The High Achiever’s Recipe for Not Doing it All: Develop Flexible and Realistic Boundaries
The combination of technology and working from home has left us feeling the need to be “always on.” We’ve heard how critical downtime is for recharging our minds and bodies. But for those of us who feel guilt when we aren’t doing something, prioritizing non-work activities and creating a boundary between being “productive” and doing other things can be a challenge. Conceptually, we must change our mindset from “I have to do… (task, activity)” to “I get to…” or “I choose to…” This automatically shifts the emotion associated with said activity to a more neutral, or even positive, place. It may also be useful to expand the notion of being productive beyond the work domain, or even removing productivity as the measure.
Shift the end-of-day question from, “Was I productive today?” to, “Did I focus on what was most important?” or even, “Did I find purpose in my actions?”
Many of my clients have struggled to implement clear boundaries between work and non-work. A question I ask is, “What image comes to mind when you think of your boundary?” The image matters. I’ve heard everything from armor to barbed wire. If it’s a wall, for example, then we are more likely to become rigid or allow the wall to be knocked down entirely. Or barbed wire evokes harsh protection. What is an image that works for you that is both flexible and realistic? Mine is water. It’s fluid while being a powerful force at the same time.
Let’s face it, we live by our calendars. Our calendars are one way to define our boundaries. You do what’s on your calendar, and if non-work time isn’t scheduled, it may not happen. Should downtime be more organic? Absolutely, but since it isn’t, merging our “life calendar” with our work calendar is a first step. Be intentional about your downtime. Don’t wait until the last minute and watch trash TV (we all do it!!) instead of actually recharging yourself. The key is doing an activity that recharges your mind and body, which is different for everyone. Getting exercise, chatting with a friend, cooking dinner with your partner - find what works for you and schedule it into your week.
Not doing it all isn’t a solitary journey. Read more about how critical your support system is.