Work and Family Colliding? Top Tips to Set Boundaries Like a Pro
When you love your work and have a family, it can be challenging to set the boundaries that help you succeed in both realms, especially when you work at home and the lines can easily blur. With more and more people working from home and with online and hybrid learning in full swing (and sometimes in flux by the week), the question of setting boundaries for personal and professional obligations has never been more critical.
After years of working from home and learning to set boundaries between the work I love and the family I adore, here are my tips for successful boundary setting.
Accept that Every Week will be Different
Recognize that your highest priority for any given week (or day) will vary, and that’s normal.
Sometimes work obligations will be front and center. Enjoy those times and the feeling of your throwing yourself into professional work. Try not to let guilt about what you might be missing weigh you down. Enlist help from family and friends to help you free up space and time to work as effectively as possible.
Likewise, sometimes family obligations will outweigh professional work. Enjoy those times, too.
Try to be present in the moment and not distracted by what you might be missing at work. If it helps ease your mind, ask a trusted co-worker to alert you to any emergencies that may occur when you’re focused on your family.
Balancing the day-to-day and week-to-week flow of work and life will help you find greater equilibrium between your dual roles as a mom and a professional.
Know Your Priorities
Setting priorities is an essential part of establishing boundaries and working effectively. Thinking of your priorities over different time horizons helps to balance workload. Here’s how to do it:
- Create a list at the beginning of each month.
- Think about the large commitments you know are on the horizon in each area of your life.
- Write them down along with the week they are due.
- Consider if you need to call in extra help for any upcoming week.
- Review the list at the start of each week.
- Cross off things that are complete.
- Identify the most important things for that week to make sure your priorities don’t take a back seat.
- Look at your weekly list to find your daily priorities.
- Consider if any tasks or meetings can slide, if needed.
- Juggle your day to make things work.
Overall, be realistic about what you can accomplish in a specific time frame. If you have a big project due one week, avoid volunteer commitments that overlap during the same timeframe. If you have school-aged kids, keep an eye on the school calendar as you pace your work.
Plan and schedule!
When managing personal and professional obligations, planning is critical. Armed with your priority list, work your to-do list or planning app to its maximum capacity.
If you use a paper-based to-do list, draw a line down the center of the page and label one column personal and one column work. Then, list your commitments side-by-side. A comprehensive list in one place makes it easier to see what’s cooking for any given day and see your obligations at-a-glance.
Once you have a to-do list, schedule your time to know when you will be managing personal vs. professional obligations. The schedule is a key to more freedom. When you know when you’ll be working, it makes it easier to say yes (or no) to personal opportunities that pop up. Likewise, it can help you assess what professional work you might want to add or decline, based on the schedule.
As you make your schedule, embrace odd hours, if needed. If you’re a morning person, set aside some early morning time to get work done. If burning the midnight oil works for you, maximize those hours. Fitting work into corners of your day can help you maximize your time and feel more in control.
Get Help and Silence your Inner Critic
When you’re managing personal and professional obligations, help and support matter. Sometimes it comes from family, friends, and coworkers. But sometimes it comes from your phone and the wonders of technology. Outsource as much as you can. Check out the Five Awesome Ways for the Exhausted Mom to Save Time and Sanity blog for tips to make life easier through apps and services.
As you go through your days, remember that you aren’t alone. All working moms are in the same boat, managing a large number of personal and professional obligations. Asking for help and extending a hand to others can help create a supportive culture. Ask your partner, children, and coworkers for help. Also consider joining our free community here.
Above all, be kind to yourself as you manage an impressive portfolio of work and family commitments. You can do it!
Tell me how you do it!
I’d love to hear your best tips for managing personal and professional obligations. Drop me a line with your ideas and share your success stories.