Is it even possible to rock healthy work-life boundaries? My answer is heck, yes! But first, we need to be clear on what we mean by ‘boundaries’.
Boundaries are the things that separate or divide two different areas, and in this specific situation we’re talking about life. We separate work life from home life, and we put boundaries between people, topics or time-frames.
To create healthy boundaries between our work life and home life can be challenging, especially for women entrepreneurs and women who work from home. Have you heard the phrase ‘men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti’?
It’s so true! Men, by nature, have something powerful that happens to their brain in utero. It’s a chemical wash through the center of their brain that separates the two hemispheres. This allows them to separate their focus, and concentrate on one thing at a time. In other words, they are hardwired to compartmentalize.
Waffles vs Spaghetti
Women, on the other hand, who do not receive this brain bath in utero, do not compartmentalize by nature. In fact, that’s why it’s said that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti.
For men, each area of their life is one grid, separated from the other areas of life just like the squares in a waffle. Men have their work square, their hobby square, their fitness square; they have their wife, child and clean the garage squares.
As you go from one topic to another in a man’s mind, there’s a little trap door that closes and separates one from another. That’s how they are seemingly able to completely “forget” something that’s going on in their lives, even if it’s high drama.
This allows them to totally pour themselves into another project. Back in the day of hunters and gatherers, that’s what we needed the men to do – to fight, protect and not worry about what was going on at home.
For women, our life is like a plate of spaghetti and this doesn’t happen at all. It’s all cooked and intertwined together, and it’s impossible to pull one noodle loose. And then of course you splat a whole mess of juicy, messy tomato sauce over it – and this is what we call ‘real life’.
That’s what our life looks like a lot of the time, because we are wired to take everything together. We receive it all in one go – the family, work, community, the tasks, and the home management. It is who we are, and it’s impossible to separate one piece from the next.
What do we do to fix this?
So do we have to live life like one big, messy plate of spaghetti? No. We do not. This is where those awesome, healthy home and work life boundaries come into play.
I had a conversation with a client I’ve been working with for almost five years recently. She told me she was blown away with how she’d changed things in her life. She was always go,go, go – a high-achiever and hard worker – but felt like she was chasing her tail.
Plus, she never stopped to plan long-term, she was always running late and everything was last minute. No matter how hard she worked, she felt never got a break.Today, she says:
“I’ve got boundaries down to a T. I know exactly what I’m doing in the morning; I know exactly what I’m doing in the evening. And I know exactly when my family time is, and best of all, they know when family time is too.
Because they know when family time is coming, they’re totally cool and happy to give me my space when I need to get other stuff done.”
That’s exactly what I’m talking about here: managing the expectations of everyone around you.
Be disciplined about work life boundaries
But, in order to do that, we have to get clear on what it is that we actually want. I say this to people so often that I sound like a broken record, because it’s my go-to starting point no matter what we’re working on.
What do you want the boundaries to look like? When do you want to be focused on your work? When do you want to focus on your home life, your health or anything else that matters?
Map it out! How do you live your dream life? You schedule it! This is no different. Put on paper what you want those boundaries to look like. Then, realize that there are two sides to this coin.
In order to be able to turn it off when I want to turn it off, I have to have the discipline to turn it on when it’s time to turn it on. I must develop the strength to live in integrity with myself and make sure that I am like a soldier and can flip that switch when it’s time to work hard.
I do this knowing that I’ll have the reward, the payoff of the ability to turn it off as soon as it’s time to do so. There are all sorts of fun systems you can put into place to protect yourself and those different priority areas of your life.
I talk through all of these tips in this video, too.
Stop checking your phone!
This includes the little things like turning off your phone or the notifications, or putting the phone in another room. And don’t worry if it is very hard to put boundaries around your phone time in the beginning. The first several times I tried this, I felt like I had lost my right arm!
We become so accustomed to having the phone in our hands all the time and it’s like a ghost extension. When you can’t see it, you think, ‘Where’s my phone? What did I do with it?’ You feel like you’re forgetting yourself.
You wouldn’t believe the number of times I found myself unconsciously walking to the bedroom to go grab my phone. It happened a few times that I ended up back with my phone in my hand before I had even realized what I had done.
Get your family involved in your work life boundaries
It takes a little while to retrain the brain to create these new healthy boundary habits, and that’s ok. But once you’re clear on what you personally want, I recommend that you then poll your family and ask them what an awesome family life looks like to them?
Ask each of them individually, and then get together and brainstorm as a group what kind of fun family life you want to create together. What kind of memories do you want to make and what kind of experiences do you want to create?
Look at it on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Often it’s easier to break those years down into quarters to make it more manageable. Do you want to spend a few minutes together daily, at breakfast or dinner? There’s no perfect solution and no right or wrong scenario. Just get together and pick whatever works for you and your family situation!
You might want to have a game night once a week, or a Sunday Funday with a few hours in the afternoon, or a monthly family outing. How would you want that to look? Sketch it out. How many times a year do you want to take trips?
Whatever your family decides on is fantastic, because it’s right for you. Then, decide how you are going to implement and protect these family boundaries together.
I promise you, if you start putting these little, protective mechanisms in place – this hedge of protection if you like – around your family life, it will give you work/life boundaries.
And you will be shocked at the increase in the quality you’ll have in your family life almost immediately. Give it a try, because as a hard-working, high-achieving, purpose-driven woman, you deserve to live a life you love right now. Not some day in the future. This is how you can rock healthy, work/life boundaries.