B is for Boundaries.
B is also for balance, and the two, in my opinion, come hand in hand.
Get to know your boundaries (and stick to them).
You need to start thinking about this before you start your first job, and carry it through your career. It doesn’t matter how junior or senior you are, you need a lunch break. Every day. Depending on the work it may be a split one, or a short one, but you are entitled to it by law, and you need to take it. Ideally take it away from your desk, and make sure you eat and drink – you’ll be a nicer colleague and more productive for the afternoon if you do.
Get to know your moral boundaries – what will you not accept? Is it lying to customers, or being nasty about others in the staff room? Be conscious of each of these things – in some work places you won’t come across these things at all, but other workplaces you may have to consciously remove yourself from situations. There’s a quote that says ‘What you allow, you accept.’ So start right, right from the start. If you allow people to push you around, they’ll think you’re ok with it (even in the most non-malicious way). Work needs to be done. If you’re up for staying until 8pm each evening, the work still gets done. Workplaces need to be able to see the gaps in work, not let conscientious staff take the slack to save hiring more people.
I feel like this point also needs a ‘what am I NOT saying?’ – (the ‘balance’ bit)
I am not saying you should be inflexible. I am not saying you should walk in on day one with your list of demands. I am not saying you should never stay an hour late… I’m just saying it shouldn’t be every evening. Work is like a relationship – it’s about negotiation, give and take, and working out who needs to lean in and out at different times. In the lead up to a deadline, it may be key for you to be really flexible to join your team in getting the work completed, but then perhaps in a quieter period, you can take some TOIL (time off in lieu). Always remember to be good to your workplace. You never know when you might need them to be kind to you.
The reality is, we work for many years. In that time, we may experience sickness, or bereavement or hard times. Obviously this isn’t nice to think about, but if you show that you’re willing to work your socks off, then if things become difficult for you, the company may be able to lean in and give you some support. Work hard. Be kind and conscientious, but don’t let yourself be taken for granted. It’s a fine line, and sometimes you’ll get it wrong – be prepared to apologise, and ready to forgive. We are all human. But a work/ life balance is important, so make sure you have a good one.
What’s the point in boundaries? Saying no to one thing, so you can say yes to another. Saying no to overworking, so you can say yes to being well-rested. Saying no to working all evening, so you can say yes to quality time with family and friends. Saying no to doing too much, so that the things you complete can be done really well…
So lets put boundaries on our social life in work time… and lets put boundaries on work in our social time. That’s harder to do if you’re working from home, and it’s harder to do if the time feels like it’s blending, but be deliberate, and intentional. Be boundaried, and be balanced. Balance your time, balance your energy, balance your space to give out to helping others, and your space to give to yourself what you need too.
Don’t forget, as I said in the 2021 blog, it’s gentle January. So be gentle with yourself and those around you. Yesterday was Blue Monday – said to be the hardest of the year due to post-Christmas blues, financial strain and weather. This week, go out of your way to be extra gentle to those around you.
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