Work Time & Personal Time: When The Lines Are Blurry

The boundary between work time and personal time is fuzzy for many working people. You may be top-notch at planning your workdays, working diligently toward your goals, and keeping your digital files categorized in color-coded folders to achieve maximum productivity. However, when there’s so much to do, how do you know when you’re done for the day?

Sometimes, the line between work time and personal time is blurry.

On hectic days, set the alarm to signal the end of the workday. It helps if you set another alarm for 30 minutes before your end-of-workday, so to alert you that it's time to close open loops and plan the next day. Planning something exciting to do after work is a good incentive to turn off your laptop. A to-do list tends to sprout no matter how many items you cross off in a day; if left unchecked, it will keep you anchored to your desk infinitely. Avoid being at the mercy of your to-list and make time for quality personal time instead. How? One truism must be crystal clear in your mind: personal time is as valuable as work time. Protect the time you allocate to self-care with the same emphasis you protect your work schedule.

A few days ago, an attendee to one of my presentations brought up that I was talking about personal and work priorities as both having the same value. He wondered how he could make time for personal priorities when he was extremely busy at work. The thought was daunting. Yet, the answer is quite simple: make self-care a priority.

Let’s unpack this and see how it works. I’m a big advocate of nurturing three buckets of intentions daily (work, family/friends, self-care.) While the work and family/friends buckets are pretty similar for all of us, the self-care bucket is a bit broader. Self-care includes personal care (healthy eating, exercising, personal grooming, and so on), personal growth (mentoring, learning, volunteering, etc.), and spiritual growth (praying, meditating, etc.) You should set daily priorities in each of these three buckets. Some days will be more conducive to one or two buckets and others to another bucket or two. On weekends, you might be more inclined to nurture the family/friends and self-care buckets, while the work bucket might be the focus of attention Mondays to Fridays.

To make this work, you have to start by setting boundaries. Create a practical work schedule that doesn’t overwhelm you. Define your top priorities for the day and attach a time limit for each. For instance, make follow-up calls from 10:00 am to 10:40 am. Once you've completed your priorities, move on to the second set of tasks in your list -those that are important but aren't priorities. At 5:00 pm -or whatever time you set as the end of your workday- close your laptop and walk away from your desk. Disconnect! Yes, you’ll still have things to do and calls to make, but since you already know that's a never-ending loop, you may as well stop now and resume tomorrow. Start a ritual to transition from a work mindset to a me-time mindset.

Find time for quality self-care.

Once the workday ends, your personal time starts. Think beforehand about what you want to do during this time. Think of activities you enjoy, like going for a run, curling up in your favorite chair with a good book, or doing a few laps in your backyard pool. If you don't plan ahead of time, you’ll probably end up channel-surfing, scanning websites, or mindlessly staring at your Facebook wall. Nothing wrong with TV or social media as long as it’s a conscious decision and not a default act because “what else are you going to do.”

I’m not suggesting planning your days to a tee, of course not. I’m suggesting planning meaningful events to fully enjoy the time you have for yourself. If you needn't work on weekends, yet you find yourself working because you have nothing better to do, you'll start the following week still tired from the week before. By using your free time wisely and mindfully, your weekends will feel longer, and you'll unwind and feel renewed and ready to start another week at the office.

My advice to that attendee was to consider personal time and work time as equally necessary toward achieving his goals. When he's relaxed and happy, he'll be more productive and perform better at his job, leading to motivation and enthusiasm to keep going on both fronts. It's a win-win situation.

Have you found yourself trapped in a continuous work loop, not knowing how to disengage? Share your experience here. I'd love to hear from you! If you enjoyed this post, please like, share, and leave a comment below so others can find it. Thanks for reading, and have a productive week!

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