I’m just a person who can’t say no! I am an administrative assistant with five bosses. Each one assigns me different projects with tight deadlines that require a strong attention to detail and a ton of paperwork and more. I’ve been working overtime, on weekends as well as responding to work-related emails and phone calls all the time.
I’m stressed and exhausted. How do I set my boundaries at work and hopefully return to a healthy work-life balance without jeopardizing my job?
On this topic, I’m most impressed with the advice of Forbes’ corporate consultant/blogger, Jennifer Winters, in a post on this topic. Here are some strategies to figure out how to tackle a busy job, while taking care of yourself.
1. Take breaks.
Make sure you take your breaks including each meal time, depending on whether or not you are starting early or working late. Make sure to take your lunch, as well as small breaks throughout the day. Walk away from your computer and desk. Get some fresh air and exercise if you can. Talk to people. Do what you need to do to have some fun and relaxing time during this “time for me”.
Technology improvements to cell phones and remote desktop computer access can make it possible to work from virtually anywhere. But despite the convenience, these technologies can also make it very difficult to pull yourself away from your job. Unless absolutely necessary, try to disconnect yourself during personal times such as evenings, weekends or vacations. Don’t be available to pick up voice mails and emails after hours, and make sure that the employer knows that.
3. Focus on your career.
Prioritizing your tasks and responsibilities is key. The duties that are directly related to your career goals should be the first on your to-do list. Winters suggests that “working towards an ambitious, long-term career goal is a great way to keep yourself motivated, focused and ultimately achieve success”. If you are already putting in those extra hours, make sure it is important enough to put on your resume.
4. Put your health first.
When work gets busy, it’s easy to find excuses to skip meals, choose unhealthy foods and cut back on physical activity. In the long run, though, an unhealthy lifestyle will only make you less productive by lowering your energy level and making you more susceptible to illness. Find convenient ways to make healthy choices, such as packing nutritious meals from home, taking the stairs or going for a daily walk.
5. Make time for your personal life.
To be a successful people leader, you have to set goals and schedule your time carefully. If you’re having difficulty balancing your work and personal life, apply the strategies you use at work to activities in your personal life. Try blocking off specific times in your schedule to spend time with friends and family, or to unwind with your favourite hobbies. Similarly, you might consider setting personal goals, such as going to the gym or visiting with friends a minimum number of times each week.
6. Get support.
Ask for help. Meet with your mentor and with your boss to manage expectations; consider seeking help from a professional. Working through your challenges with others can help you get some perspective on your situation, set appropriate boundaries and achieve a healthy balance. Know your limits. Understand what you will be able to reasonably accomplish each day. Don’t work alone. Get support. What opportunities are available with your team members to delegate?
7. Just say no.
Prioritize. If you’re too busy to meet with team members or take on non-essential new assignments, don’t be afraid to say no. When turning down a task, always give a reasonable explanation and, where possible, suggest some alternatives. You might, for example, offer to reschedule a meeting for a later date, or recommend giving an assignment to another qualified team member. Try to anticipate these issues before they arise, and problem solve before the deadline is looming.