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Is work taking over your life? Here’s how to reclaim your time

2 weeks ago 32

Work-life balance is in danger.

Fueled by the boom in remote and hybrid work and communication apps on our smartphones, working around-the-clock has become a disturbing norm. How do you reclaim your private time and shove your job back into its 9-to-5 cage?

Turn to the same technology that’s making it worse. Here are the Help Desk’s best techniques for setting and enforcing boundaries, without getting fired.

Set boundaries and stick to them

People will not hesitate to take advantage of your willingness to work after (or before) hours. The responsibility for saying no and setting healthy boundaries falls on you.


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Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day hustle that we lose sight of those boundaries. We end up responding to emails we see the minute we wake up or feeling pressured to answer a question from a colleague over the dinner table.

Take the time to reestablish what you will and won’t accept as part of your job. That might mean sharing your goals with co-workers or family members, who can hold you accountable. You can set phone reminders for yourself to log off or have that uncomfortable conversation with your boss about your work-life balance.

You can also communicate your boundaries with your email signature or status message on work communication apps. Clearly state what hours you work, how long until you typically respond and what to do if it’s urgent.

Schedule outgoing messages

Make sure you are following your own lead. If you don’t want to be messaged after hours, give your co-workers the same courtesy.

Whether it’s on Slack, Teams, email or even texts, schedule your messages to send at a reasonable time. That means after work starts and, ideally, at least an hour before the end of the day. This allows you to keep all of your business dealings within working hours. If you need to convey a message at 8 a.m. Eastern time but you’re on Pacific, write it the day before. If you’re using a communication tool that doesn’t allow scheduling, set a reminder on your phone for that time. These practices not only help you keep your work within working hours, but also help ensure your messages don’t get buried in your recipient’s box.

Minimize your notifications

You have told people your preferences — now use technology to enforce them. Change the notification settings on your workplace apps and devices so they are not pinging while you’re eating dinner or playing with your kids.

Outlook allows you to set your work schedule, including the hours you work each day. That will then allow others to know when you are and aren’t going to be on the clock. Messaging apps such as Slack also allow you to set the hours in which you would like to receive (or mute) notifications in preferences. Your devices allow you to adjust your notification settings for each individual app, so you can get alerts for breaking news but not from your boss. And if you just want to shut everything off, you can always turn on your focus or Do Not Disturb mode on your device for complete silence. If you want to stop yourself from checking work apps, try using screen time limits on yourself.

If you’re stressed out by a pileup of past notifications, clear those out as well. Follow these instructions to declaring notification bankruptcy.

Fill your calendar with buffer time

If you are trying to ensure nobody interrupts the precious 30 minutes you take for lunch, or that your colleague doesn’t schedule a meeting while you’re taking your kids to school, add an event to your calendar. That way, if someone tries to set up a meeting when you would rather not have one, they will see you are unavailable and opt for a time when you can meet. You can also section off parts of your calendar if you need time to do work with your head down.

Have a plan for emergencies

While it may be good practice to completely shut off work when it’s quitting time, you should ensure important contacts such as your boss have a way to reach you at any time. That may mean giving them your personal phone number, or telling them to text you or send you a message through Signal or some other messaging app instead of Slack or an email. You can also change your settings so that they are able to reach you even when you have focus mode or Do Not Disturb toggled on.

Make sure you are explicit about when they should use these contact methods. They are for urgent matters, not tasks that can wait until after your coffee tomorrow morning.

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