Separating Work and Personal Time

Today’s technology allows us extensive flexibility to work anywhere at any time. This can be really beneficial because it allows you to make personal choices about when your work. You can make the choice to coach your child’s afterschool soccer team, then finish up your work later in the evening. It can feel comforting to know that if there is a real work-related emergency you can be quickly available to handle it.

 But it is easy to get caught in the trap of being too available to work too much of the time. In the last 15 years we rapidly moved from clear separation between work and home into this world of constant connection to everything. At work, we can use our phones for personal use. At home, we can use our phones to continue to work well into the night. Is this healthy? Have we lost our ability to focus on one thing at a time and do it well?

 It is worth taking a few minutes to ask yourself what drives you to stay connected to work in the off-hours. Do you feel pressured by your peers and manager to respond to every email quickly? Do you feel that you will be passed up for the plum assignments and promotions? Or is your drive to stay connected more internal? Maybe your ego is fed by constantly responding to emails quickly. Maybe you take pride in being the first one to respond to a query at 10pm from your boss. If you opted out of playing the game of 24x7 availability via your phone, would something bad happen? I made the decision to not read emails on my phone, ever, and I don’t think it negatively affected my performance. In fact, I enjoyed many benefits and I feel that my performance improved! One of the most obvious benefits was that I was fully present with whatever I was doing. If I was watching TV with my family, I was actually watching it with them, not half watching and taking care of emails at the same time.  When watching my son’s soccer game, I was fully present with the game. I never missed his goal kick or great defensive move because I was “on my phone”.

 I do still work from home on my laptop, but when I open my laptop to work, everyone in the family knows that I am working and not pretending to engage with them when I’m really not there.

 Another benefit is that I sleep better. If I do have evening work to complete, I do it as soon as possible after dinner, then turn off my laptop and turn off my work thoughts. I consciously shift out of work mode through some simple evening rituals; writing in my journal, stretching, and reading.

 By separating work and personal time, I have more creative flow when I am working. My energy level is high and I have much better focus on the job at hand. With enough sleep and high creative energy, I feel that I keep with my peers despite not being connected to my email all the time. 

 I invite you to separate your work time and your personal time for a week and then evaluate the outcome for yourself. You might surprise yourself.

 

Leading Change in the Workplace: Balancing Time

Time is one of your most valuable assets. If you are a leader in your workplace, you can influence the culture around time management. As a leader you influence through your actions and your words whether you intend to or not.

 If you are emailing your employees late into the night or on the weekend, you are sending a message that you expect others to be available to receive and respond to emails in the “off-hours”. If you want to promote better work/life balance among your employees, you need to demonstrate that it is important to you. You can do this in many ways.

  • Limit your off-hour emails. If you personally want to work during these times, you can schedule your outgoing emails to not be sent until the next workday morning.

  • Set clear expectations with your team about when you expect them to respond to an email vs. a phone call or a text.

  • Demonstrate your value around family, by taking time occasionally during the workday to volunteer at your child’s school, or go to see her sporting event.

  • Demonstrate your value around good health by taking the time to exercise and take short walking breaks during the workday.

  • Lead the effort to create a meditation and prayer room in your office.

  • Schedule your workday to take best advantage of your peak productive hours and encourage others to do the same. For example, if you know that your best time for focused work is between 2pm and 4pm, block that off in your calendar. Schedule meetings in the morning instead.

Living in Balance: Where do I spend my time?

Time is one of your most valuable assets. Are you spending it in a way that is consistent with your values?

As I start the New Year, I typically reflect on the past year and what I want to do differently in the coming year. One practice I have is to evaluate if I am spending my time in the areas I value the most. I want to ensure that I spend my time and energy in areas that serve my purpose and values.

My methodology is simple. First, I attempt to define my purpose and values. This is an iterative process and one that I come back to every couple of years.

Defining my purpose: This is difficult to do and evolves over time. Questions I ask myself are:

  • What contribution do I want to make?

  • Am I making a meaningful difference for others?

  • What legacy do I want to leave?

  • How do I feel fulfilled and at peace?

  • What am I passionate about?

  • What does my best self look like?

Defining my values: I have a couple of online tools I like to use to figure out my top 5-10 values. I use these tools and then write down my top values.

  • https://www.think2perform.com/our-approach/values

  • http://thegoodproject.org/toolkits-curricula/the-goodwork-toolkit/value-sort-activity/

The next step in my process is to write down where I spent my time during the previous week. It helps if I am as specific as possible. Some domains I use to map my time are:

Foundation:

  • Sleep

  • Nutrition

  • Exercise

  • Calming the Mind

Renewal

  • Recreation

  • Art/Music

  • Self-development

  • Learning

  • Time in Nature

  • Spiritual development

Relationships

  • Close family

  • Extended family

  • Friends

  • Community

Work

  • In the office

  • On my phone

  • In home office

Service

  • Volunteering

  • Donations

  • Helping an individual

Extras (most likely time wasters)

  • TV

  • Social media

  • Others

Once I have completed the exercises above (purpose, values, time analysis), then I have what I need to look at my time choices in a cohesive way. Did I spend enough time on the foundational elements and in renewal? Was my time spent in a way that was consistent with my values? Am I comfortable with my choices?

After I identify areas I want to change, then I have to create a game plan to actually institute the changes.

There are many resources available to help with goal setting and creating lasting change. The basic tenets that I follow are:

  • Start with the foundational elements. If I don’t have a strong foundation in place, then I won’t have the energy to do anything else at my best.

  • Focus on one change at a time.

  • Define a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

  • Make the commitment to yourself to make the change

  • Create habits and rituals to support the change.

    • Schedule time in your calendar.

    • Link the new habit to one you already do consistently. For example, when I wanted to start brushing my dog’s teeth consistently, I committed to doing it right after I brushed my own teeth in the evening.

    • Use your phone as a tool (Alarms, Reminders, Habit tracker)

In 2018, one of my goals was to spend consistent time with my mother. I made the goal SMART by committing to have dinner with my mother every Wednesday evening. I scheduled it in my calendar and it became a ritual that we both enjoy.

For 2019, my first change is to develop myself musically. My commitment is to listen to music every day, practice singing and playing the piano. I am using the app Habit List to track my progress. I am already enjoying the positive feeling of marking each item as completed each day in Habit List and seeing my streak grow.

What is the first change you will make to bring your time into alignment with your purpose and values?