It all came to a head while sitting in my therapist’s office regurgitating everything that happened over the last week. I was bordering burnout. My loving husband was out of town for the entire week, meaning that the home duties of making sure everyone was fed and where they need to be fell on my shoulders. Having been on a business trip the previous week with plans to head on vacation the following week, my exec had a crazy schedule and a lot of unforeseen demands. His wife, an artist who I work with from time to time, needed help with the logistics of planning an upcoming show. I had worked long, LONG hours and I was beyond exhaustion. As I began working through the events of that week with my therapist it began to dawn on me that I had done this to myself. It wasn’t all at once, but slowly over time.
I love being an executive assistant; I really really do! Unfortunately, with my “go get ‘em, I’m-going-to-win-at-this” attitude, and my love for the job, I had slowly been letting my own boundaries slip. For months I had cheated my own guide posts for a healthy me. Responding to non-emergent emails on the weekend (a big no-no!) Checking email the second I rolled out of bed. Handling tasks during sacred family time. These little “cheats” to my work-life balance slowly became routine and habit. It’s no wonder I felt like I had no time or space to myself, I had failed to create it!
Currently, I am in the “recovery” phase; attempting to bring self-awareness and intentionality back into the fold of my daily routine. My therapist and I came up with a few rules to restore balance.
When I started at my current position I had a longstanding rule. If the expectation is that I have my work email on my personal phone then I must be reimbursed at least a decent portion of my phone bill. In previous positions, it wasn’t worth it to my boss or the company for which I worked to foot the bill. The nature of my current position is much more mobile and it makes sense for me to have work email on my phone and for the company to pay for it. The downside of this is that I am now naturally drawn to check it in the evenings right along with my Facebook and Instagram feeds. I would find myself replying to emails during evening family time just to take it off my plate for the next day. This is very mentally draining! We need clear delineation between work and rest in order to be healthy. I still slip up from time to time and check my email after 6:00 but what can I say? I’m a work in progress.
My counselor told me that when we look at our phones or devices we get a hit of dopamine. Her advice to help me not look at my phone as soon as I wake up was to keep it in the bathroom when I go to bed. This is by far the most difficult rule I’ve implemented and has made me recognize how dependent I am on my phone! I use my phone for everything including an alarm clock. It’s no wonder I was on my phone as soon as I woke up. I had to turn off my alarm… which led to checking the weather… which led to checking my email and down the rabbit hole I went. The benefits of not being on my phone the very moment I wake up every morning has been really rewarding. I lay in bed for a moment or two prayerfully contemplating the day to come. I get up and go to the window to open the curtain and greet the day. Idyllic right? Now after this I go to the bathroom and check my phone but that’s no longer how my day starts.
I am SO not perfect with this one, but you know what? I’m working on it. I’m down to checking my email 2-3 times per weekend. This is a lot better than it was before, often checking and responding to emails. I have informed my boss to pop me a text if there is anything urgent that can’t wait until Monday and I no longer reply to non-emergent emails. Progress! This has allowed for more rest and a more undivided connection with my family and friends. My husband is loving it!
My life feels a lot less “work heavy” and a lot more balanced since I implemented these rules for myself. I am more present with each moment and feel happier too! I would love to hear about rules you set for yourself which helps you achieve a better work-life balance. Please share in the comments below and head on over to the Whole Assistant Facebook Group to leave a comment.
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