Boundary Setting to Create More Time for Life

January 28, 2022jdegrootBlog

Living an Intentional Life

Guest Post: Carol Hoffman

As someone who founded and directed work-life and wellness programs, I tried to live by what my team and I offered to the staff and faculty at our universities.

I was very fortunate in my positions to be able to maximize flexibility to both get my work done and meet my personal needs outside of work. I know that not everyone has that opportunity. I also know that some people who do have it, don’t take full advantage to best enjoy life and maximize their physical, mental, emotional and social health.

But flexibility wasn’t the whole story. I also knew it would be impossible to complete all the possible tasks connected to my jobs without compromising my time for life outside my paid job. I needed to become skilled at using my time very intentionally.

So how and what did I do?

I sadly didn’t usually read my listserv’s, newsletters and other social media, including professional ones and those from within my employers. Sometimes I would browse them enough to know topic areas so I could come back to them if I needed to. But it could be a 24/7 activity to read everything now that so much is at our fingertips online.

I didn’t always go to events, ones that were relevant but not a necessity for my work, again both internal and external to my workplaces.

I didn’t always file documents properly or do other good housekeeping responsibilities. Things weren’t always neat and tidy. I kept my eye on the big picture, not the details of daily living that were just for my benefit and would not move the work forward.

I also always made sure that anything I worked on served more than one purpose or goal to be worthy of my time.

Most importantly, I constantly reprioritized and was deadline driven. What had to happen today? What did I have time to do tomorrow? What had to happen during weekday work hours? And if I couldn’t get it done during the day, what could I do from home, before the standard workday or over the weekend? I knew that by evening I was wasted, so for me, doing anything but my paid work in the evening was a refreshing mental break from work.

What was I doing outside of my paid job that made this compromise worthwhile?

I took care of myself.
I exercised regularly, ate mostly well, and strived for sufficient amounts of sleep — all in order to prevent immediate illness, such as colds, but also for my long-term physical health. And if I perhaps did get ill, I didn’t push through it unless absolutely necessary. I would stop and listen to my body in order to regain health more quickly.
I also made sure I used all of my vacation time, and sometimes additional unpaid time off. Recharging by being somewhere other than my own home (with its many to do’s), as well as having no responsibilities, was always important. This could include international or national travel or just plunking down in one place.

Raising my son was also a priority.
I always made sure that my work schedule matched as best as possible my son’s school and summer schedules in terms of start and stop times. There of course were times when I had to be at work earlier or later than my son’s start or stop times, but I did what I could to minimize that. Flexible work arrangements that don’t change as life circumstances change are not flexible work arrangements!

As we had no family close by, we raised my son in community, be it with friends who lived close by, or families that we had known since our children were born. We cared for each other’s children from the earliest ages possible and to this day, the parents and children are like family. We rarely had the expense of a babysitter because of these arrangements, and were able to go out in the evenings and weekends for cultural events, volunteering, socialization, etcetera.

I prioritized my parents in their last decades.
I did long distance elder caregiving which involved calling my mother daily for the last 15 years of her life, including years she was caring for my father with dementia, in addition to helping with other matters for them. I would go to them for any hospitalizations and significant medical appointments.

I made time for socialization.
I often combined connecting with my circle of friends with other activities, such as exercise, volunteering in the community, and when he was young, my son’s activities. As I said, each activity I chose to engage with, at work or at home, served more than one purpose in order to be worthy of my time.

Years ago I learned, do people at their time of death regret not spending more hours at work? Or are they satisfied with the time spent with family and friends and with activities that they felt passionate about? Fortunately, I feel that I have experienced professional and personal success, so I guess these methods worked for me!

Click on our YouTube recording to listen to Carol and two other work-life experts talk about work-life integration and wellness.

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Assist individuals, families and organizations in finding new ways to redesign work to create time for family, community and other life priorities. Develop a growing community of individuals, leaders and organizations to influence wider change - both within organizations and at the public policy level. Support a new mind-set where everyone can follow a "third path" - an integrated approach to work and life.

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