Lifestyle, Mindfulness and Setting Boundaries at Work
I've been there. I get it.
When you are the most junior person on the team "life style needs" seem to be just a nice slogan thrown around by HR during your New Hire orientation.
8-hours of sleep per night? Sounds like a good joke.
Lifestyle needs are important - they are important because without them we will go insane.
However, I would be lying if I were to tell you that joining a new team in banking and consulting and starting off by "I have zero experience, just graduated from college, but I want to start at 9, leave by 5, be able to do to the gym 5 times a week and get at least 8h or sleep every night" is the right thing to do. It is not. Yes it sucks, but this is the reality that many of us (including myself) live and when wanting to be successful, and not ridiculed, setting boundaries hast to reach a compromise with having realistic expectations.
That being said....
Meet your new best friend: Trade-offs
1. Setting (reasonable for your work situation) boundaries is important. It is important early on, because once you will become the person who answers emails at 2 am on a Saturday night ... you will stay the person expected to answer emails at 2 am on Saturday night.
Tip: while talking about your boundaries do not make it about you, make it about your contribution to the team.
e.g. "I am my most productive self when I leave the office by 10pm. I know myself, and having done internships, I realized that when I have to stay at work past midnight, it is hard for me to be productive the next day and bring value to the team" sounds much better than "I want to live by 10pm, because it is not ok for to keep me at work for so long!"
I start my every project by telling my team: I can work till 3 am everyday during the week (if necessary), but weekends are "mine."
It would be unreasonable for me to leave everyday by 5 and also have weekends off - but I can maximize my workload during the week and set the expectation that on Saturday and Sunday I will not be answering emails. Trade-offs, see? ;)
3. When and how do you work best? let your team know:
- are you a morning or night person?
- do you prefer to work less during the week and finish some things over the weekend, or are weekends completely off limits?
- do you prefer taking a break at 6pm, going to the gym, and then working for 1-2 hours after, or would you rather leave the office at 8pm and not open your computer while at home?
- do you prefer to work in a loud team room, or find empty, quite space to deliver your best work?
4. Find a calm-down ritual:
Find a time for yourself every day. Make it an uninterrupted "me-time" ritual.
I have two:
1. Lillian-on-Lillian breakfasts. If I need to wake up 30 min earlier to have an uninterrupted breakfast, I will.
Breakfast is the time when I am not checking emails, not taking phone calls (yes, it sounds CRAZY, but the world did not yet stopped turning because I am unreachable from 7:00-7:30. ;) ). It is the time when I read that funny Cosmopolitan article, research next restaurant I want to visit, or simply sit there by myself - and with my self, sipping my mint tea, eating cereal and staring at people passing by my window. And you know what? It feels great - and it puts me in a much better mood for the lest of the day.
2. Night tea: Everyday either on my way back from work, or at home (if the coffee shops on my way home have already closed by the time I leave the office. Fun fact: I have been multiple times already stuck in traffic at 10 pm on Park Ave - because that is clearly the time when everybody gets off of work ;) ) I make myself a green or mint tea - that's my ritual. Again during that 15 min or so, I forget about my phone's existence.
5. Be flexible and be there for your team.
Boundaries are important - because you are important (I know it might sound like not the nicest thing to say, but sometimes, especially the people pleasers among us need to remember: you are the most important person in your life. Significant others come and go, friends come and go - but we stay with ourselves forever - and wee also need care, love, and sometimes ... a break.)
But... sometimes there comes the week before the final presentation, the night before the client meeting, or the weekend before the review is due. Those are the times when we need to be flexible. Sometimes it just is what it is. (But those are exceptions and not rules - ifan "emergency" happens every day ... well, then it is not an emergency.)
All in all: while at work give your 110% - become irreplaceable, become a person others want to have on their team, give value - and the better reputation you make about yourself, the more understanding your boss will be and the more lifestyle requirements leverage you will have.