I’m horrible at setting boundaries. My life consists of me blurring the lines between things that should be kept apart. Multitasking is something I try often, and somehow something I convince myself I can do well. Sometimes they are small things like when I text on my phone while walking. Or I watch TV while I eat dinner. And sometimes it’s bigger like when I blur my work with my personal life, all the time.
As I’m stepping into a new job, one that is loosely defined and open to my interests and priorities around student engagement, I’m finding this blurring I do really difficult to stop. Some people assume my new job is my old job, just with a different title (spoiler: it’s not). I convince myself I can do all the new things with my job and still carry on some of tasks from my old position. I got so invested in some of my projects from being an evening reference librarian, that I find myself butting into things I no longer need to worry about. These side projects take time, energy, and an emotional investment. I find myself maxing out, and it seems a bit early for that.
I think a part of this comes from the pressure I internally put on myself. I expect a lot from myself. All this pressure makes me feel sometimes I didn’t finish what I started in my first job as the evening librarian (although I know I made some huge strides). As I was making the transition to my new job, it seemed like not a big deal to keep a few side projects going, because I could handle it. I wanted to finish what I started, even if some of those things will be unsolvable for a while (because intentional change takes time). I can be an incredibly impatient person sometimes, especially with myself. Even though I’m a huge supporter and believer of the concept that the process is often more important than the product, I find myself at fault for wishing we could get to the end result. Ironic, right?
Luckily, I’ve got some good people around me who have gotten to know me well. I’m reminded time and time again that my ability to say no, to define that boundary, gives me the opportunity to focus my time and energy on something else, to say yes to a new project. As one of my favorite desktop wallpaper reminds me, I can anything but not everything. This has become my mantra as I better define (and hold) my boundaries.
You also know me as a goal setter, a to-do list writer. So, in that spirit, I’ve got a few goals for me as we head into the homestretch of our fall semester. I recently read an article from Harvard Business Review called “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” While the article was published back in 2007, the message still rings true. Authors Schwartz and McCarthy discuss how when people flip the script and manage their energy, they can get more done while they’re at work (and maintain those boundaries). Some of the tricks they suggest include:
- Working on projects for 90-120 minutes, without distractions, and then taking a break where you walk around and take your mind off of things
- Get rid of multitasking since switching tasks can sometimes increase the time it takes to complete a task by 25%
- Try some breathing when things get stressful or overwhelming
I’ve recently started to block off chunks of time to devote to various activities/projects. It makes my calendar look messy, but it keeps me on track for those areas where I really need to dig in. I’ve also started to put my cell phone on “do not disturb” when I walk into my office. I don’t need to worry about, which has been pretty freeing. Every day I try to take a small step, defining boundaries as I go.Reading the HBR article coincided with a quote in Stacey-Marie Ishmael’s newsletter, #awesomewomen.
I think I tried that this weekend. I took some time off, went on an adventure to Pittsburgh, slept in, and caught up with friends. I got to reset and now, I’m ready to keep going.