
A quitting time is the difference between an unfocused 12 hours of work or a productive, distraction-free 8 hours–in which you get the same amount of work done.
For young working women there are fear-based thoughts that if they don’t do all of the above (are the last one the leave the office, say no to answering emails on the weekend, etc.) there will be someone behind them happy to take their place. What do you say to that?
The key word here is “value.” There’s a major difference between showing up at work (no matter how many hours you are online) and providing real value.
If you make your boss’ life easier and you further your boss’ strategic objectives, you are providing an incredible amount of value–and your boss will not think about firing you, even if you set clear boundaries around your time.
The secret to providing value is to ask yourself one question every day.
It’s to put yourself in your boss’ shoes and ask: What is the most valuable thing that I can do for him/her?
When you choose which projects to work on, you should actively seek to align your workload and your priorities with your boss’ objectives. While it may be more fun for you to work on projects that are not as important, when you become a proactive strategic contributor, you become an invaluable asset to your team.”
I wish more people would be able to understand this, but the unfortunate reality is that the large majority of the people we work with operate at what I like to call “the mediocre sector, or the status quo.” They simply exist in that space, do the bare minimum work to keep their job. They seem to have no desire for growth or challenge. This honestly baffles me. Being a 20 (almost 30!) something in the professional space, I’ve never wanted to stop looking for opportunities to grow my own skill set, add value to the company, or take on new challenges, even if they scare me. And I can’t understand why other people wouldn’t want that too. Yet does this mean I work around the clock, on the weekends, and sacrifice my own happiness and personal time?
No. First of all, that’s not how I’m wired. I graduated college and have built my career on the premise that being successful in your job does not have to equal working a hundred hours. Does that mean I don’t work hard? Absolutely not! As the article references above, the key is VALUE. I’ve seen way too many professionals work around the clock and yet feel like they got absolutely nowhere in a day. How tragic! The first boss I ever had in HR instilled a valuable lesson in me about this: she didn’t care how many hours I worked, as long as the job got done. And I’ve operated on that mentality ever since. Some bosses have not had that mindset, and there is some adjustment needed. But I think no matter who you report to, if you show your value and work ethic, you will undoubtedly prove your worth, regardless of the amount of hours you clock.
Don’t get me wrong — Some days, some weeks, will require more hours of you than normal. And that’s okay. My point here is that it shouldn’t be the norm. Because as soon as it becomes a repeated habit, it will inevitable rule your life and schedule. And maybe that behavior will take you to the top. Maybe it will make you financially successful and give you the title you’ve always wanted. If so, that is great.
Me personally? I want more out of my life than just work. I have professional goals that I absolutely intend to reach, but I also know I need to fiercely protect my time in order to get there. I know that I am no good–as a woman, friend, wife, mother, or professional–if I’m not happy or in a positive space. This means I don’t work tons of hours, because I have realized that after a certain point in the day, I become ineffective, and the work I do after that point is not quality work. This means I prioritize fitness, because I realize how integral regular exercise is to my physical and psychological wellbeing. This means I take vacation days, and actually do my very best to unplug from email, because I know I need the mental break. We all do. We just have to be disciplined enough to do it.
If you’re interested in the full article by Mel Robbins, check it out here: