41. Work – Life Boundaries : When you don’t work Monday through Friday
Mary: Let’s talk boundaries. Today we are talking about work life boundaries with an adjusted or an atypical work schedule, and I’ve got a friend who wanted some help with this and thought it would be beneficial to all of you listeners, so welcome. Glad you’re here.
Guest: Thank you so much for having me.
Mary: Of course.
Guest: I can’t wait to talk about this.
Mary: Awesome. Tell me what’s going on. How can I help?
Guest: Yeah, so I have a work schedule that shifts for half of the year, and it is not your typical Monday through Friday work week. I work on a weekend day, and then one of my days off is a normal workday. I have Mondays off and I work on the weekend, and that’s great in some sense because I can get so many chores and errands done on a Monday that you normally couldn’t do on a weekend day. But I am also finding it a challenge because a lot of my coworkers work on Mondays and I find myself in a position where I’m checking my email to make sure that they don’t need anything. Or sometimes they’ll contact me on my day off and I feel like I need to respond to them so that they can continue with their work day. And have their questions answered.
Mary: Yes. Okay. So just to clarify, so do you work like Tuesday through Saturday or do you, does it flex?
Guest: I normally work Tuesday through Saturday and my hours are variable. So sometimes it’s the normal like nine to five, and sometimes it’s more like, Nine to noon and five to 9:00 PM like, it can sometimes be really variable.
Mary: Okay. All right. And how many hours do you usually work each week?
Guest: 40. I work 40. I I’m supposed to work 40 usually. Usually I’m good with 40 and flexing my time around, but sometimes it’s 42, 3, 5. Usually not more than that.
Mary: Okay. Okay. So, all right. So what is the hardest part about this schedule for you?
Guest: I would say the hardest part about this schedule is coming in on my Tuesday, which is my Monday and feeling like I’m behind because I wasn’t working on Monday. When my coworkers were, and I don’t like that feeling,
Mary: Right. Nobody actually likes feeling like they’re behind. I don’t like feeling like I’m behind. I don’t know anybody who does.
Guest: Yeah, exactly.
Mary: Yeah. I mean, I just got back from vacation and got to spend some great time with extended family, and now that I’m back at home and back to work, that sense of like, I gotta catch up like I’m feeling behind. Right? I mean, that’s a nagging feeling.
Guest: Absolutely. So yeah, it just adds stress to the beginning of my work week.
Mary: Right. For sure. So you come into work on Tuesday morning, and what are you thinking?
Guest: I’m thinking how do I sift through all of these emails to make sure that I am dealing with the ones that are most important first.
Mary: Awesome. And do you give yourself some time to sift through emails?
Guest: Ideally I would have it, but I don’t have it blocked into my schedule, so I just kind of hope that I have time to sift through emails on Tuesday morning at this point.
Mary: Well, that might be something you could try out is like just scheduling your Tuesday morning for, like sifting through emails and kind of planning out your week.
Guest: That is a really common sense thing that I wish I would’ve thought of before this conversation. Yeah, I totally could do that. I’m in charge of who schedules my Tuesday morning.
Mary: Yeah. Who’s in charge of your calendar?
Guest: Yeah, it’s definitely me.
Mary: Definitely you. I love that. That’s such a blessing that you’re in charge of your calendar because you know, in some different kind of career. And different, you know, businesses there really are like things that are set for us. And so I’m grateful that you get to be in charge of your calendar.
Guest: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For, and for the most part, other meetings and activities that I have in my calendar are ones that I’ve put there, so,
Mary: yes. Awesome. Okay. So you get to make the decisions about your calendar?
Guest: For the most part. For the most part, every once in a while we’ll have required meetings that are scheduled by other people that I don’t have control over the time, but sure have a lot of flexibility and when those happen, depending.
Mary: Okay. When do you make the decisions about your calendar? Do you have a time set aside to do your calendar?
Guest: I make them as they pop into my brain each week. No I don’t have, yeah, I don’t have a time set aside where I like, look at my calendar. You know, I like I will block out chunks during my week when I notice that my week is filling up, I will block out chunks of time to make sure that I’m not in meetings for 40 hours or that I’m not away from my desk the entire week. So I have time to catch up with things, but it’s definitely more reactionary than it is proactive.
Mary: Okay. So that’s one tip that we could work on is let’s decide when we’re thinking out of kind of our frontal cortex. Like this is when I wanna make decisions about my calendar. And give yourself permission to be the one to make the decisions about your calendar as much as you’re able to, so that you’re feeling like proactive and empowered around those things. One thing you mentioned that I think is great to consider is like how full or how flexible do you like your calendar to be in terms of how much scheduled time or meetings versus how much independent time or flex kind of task completion time?
Guest: Yeah. I think typically if I end up having more than half my work week in meetings or activities, I feel it like heightens my stress level. Okay. So if I like more than like 20 hours a week, I’m like, I don’t have that time to be flexible with and work on projects and catch up on emails. It feels a lot, maybe even like 15 hours a week to do that kind office based stuff would be okay.
Mary: Okay. Awesome. And do you have a sense of when you’re more focused, like when, what time of day or your calendar around what tasks take more focus than others?
Guest: Yeah. I definitely am way more focused in the morning. I am a morning person, so if like nine to noon is my sweet spot.
Mary: Awesome. And what kinds of tasks do you need to have more focus on?
Guest: Like if I am, working on a larger project that requires, like anything that requires creativity, planning, additional organization big picture ideas and projects, I think are all stuff that is really good to put into that spot. And then also just thoughtfully responding to emails, some of which are requesting that I put creative energy into some of those projects, and some of which are just very easy to do.
Mary: Yes, yes. Okay. So nine to 12 is really kind of email and creative projects for that focus time. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Okay. Yeah. And then what would you do in the afternoon?
Guest: I mean, ideally the afternoon is a great time for meetings. I think if I’m leading a meeting, I prefer it to be in the morning, but if I’m attending a meeting and I can respond to what other people are asking of me, I can do that in the afternoon really well. And then also stuff that does not require a ton of my, like, intense brain power. So things that are like physically active, which I get to do as a part of my job or kind of following up on stuff that I maybe did in the morning, tasks that need to be done, but are kind of easy to do.
Mary: Mm-hmm. Awesome. Awesome. Do you have your calendar currently set up so that you have more focused activities in the morning and less focused activities in the afternoon.
Guest: Some of that happens organically, but I’ve never really thought about doing it intentionally.
Mary: Okay. When other people are scheduling meetings with you how does that happen? Do I mean, I’m assuming that like they are the ones picking the time for the meeting, or do they proxy your calendar and look and see what times you’re available and send you an appointment?
Guest: Most people will look at the calendars and be able to see like when I’m busy and when I’m not, and try to match up our calendars when they’re requesting a meeting.
Mary: Okay. And are those meetings usually one-on-ones? Are they more groups?
Mary: Okay. Awesome. So if you are leading a meeting, it sounds like you wanna schedule that in the morning, but if you’re attending it sounds like maybe you wanna have your the availability that people can see more in the afternoons.
Mary: Awesome. Yeah. Awesome. Okay. So when you come in on Tuesday mornings, what do you wanna do first?
Guest: I want to go through the emails that I got while I was out of the office and prioritize them and take a look at what I feel like needs to be done first and what I could maybe save and respond to in the afternoon instead. Kinda prioritize them by importance.
Mary: Awesome. And how much time do you want to give yourself to go through the emails on Tuesday morning?
Guest: Probably an hour to an hour and a half seems to be sufficient. If I have a lot of emails, cuz a lot of things have happened, two hours is usually the maximum it’s ever taken me to get through them. If I’m focused on it.
Mary: Sure. And how about other days of the week? Like is there a lot of kind of reading and responding to and emailing the other days of the week?
Guest: I feel like it’s less, I feel like it’s like at the most an hour that it would take me to respond to emails because a lot of the emails are like, you send it out there and then you wait for people to follow up with you. Right? And so I feel like. It doesn’t take quite as long the other mornings of the week.
Mary: Sure, sure. Okay. So if you had two hours of focused time in the morning on Tuesdays to go through emails and then maybe one hour the other days of the week, if you didn’t use all that, if you didn’t need that much time but if you allotted for that much time and didn’t mean that much time, would you find something productive to do the rest of that time?
Guest: Yeah, it just, whatever project I have to work on, I would just start working on it instead.
Mary: Okay, perfect.
Guest: It doesn’t take me all the time. Yeah.
Mary: Awesome. Okay, so what do you think about the idea of having kind of nine to 12 focus time for emailing and creative projects Tuesday through Friday?
Guest: I could try it. It would be a thing. I’d have to like, try and then see how often I’d have to adjust it. I know I have a lot of other coworkers who like to meet in the morning. So maybe it’s a thing where it’s like, okay, two days a week I give myself like two of those four days I give myself that time. And then the other days maybe I would shorten the time and allow space in my calendar for meetings to show up for other folks too.
Guest: Also, like morning meetings.
Mary: Yeah. How much time do you think you would need for emails and creative projects? Like throughout the week?
Guest: Ideally? I mean, I think that like two hours on the first day of my work week for emails and like an hour each other day would be great. And then at least like two hours of like focus time a day, whether that’s in the morning or the afternoon. I think it’s unrealistic of me to expect I get to do that every morning, but at least a couple hours every day that I can say, okay, this is the time that I’m gonna work on all of these projects that have stacked up or like that I’m gonna take and look ahead to what’s going on next week and make sure that I’m prepared for it.
Mary: Yes. Awesome. Awesome. Okay. Sounds good. And what about when someone says, Hey, I don’t know if you’re working today or not, but… how do you wanna handle that?
Guest: So I do have it in my email signature that I worked Tuesday through Saturdays for this time of the year. I want to be comfortable just letting it go until I can be back at work on Tuesday. I have this feeling, oh no, if I don’t respond to that person, I’m gonna be letting them down.
Mary: Oh, okay. So that’s the thought that’s keeping you from being able to utter your work week right? Is this thought of like, I don’t wanna let them down. Yeah, it sounds like a great thought. Like of course we don’t wanna let people down, but what’s the problem with that thought?
Guest: I guess first of all, I’m making an assumption of like the level of their need and like how what I’m doing is gonna impact them. I don’t know that that’s gonna be letting them down. Maybe they’re totally expecting me to wait to get back to them on Tuesday when I’m back at work. And then also, like I’m taking time away from what I could be doing for myself, for my family, or my home that I’m taking to respond to this person. So I am kind of sacrificing some of that personal time and need.
Mary: Yeah. So if you say yes to responding to emails on your day off, then what might you be saying no to?
Guest: I mean, I might be saying no to getting my house in order so that I have like a, a very calm and clean place to come home to after work the whole following week. I might be saying no to spending time outside with my family or with my animals. Might be saying no to just like having time to relax and recharge.
Mary: Yeah. Right. So self care, time with people you love, organization, things like that. That’s what you might be saying no to. So you said that there’s kind of an assumption of like priority and need, right? There’s another assumption around that person’s feelings?
Guest: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Mary: Right? Assumption around if I don’t answer right now, they are going to feel let down.
Guest: Or they won’t know what to do.
Mary: Right. So essentially it’s like just assuming responsibility for their feelings.
Guest: Mm-hmm. Right. Which is not my job.
Mary: Which is not your job. Exactly. Your job is what?
Guest: My job is to set things up in a way that’s clear to other people during my normal work week. And to set them up for success and then trust that they can do that.
Mary: Yes. And what’s your job on Mondays?
Guest: My job on Mondays is to take care of myself and my family and my house.
Mary: Yes! That’s, that’s the main job, right on Mondays, is to self-care and prepare for the week and connect with your loved ones and upkeep of your home, all of those things. So it’s not your job to manage somebody else’s feelings ever, and it’s definitely not your job to manage somebody else’s feelings on Mondays.
Guest: Got enough feelings all by myself.
Mary: We all do. Okay, so what could you think as an intentional thought to help you to remember that you don’t wanna work on Mondays? You don’t need to answer those emails.
Guest: I think maybe just thinking about like today is dedicated to like my home life. Today is dedicated to things outside of work things, today is dedicated to my life.
Mary: Yeah. Nice. My little girl, she will wake up in the morning and it’s been coming up a lot lately just cuz we recently got outta school for the summer and she’ll say is today a school day or is today a home day? Like what kind of day is today, right?
Guest: I like that.
Mary: Yeah. Is today a gymnastics day? Is today a swimming day? Right. So she’ll ask me like, what kind of day it is almost every morning. It’s one of the very first questions like, can I have oatmeal? What kind of day is it? Like, is today a school day? And so that idea of like, just labeling the day with your intention for the day or with kind of your focus on how to spend the day, maybe try that on. What might that sound like for you?
Guest: Yeah. I think for me, that would sound like just waking up and looking outside and saying like, today is for this. Or today is for chores and getting things done at the house or today is for doing absolutely nothing and recharging. Which was yesterday for me. That was lovely. I gave myself permission to do that. Or today is for spending time with friends or today is for working really hard at my job cuz I have a lot going on today. And I really like that idea of like, what flavor of day is it?
Mary: Yeah. What’s the flavor for today?
Mary: Nice. Okay, so when you come in to work on Tuesday, what might you need to be thinking? What kind of intentional thoughts would help you to feel good about showing up and not feeling behind?
Guest: Yeah, I think thinking about Tuesdays and like, Tuesdays are for planning ahead for my week and supporting my team that I’m working with.
Mary: Or maybe even something like, you know, Tuesday I get to start my work week. I get to start my work week by reading email. I get to start my work week by connecting with my team.
Guest: And then Saturdays are my days to transition into my weekend after work. Cuz I was thinking about that and thinking about how I wanna schedule time to transition into my work week on Tuesday mornings, and maybe it would be valuable to schedule time at the end of my Friday or Saturday, because sometimes Saturdays I don’t have time at the end of the day to like transition into my weekend so that like, okay, what’s coming up at the beginning part of the next week? Is there anything that I wanna take care of before I transition into my weekend to make sure that I can really step away?
Mary: Yes. And that is something I do as well is like the first hour of my work week I plan my entire week, right? And that’s when I kind of do my Boundaries and Calendars program where I’m writing down all of the things on my to-do list and I’m scheduling them out for the week. I do the whole like, brain dump of what I need to accomplish that week and set appointments with myself so I know what I wanna do, and then I get rid of my to-do list and I don’t have to think about that anymore because I know I’m gonna make and keep those appointments with myself. Then on Friday, at four o’clock on Friday, I have a last hour of the week appointment with myself where I go through and kind of celebrate all the things that I’ve accomplished that week, and I write down anything that, you know, maybe I wasn’t able to do. Right? I give myself kind of a measurement of success score, right? I’ll be like, you know, Mary did all these things. Great job. I’m, you know, you were 90% on track with what you intended to do this week, or whatever that is, right? Give myself grace for whatever the, you know, is left and that start kind of which of these things do I wanna start on Monday? And then I close it up. I’m like, okay, so your work is done for this week and I’ll see you on Monday. We’ll do this again, right? Kind of return and report. And I think you could do something similar and adjust it for any schedule. You could adjust it for your schedule to be the first hour of Tuesday or after you check your emails on Tuesday and kind of have some rituals for how you’re gonna transition from working to not working on your Saturdays.
Guest: Yeah, I like that a lot. I just really appreciate all of these ideas that you’ve given me for taking back control of my time and calendar which sometimes can feel like people need a lot of things in a lot of different directions, mm-hmm. But, I think I ultimately have a lot of control over it, more than I realize, so I really appreciate that.
Mary: Yeah, you are welcome. Of the things we’ve talked about, which of them do you want to kind of take away and try implementing?
Guest: I really like the idea of having a block of time on my, the first day of my work week and the last day of my work week where I transition into my work week and out of my work week. I’m definitely gonna try to block those out on my calendar and implement those as well as whenever I can, blocking out email and project time in the morning when I know that I’m most productive.
Mary: Awesome. I love it. What about kind of intentional thoughts? Any mindset shifts you wanna try to practice?
Guest: I’m gonna try to practice picking my flavor of the day. And maybe letting that set the tone for my day. So, cuz I also sometimes will have a lazy day when I really wanted to get stuff done. And so like today, the flavor is getting stuff done around the house. Today the flavor is project themed at work or today the flavor is, I know I’m gonna have meetings all day, and so just preparing myself for those things.
Mary: So yes. Awesome. Can I offer one kind of upleveling suggestion for those?
Guest: Yeah, yeah, sure.
Mary: What if you just chose one kind of word for intention each day? Like what if it was, instead of like a full sentence, like just today my intention is rest, or today my intention is productivity, or today my intention is connection. Or today my intention is organization. And you just kind of picked one value that you wanted to have intention around that day.
Guest: That’s definitely gonna be easier for me to remember throughout the day what I said I wanted my intention to be. But yeah, I like that.
Mary: Okay. Give it a try. Let me know how it goes.
Guest: I will.
Mary: Awesome. Thank you so much for being here and for sharing your calendar questions with the rest of us. We really appreciate it.
Guest: Thank you so much.
Mary: All right. We see ya.