4 Guidelines You Need to Set Work Boundaries & Reclaim You-Time

Being a Ninja means you’re in work mode a lot. Your tireless work ethic is the essence of your all-star status, but making the switch from executive calendars to grocery lists isn’t easy—and struggling to set work boundaries is common in the administrative profession.

Even if the 24/7 expectation isn’t actually there, it’s in your Ninja nature to always be on. Some people are mental list-making masters, which makes it easy to mix the boss’s agenda with personal vacation plans. Eventually, this split focus takes a toll. That’s why we set out to find the antidote to always being engaged, and who better to ask than Ninjas themselves?

These tips come straight from our community to help you set work boundaries—before you cross a line that’s hard to come back from.

Manage Devices Appropriately

Technology is the reason we’re able to work 24/7—but just because we can work ’round the clock doesn’t mean we should. Cindy G., an Administrative Assistant, knows exactly where to draw the line when it comes to her devices:

While I have a laptop and the capability to VPN into our network, I have resisted attaching work emails to my phone. My team knows that if something is urgent they can (and do) text me.

If untethering your work email from your phone is unimaginable, try putting the phone down instead. Designate times when it’s most important for you to be fully present. Then, literally leave your phone out of reach, like Executive Assistant Corinne A. does:

Yes, I’m on 24/7. But I do not bring my phone to the gym, when I’m out running or at a yoga studio. I leave the office at 4pm to beat traffic but I’m back online when I’m home.

Be Okay with Work-Life Harmony

Instead of aiming for work-life balance, strive for work-life harmony. We live in a time where offices are mobile, we can take our work with us wherever we are and our personal and professional lives are no longer separated. When you try to compartmentalize, sometimes you spend more time worrying more about balancing the scales than enjoying work or life itself.

By striving for blend instead of balance, you get less of the guilt and more of what works for you. Stephanie P., an Office Manager, knows where her perfect blend is:

I ‘work’ all the time, which makes me feel better about not working some of the time, if that makes any sense. Unless it’s time that’s pre-planned and off the grid (it’s rare), I check my email often. I find it’s easier to respond to emails that are quick to respond to right away, instead of allowing them to pile up.

A big part of work-life harmony is accepting a schedule that’s not always the same—it changes with your needs. And let’s face it, there are days when you need to put in a little extra time at the office or bring emails home for after dinner. However, shifting the focus away from time and onto accomplishments is a better measure of success. Deborah Z., another Office Manager, realizes that viewing the two as flexible components helps her keep a level head:

I’m in the process of a six day work week (self-imposed). There’s a major project due by the end of this month. I can get peace and quiet to work strictly on Saturdays—no one else is in the office. I do have to come into the office since the software I need to produce the help guide I’m working on only works on my office machine. But I’m looking forward to when this is done so I can go back to just checking my email from time to time on the weekends!

Set Firm But Flexible Schedules

By designing schedules that are firm but not necessarily fixed, you can optimize chunks of time to accomplish work tasks and personal goals—without sacrificing your team’s productivity. Ninja Lori D. has a good handle on how to make this work:

I am on call 24/7 because my bosses travel so much. When they are in town though, no bothering me after 7pm unless the world is on fire. And definitely no bothering me on vacation.

Cindy B. echoes that by explaining how work boundaries have helped shape her schedule.

I have pretty firm boundaries in place (generally available 7am—7pm) but my guys also know I am reachable in a pinch. I have an immense amount of flexibility in my schedule, so I self-manage to make up for any missed work time, in evenings and on weekends.

Keep Interruptions In Check

Interruptions are a part of life and emails are no exception. Many of our Ninjas admitted to checking emails during off-hours, but see it as part of their getting-ready-for-work ritual. Connie E., Executive Assistant, shared a great analogy to keep this in perspective:

I usually check emails at home over coffee in the morning—I think of it as triage—avoiding panic when I hit the door. I often check email on my bus commute. I respond to texts over the weekend/evenings because if folks are texting me, it’s urgent.

At the End of the Day

If you need to check emails for peace of mind, then go for it! Be real about how work and personal time blend together, instead of searching for elusive balance between the two. As a Ninja, you love your job and it’s hard not to think about it all the time—but left unchecked, your 24/7 work schedule can wreak havoc on your happiness.

What are some of your tried-and-true tips for managing a 24/7 work schedule? Let us know below!

Jennee Rasavong

Jennee is a content writer who covers careers, personal growth, lifestyle and digital marketing. A former Office Ninja herself, she’s conquered her fair share of bootstrapped projects for the sake of operational efficiency—let’s just say, she understands what “get it done” means.When she isn’t writing, she’s refilling her cup of tea (Earl Grey only), trying to keep up with her preschool daughter and watching her favorite Shondaland shows.

Comments

  1. Katy
     

    You’ve saved me from a frustrating New Years resolution: work-life balance. I will now aim for a more reachable blend/harmony and save myself the whiplash when “balance” backfires. Perfectly timed article, thank you!

    1. OfficeNinjas
      author

      You’re welcome, Katy! Balance sounds like a good thing, but once you realize those scales are never going to align, harmony is much better :) Let us know how it works out!

  2. angela
     

    This is a top priority for me. I’m pretty adamant on my work/life balance. Especially with my new position. I work till 6 and don’t get home till 7 so my evenings are for me. I’m an “in case of emergency” only kinda person when it comes to me working outside normal work hours. And I’m upfront about it.

    1. OfficeNinjas
      author

      It’s great to hear you’re able to achieve a nice work/life balance, Angela! Thank you for sharing :)

  3. Debbie Dey
     

    Jennee, I LOVE the “Work-Life Blend” approach. When you are literally juggling multiple priorities for three executives and the “main boss” at home like I am, there is no off switch. I’ve learned how to blend each responsibility (shockingly) and stopped trying to balance years ago. It doesn’t mean I never have a break, it just means that I’m in control of when I handle what.

    1. Jennee
       

      I think the sooner we come to terms with the fact that that’s where our lives are going – work is blending in personal and vice versa – the gentler we can be on ourselves for always being “on”. I’ve only had the epiphany recently, and since then I’ve felt more in control too. So glad you’ve found your perfect blend, Debbie!

  4. Jennee
     

    Exactly, Deborah! Being firm is not the same thing as being set in stone. There are times where we HAVE to jump in to save the day, but as a Ninja, we know it comes with the territory.

    Thanks for commenting Deborah (and for providing the great insight too)!

  5. Amy Spellman
     

    Thank you for the reminder Jennee! I find myself letting work creep in on my time. I need to work smarter – not harder!

    1. Jennee
       

      It happens to the best of us – one my mantras for 2016 is exactly that: work smarter, not harder! Well said, Amy!

  6. Deborah Zotian
     

    Great article, Jennee. Nice to know we’re all doing this to one level or another. We do need to set firm boundaries with those we support, but also need to realize there may be times when you just have to jump in.

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