No, not the kind of “creep” at work that needs to be reported to the police. This is the creep that happens on Mondays when a conversation between your work life and your home life gets blurry.
You can restore the boundaries when you visualize your time as a garden that needs to be nurtured and protected. Gardens have physical boundaries that stop the creep of weeds. You can do the same at work. Consider these tips:
- Ensure meetings have agendas. There should be a beginning and end time with key speakers and topics noted. Appoint a timekeeper who gives a signal when the meeting is 10 minutes from being over. This allows time for final thoughts and takeaways.
- Along with an agenda, there should be an overarching goal or project-base for the meetings. You can do away with “status” meeting with emails. If something on the project is going off-track, then you can call a meeting to redefine goals.
- Set clear responsibilities in the group. Know what your job is and do it. Turn down requests that aren’t in your scope.
- Take control of emails by scheduling a time to respond to them and be sure to unsubscribe from email list servers that aren’t productive.
- Unplug from work. This may mean setting the time aside to check-in if there’s a big project brewing and letting the rest go to when you are back “on” at the office.
- Don’t overdo the overtime. Prioritize projects by learning the ebb and flow of your industry.
Mental and emotional boundaries are a little more complicated to set. Consider the following ideas to protect yourself from burn out or finding yourself in an uncomfortable situation:
- Focus on the person in front of you. You can save time by listening to what they want and responding. In return, you can expect them to respect your time in the same way.
- Take a break. This can look like a walk around the block or can be a vacation where you can completely unplug.
- Don’t blur lines between professional relationships and friendships. It helps to keep the conversation work-based and may mean redirecting a conversation that edges off-topic or in the weeds with gossip.
- Be respectful, but resolute. If you aren’t comfortable with handshakes and hugs, offer a smile and elbow tap.
- Value your time. Think of what your hourly rate is – or should be – and then ask for that when others demand your time in the off-hours.
Boundaries establish who are and, in some cases, where you begin and others end. They don’t have to be concrete walls. Our boundaries can be permeable enough to allow the good in, while protecting us from the danger of burn-out or damage to our overall wellbeing.
What are your ideas to stop the creep at work? Please add them to the comment section.