Keeping Lives Separate

Computer + coffee share places in both lives, but the work in the tray checks out when I punch my (virtual) timecard.

Computer + coffee share places in both lives, but the work in the tray checks out when I punch my (virtual) timecard.

I feel strongly that it is imperative for a healthy and happy existence to enforce boundaries between work life and home life. Home should be a sanctuary, a place of repose, a place to connect with family, friends, and self, to recharge and renew. From time to time there may be some spillover – a boss’s call that you absolutely have to take, a client emergency. But if you examine the situation objectively, how often do these work “emergencies” really, truly, qualify as something urgent? Sometimes people are motivated by a desire to feel needed or a fear of encountering an empty life if they eliminate work from the equation. I try to keep these two spheres of life as separate as possible. For instance, today is my day off. Increasingly omniscient technology informs me that I have e-mails in my work inbox or forwards a voicemail from the office. I do my best to triage these incoming messages from the work world and decide if it is truly important that I interrupt my day off (singular), MY day off (I get extremely possessive about my personal time), and respond. Already though, regardless of my choice, the cloud of stress and irritation has begun to descend upon me, settling in a hazy fog around my eyeballs. This is very un-Zen.

A few of my boundary-creation methods:

1. Willpower – Don’t check that e-mail, don’t answer that phone — there is an unrealistic (and in my opinion harmful) expectation in modern society that we must be reachable every minute of every day. I choose to remove myself from the fray for my “mini-vacations” (the rest of you might know these as weekends).

2. Communication – Make it clear that you are unavailable when you are not working. Everyone has a family, social life, hobbies, etc. They will understand.

3. Organization – I keep my work items (I work two jobs, one of them in particular comes with an excess of “accessories” I need in order to perform my job) separate from my personal items. Working primarily from home means that I have a large amount of “work” stuff in my office. When I am not working, I do not want to look at these items. It is me time. I remove the tray from my desk, I place my file box on the shelf, my boxes of extra supplies are placed in the closet, and I hang my name tag up. The physical act of leaving work behind is powerful.

4. Expectation – Use time away from work to make your life fulfilling and well-rounded. Some people cling to work because their lives without it are empty. Connect with friends, exercise, cook, do something! When you have something fun or satisfying to look forward to, it becomes easier and easier to protect your “me” time from outside infringement.

A balanced life is a happier and more productive life.

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