Thrive in Five: Creating boundaries

8 MinutesIn Thrive in Five

I am hopeful that as many of you as possible are safe and well and that your families are too. I am grateful to be untouched by the virus in my extended world but devastated that my darling mother died suddenly at the start of the lockdown. Love and peace to any of you dealing with grief and illness, things that are hard enough in “normal” life.

I wanted to write today about “boundaries”: how to artificially create them when we are living in one place, with one group of people, surrounded by a single news story. I share in the hope that they will trigger ideas that will encourage and nurture you as we chug along.

Create as many boundaries as you can is my counsel – it’s the compound effect that can give us some sense of transition – and please do share your ideas with me. Here are five suggestions for boundaries:

1. Commute: create a tech free transition
– WFH every single day means there isn’t a split between home and work life.
– I am using a tech free cup of tea as my transition between getting ready for work and starting work. I’m using the sunshine to have a drink and a read outside after finishing work (having taken my uniform off – see below) and before being a Mum, cook, cleaner etc again.
– Ideas include: a walk around the garden, an exercise class, 5 minutes on the Calm or Headspace app, spending time in a different room, running up and down the stairs….We want to create an intentional transition between worlds, some space to breathe and reset, away from technology.

2. Tech: use hardware as a boundary
– if you can afford it, now could be a time to have a personal phone and a work phone, with different apps accordingly.
– I highly recommend  “How to Break Up With Your Phone”
– if you have more than one tablet/laptop: don’t do your work and home on line activities from the same device. And move place when you use them…..

3. Place : changing place changes our thinking
– There is research that shows that where we sit affects how we think and what we remember. Use this research to help you metaphorically move your thinking as you literally move.
– ideally, move rooms for different activities. If this isn’t an option, at least move places at your table or on your sofa.
– I particularly encourage you to find the place where you will “think”, separate to the place which is the centre of the storm of activity, usually where your laptop is situated. Thinking time in a world in which we are making it up as we go along, has never been more vital. Nancy Klein’s “Time to Think” techniques are brilliant and I cannot wait to work with her later this year.
– go outside in between calls for 3 minutes fresh air. If you haven’t got time or an outside option, stick your head out of the window and breathe deeply 3 times: in through the nose for the count of 4. Pause. Out through your mouth for the count of 6.

4. Clothes : create a WFH uniform
– identify the set of clothes for you will wear to work from home during this period, to create transition and boundaries. I’m finally doing the Steve Jobs/Obama/Zuckerberg thing and wearing the same pair of black jeans and blazer on work days so only have to choose a top.
I had always been a bit sceptical about this “life hack”. I admit though to noticing both the relief of lack of choice and also a sense of “work me” being put on first thing, and then also taken off, when I change at the end of the working day and put my trackies on…

5. Systems : experiment with a variety of options
– this is a time to enable Do Not Disturb, when eating, when thinking.
– create 30 or 60 minutes in the day with no internal meetings, calls or emails in your team/organisation or have “no meetings/calls/emails before or after xxx”. Delay send is a friend in this. [This is of course, barring crisis – define what crisis is though]. In international businesses there will need to be time zone variations but knowing that these are in place should help email flow and meeting traffic.
– be intentional about how you use exercise to put marked definition into your day. For the first time ever, I have become a lunchtime exerciser – it’s giving me a clear break point and the energy to go into afternoon sessions. As the expression goes, “if you don’t have 20 minutes to meditate/run/exercise, you need an hour to meditate/run/exercise”.

I am writing this from a very fortunate place, and I recognise this – my own home, older children, a business that can be run at a distance. And this is written with the majority of my clients in mind, who will be working from home, not on the front line, at this time. I would observe though that burnout has become an increasingly prevalent issue in the last 12 months, amongst the fortunate and highly successful clients I work with in my executive coaching practice. The more we can practice boundary setting in these extreme circumstances, the more chance we have of creating space between work and home when we return to the office.

I have been running a 60 minute webinar for leadership teams on Managing Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, with no charge. Get in touch if this might be of interest.Sending this to you all with love and in fortitude.


If you would like to receive these generally bi-monthly Thrive in Five newsletters, sign up here.