The holidays are approaching and you wish to spend more time at home. Between balancing your children’s school year and your crazy work schedule, you try to tone down your workload and give yourself a break. Give yourself a new objective for work; you must set your limits. You are done with the never-ending evenings used for finalizing that contract or proofreading your work. Done with the email obsession, the computer on your side even during your family meals and your IPhone glued to your hand during the weekend. You must learn to set your limits to make sure that your work doesn’t encroach on your personal life. Otherwise, you will end up suffering… physically, mentally and sentimentally!
Hard to stop
It is hard to stop! But it is necessary. Several people learn that the hard way. It is our body that falters first. Being on holiday for the summer, Pascale could not fully enjoy it. She had a suspicious cough for a while and she thought it was probably allergies. Then, when she realized it wasn’t going away, she decided to consult a doctor. Verdict: pneumonia! All in all, she was sick for five weeks. The doctor told her frankly: at 40 years old, you are not supposed to catch pneumonia out of the blue. He meant that her immune system was knocked out. Pascale had a lot of time to think while she was rebuilding her health. She came to the conclusion that she was letting her energy reserves run low and that she was working too much and too hard. And as much as she loved her work, she had to find a way to put it back in its place and avoid giving it all her energy… and her health!
What about you? Did you ever get sick when you were finally on holidays? You are not the only one! When our stress goes away, our strength goes too. Stopping a bit, just for us, is not an easy task. We can always hear some “I really should do…”, some “I must not forget…” and “I could just finish…”, etc. But you have to learn, slowly, to stop and to think about yourself! In fact, Richard Swanson, a doctor who became an author and educator said: “Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is something held in reserve for unanticipated situations. It is the space between breathing freely and suffocating. Margin is the opposite of overload. Marginless is the disease of the new millennium; margin is its cure.”
If we always do too much, if we don’t set our limits, we…
- Live more stressfully;
- Are less receptive to the others;
- Lose ourselves and get unsteady;
- Empty our energy and patience reserves;
- Put our health at risk;
- Sleep less and we can even suffer from insomnia.
What should we do?
Establish new rules. For example you could say “No more phone or emails between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.” or “I will work an hour, never more and only when needed when the children are asleep”. The idea is to set a time limit and to stick to it.
Learn to say no. A colleague asks us for help, our boss has an urgent task waiting to be done: no matter what it is, learn to say no and keep to your word (with your family, your boyfriend, your friends, etc.). Ask yourself: are you always ready to give up a night out with your friends for work?
Compartmentalize your agenda. Use color codes in your agenda. A color for work, another for activities and obligations with your family, another for your hobbies, etc. Try to write down everything you do in a day using these codes (you can use a marker, it’s easier!) That way, you will see where you put your energy and that may be enough to convince you to set your limits.
Identify real emergencies. What is a real emergency at work? It is true that there are some things that you cannot avoid and that you really have to do. But there are also many things that can wait until tomorrow. Note everything that is considered an emergency. The rest can wait. We tend to try to do everything at once and to see everything like a national emergency.
The benefits of limits
- Better health;
- Less stress and tensions;
- More recreation time;
- More availability for the others and for yourself;
- Better overall satisfaction.