In the beginning of our careers, everyone is eager, inexperienced, and ready to step up. If that means making coffee, staying late, or answering emails at all hours, we do it—and maybe even get promoted as a result. But here's the problem: We quickly learn that we no longer have a life.
In the age of constant connectivity, getting away from work can be hard. Mix that with the enthusiasm of a young professional, and you've got the makings of a disastrous work-life balance. It took me years to learn the difference between business and personal life, and I hope to help you all avoid running yourselves into the ground. How? By setting boundaries.
"You Teach People How They Should Treat You"
The personal development world quotes this saying constantly. What does it mean exactly? It means that you are partially responsible for how others treat you—so rather than complaining about it, figure out what part you are playing.
If you start picking up your boss's phone calls after work hours, you set a precedent that it is OK for him or her to call you then. The same goes for your coworkers. The more you do their work, the more they'll ask you to do it. In fact, they may expect you to do it—just like your boss will expect you to pick up the phone at all hours.
Bottom line: The more you allow, the more work will pile on you. Take a look at how you encourage or allow others' behavior toward you.
It's OK To Help, Just Don't Be A Doormat
Setting boundaries doesn't mean that you don't help anyone out at the office. It means knowing when you're just helping and when someone's using you. It also means knowing how to prioritize.
If you can't get your work done because you're too busy doing other people's duties, there's a problem. If your boss constantly interrupts you, there's a problem. If you find yourself doing everything while others coast, there's a problem.
Make a list of your own duties, and prioritize them before doing stuff for other people. This does two things:
- You get your stuff done, which is what you're paid to do.
- You set boundaries. If you can't get to someone because you're busy with work, most people understand. This then makes them figure stuff out for themselves—they don't have much of a choice otherwise.
Realize That Business Is Business
This may sound cold, but it's a crucial element to setting proper boundaries.
Business is your career. It means clocking in, getting your stuff, and doing your part. That's it. No getting wrapped up in office drama, no holding yourself back because you feel guilty, and no taking on massive amounts of responsibility you know you can't handle because you feel bad or feel like you should be doing it (my issue).
At the end of the day, all this personal stuff doesn't help anyone. It certainly doesn't serve you in your own career, and it won't serve your company if you are constantly drained or taking on too much.