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Category: Boundaries
Tips to Avoid Becoming Overbooked during the Holidays

The holidays can be the most festive and fun time of year — or they can be the busiest and most exhausting time of year.   When December comes, so do the holiday invitations – to family gatherings, business parties, social events, and church functions.  All too often our jam-packed schedule simply wears us out.  We’re so preoccupied with trying to do it all that we miss out on the fun and enjoyment of the holidays.  We end up feeling fatigued and overwhelmed.  By the time January 2nd rolls around, we’re grateful the holidays are over.  Here are a few tips to help make sure you don’t get overbooked during the holidays.

Prioritize – Reflect on the purpose of the holiday.  What’s most important to you?  Spending time with family?  Participating in religious or church activities?  Or attending business functions?  Categorize the events into categories:  a) must attend, b) attend if possible, and c) skip.

Schedule early – For your high priority events, schedule them early.  If family traditions are important to you, schedule a date for the family to cut down a Christmas tree or to make a trip to the city to view the holiday lights and window displays.  At work, coordinate schedules in advance with your department members to schedule a holiday lunch.

Be willing to say “no” – Don’t put undue pressure on yourself to try to do it all.  Recognize that you may not be able to accept all holiday invitations.  Be selective about which invitations you’ll accept.  If you’re not able to attend a party, look for alternate ways to spend time your friend; for example, doing some Christmas shopping together or meeting for lunch at a later date.

The bottom line is that you want to make the holidays as stress-free as possible.  By following these tips you’ll avoid becoming exhausted and experience more fun and enjoyment.

Unplugging from a Wired World

When was the last time you were truly alone and unwired?  No cell phone, no tablet, no laptop?  Many of us crave that kind of solitude, but in an increasingly wired world, it’s a rare commodity.

According to a recent poll conducted by Time magazine, one in four people check their mobile phone every 30 minutes, and one in five checks it every 10 minutes.  The survey found that nearly one-third of 25 to 29-year-olds actually sleep with their phones!  We check text and emails, and update our online status, at any hour – when we’re lying in bed or sitting at stop lights or on trains.  Sometimes, we even do so when we’re on the toilet.

For some workers, what at first may have felt like an obligation has become an obsession.  One could argue that, especially in this economy, it’s wise to be constantly wired – to stay on top of email, to please the boss.  But what about the downside?  What does this do to our physical, mental and emotional health?  We all need downtime – time to renew and refresh ourselves on a regular basis in order to be more productive over the long run.

We need to set limits in order to unplug from our wired world.  We need to take time to ourselves – with no cell phones, no PDAs, and no laptops – to reenergize.  Google and Nike, among others, provide space for employees to take naps or to meditate – a welcome respite from a busy, hectic workday.  One organization called Reboot has started the Sabbath Manifesto, a call to unplug one day a week to find solitude – or to simply take a day of rest with family and friends.  We all need a day of rest each week to recharge.  Even God, who created the heavens and earth, rested on the seventh day!  On an annual basis, we all need a vacation – an unwired vacation with no checking email and voicemail in our absence.  If we’re still connected with the office, that’s not a true vacation.  We need that time to rejuvenate so when we come back to the office we’re well rested and ready to tackle our work again.

So how about unplugging for an hour, a day, or a week?  Consider taking a meditation break during the work day, or a Sabbath day of rest, or a week-long vacation.  The peace and solitude will do you wonders!

Sticky Situations: How to Decline Demands on Your Time

How many times have you wished you could press the Pause button and put the world on hold?  Just a 5-second delay to conjure up the perfect excuse?  A time-warp device hasn’t been invented yet, however, here’s information to help you think on your feet.  As working women, you contend with more than your fair share of sticky situations – from pushy PTA moms to demanding bosses.  There’s no end to the overzealous people who want you to spearhead a committee, join a walkathon, or work a little overtime.  You can save yourself from exhaustion and exasperation.  Here are common scenarios you may encounter.

Situation: A pushy PTA mom guilts you into the latest fund-raising effort – or – a colleague wants you to join her charity’s Walkaton.

What to Say: “My cause is [insert favorite charity], and that’s where I allocate my money and energy.”  You can explain why, if you like, but you don’t have to.  If you gave your time or money to every worthy cause, you’d have no time or money left.

Situation: During your busiest time of year, a professional acquaintance asks you to speak at a conference she’s organizing.

What to Say: “My schedule is pretty full, and I’m not sure if I can take this on, but if you want to send me the information I’ll take a look.”  Rather than automatically saying “yes”, this gives you time to evaluate the importance of the opportunity.  Ask yourself a few questions.  Do I have expertise in this field that is important to share with others?  Is it a cause I’m passionate about?  How will the time away impact my work and my family?

Situation: On Friday afternoon, your boss asks you to take on a project that’s going to eat up your whole weekend.  You want to be a team player, but you have important plans this weekend.

What to Say: Explain your time constraints, and then ask your boss for advice about how he suggests you get the work done.  It’s possible that your boss wasn’t thinking about how this project and deadline would mess up your life.  So let him know what this will mean to your schedule.  You can tell him you don’t want to disappoint your family, and ask if this really has to be done by Monday.

The next time you find yourself in one of these or similar situations, you’ll know how to respond and can finally come up with exactly the right words (without having to come right out and say “no”).

When you Work at Home: Separating Work and Home Life

Karen, who works for a large technology company, has the luxury of telecommuting from home.  While working at home provides great convenience and flexibility, it can also pose challenges in separating work and home life.  Oftentimes, Karen will check e-mail after dinner only to get caught up working an additional 2-3 hours.  When your work is so easily accessible, it’s easy to end up working 24/7.  How do you set boundaries in order to separate work from your home life?  Here are five tips.

  • Set regular work hours. Set regular hours of work, and stick to it.  This allows your mind to switch gears and focus on either work or family.  Also, be sure to let family members know your work hours, and ask them to not disturb you during these times.
  • Close the door to your home office. By doing so, this sets a physical boundary, which also helps you gain closure at the end of the work day.  Also, the saying “Out of sight, out of mind” applies here.  If you can’t see it, you won’t be reminded of it.
  • Establish a way to “switch gears”. Find a way to “switch gears” from work to home life.  You might walk the dog or watch the news or take time to yourself to relax.  I always exercise at the end of my work day.  I either go to the gym or take a walk.  Then when I come home I switch to home activities like cooking dinner.
  • Don’t check email after hours. Even if you want to take just one quick check, you can find yourself, like Karen, spending hours on email.  So don’t even check!
  • Turn off your electronics during family or personal time. Be sure to turn off your cell phone, pager, PDA, or other devices, so you can spend quality time with your family or enjoy personal time to yourself without being interrupted.

By following these tips, you can enjoy better balance by separating your work and home life – even when you work from home!

Life Invaders: How Work Invades Your Personal Life

There was a time when employees showed up for work, worked eight hours, and then went home.  Not so today.  The boundaries between work and home have become blurred.  Here’s why:

  • Longer hours. Employers often ask employees to work longer hours.  Sometimes, overtime is mandatory.  In order to move up the career ladder, many employees believe they need to put in more “face time” at the office.  In fact, the average workweek today is 49.2 hours.
  • Global economy. As more companies outsource or move jobs overseas to reduce labor costs, employees feel pressured to work longer hours and produce more to protect their jobs.
  • International business. If you work in an international business, work continues around the world 24/7.  Therefore, workers may be on call around the clock for trouble-shooting or consulting.  Also, the work day is lengthened by early morning or evening meetings to accommodate people in different time zones.
  • Advanced communication technology. With the advent of laptop computers, cell phones, and personal handheld devices, people now have the ability to work anywhere – at the office, at home, from their car, or even on vacation.  Advanced technology has increased expectations with regard to response time, so now we’re constantly connected with the office.  Some managers even expect it.

If you’ve experienced any of these challenges, you understand how easy it is for work to invade your personal life.  If you’re not careful, work can overtake your life.  In order to avoid that, you need to set boundaries around work in order to keep balanced.  For tips on how to set boundaries on work, please see the article “Setting Boundaries at Work”.