Over the past 18 months, working from home had led to many of us giving up when it comes to enforcing work-life boundaries. We know how important they are for avoiding burnout, maintaining our creativity, and allowing up to be productive when we’re sitting at our desks. Even so, with so many different things to juggle, and with our daily routines looking a little different than normal (whatever normal means…), it’s not surprising that we’re struggling to divide up the day. Time is moving fast, and although you’re up on time, it’s suddenly 6 pm, and you’ve still got a few hours’ work to do.
If you find yourself replying to emails all evening with Netflix on in the background, it might be time to assess your work-life boundaries. With this challenge in mind, we spoke to a few Found and Flourish members to find out how they follow through with their work-life boundaries.
It’s hard to maintain your work-life boundaries if you’re rushing to finish a major piece of work. It’s all well and good aiming to finish work at 5 pm, but in reality, life isn’t quite that simple. The answer lies in forward planning. “Focus on the important things first,” advise Lucy Cleveley and Isabel Mohan, founders of Discoco. “Work out what you absolutely need to get done today versus what can wait, so that you’re not chasing your tail at the end of the day. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to keep working when you should be watching Netflix / exercising / lying in a dark room with a flannel on your face.”
Keep the business chat to email
Make it easy to keep your work-life boundaries in check by maintaining clear divisions online. If you’ve got an old phone lying around the house, consider having one for business and one for personal, so you’re not tempted to log into your work Instagram at midnight on a Saturday (we’ve been there. It’s not a vibe). It’s also a good idea to avoid communicating with clients on every single platform. “I take business chat out of the DMs, off WhatsApp, and onto email as soon as possible,” advises writer Molly Gould. “It helps me switch off in the evenings and means I don’t get as many 2 am client messages…”. At the very least, turn your notifications off. This has helped Molly maintain her own boundaries: “when I urge to check isn’t there, I just log on when I have time to.”
Allow for changes
They say that entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster for a reason. No matter how good your intentions, we’ve all faced an unexpected client request / stock disaster/ particularly harsh round of edits that keeps us up all night. That’s completely fine – and it’s part and parcel of the job. Or, as Katie Stockdale, founder of Juno, puts it: “let it go to shit sometimes.” Don’t beat yourself up when you fall off track with your boundaries – it’s bound to happen. “There are weeks when we have had to navigate school holidays with zero support, or the Covid bubble has burst and boundaries have gone to shit,” says Katie. “Just get back on the horse when you can and even in those crappy weeks, be sure to set aside some dedicated time for R and R.” Wise words indeed.
Schedule in your ‘play’
Rest is a non-negotiable, but the majority of us tend to prioritise work over a nice bath/ evening in with a book/ dinner out with friends. Protect your work-life boundaries by giving your hobbies as much importance as your meetings when it comes to your diary. “I would suggest creating a schedule and blocking out time in the diary for both work and play,” says Serena Gasparini, a marketing specialist. Have fun with it and find out what works for you – there really is no right or wrong here. “One of the things I’m experimenting with is blocking out an afternoon a week to do something that’s not business-related – which for me is golf,” says Jess Ratcliffe, created of Stuck to Started. “By blocking out the recurring time in my calendar, it means I stick to the promise I’ve made to myself, rather than let it slip.”
Communicate your boundaries
It’s not just you who has to be clear on your boundaries – it’s the people around you, too. Your friends, family and clients can all help you protect your work-life boundaries, but only if you communicate them clearly. “Don’t expect people to read your mind,” advises Katie. “If you’re setting new boundaries or changing the goalposts, make sure you let people know any changes to your routine or schedule. Communication is key to getting what you want!” The same goes for anyone you work with, whether that’s a co-founder or a team. “As co-founders, we’ve also had to put self-imposed restrictions to stop us WhatsApp-ing each other with thoughts and ideas when we should be taking time out,” explain Lucy and Isabel.
At the end of the day, it’s your life and your business. You’re free to plan your schedule however works for you, whether you’re working around kids, pets, your energy or your cycle. The key, as Katie points out, is not to expect everyone to read your mind. Struggling with too many deadlines? Reach out to your clients and let them know you’ll be a day later. If you’re worried as to how they’ll react, think about the last time you hired someone – maybe for your website, social media or admin. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that life happens, and sometimes, we’ve just got to go with the flow.
Do you have any nuggets of wisdom when it comes to protecting your work-life boundaries? Let us know on Instagram at @foundflourish!
About your author
Phoebe is Found & Flourish’s resident Business blogger, she is London-born and Frankfurt-, Paris- and Amsterdam-raised. Combining her Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship with 10 years writing for international publications, she’s the founder of BURO155 and Wellby, helping female entrepreneurs achieve their business goals through strategic online content. Phoebe is also a writer, and has written for outlets including the Huffington Post, the Guardian, the Next Web, For Working Ladies and Restless Magazine.
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