This year to help me achieve my goal of being a planned, patient and present mother, I have worked hard at setting boundaries in my life. Setting boundaries have helped me work towards being the present mother I want to be.
Working online, you get very used to and sometimes reliant on always having a device close by that connects you straight to the online world. There can be a fine line when being online for work crosses over into the personal.
Boundaries work for me, as it reduces the need for me to make decisions. I know when I am to be focused on the home and when I am to be focused on work. Working from home while providing fantastic flexibility, also poses some challenges as you are always at work. Without my own boundaries, I could easily work many more hours and not be present for my family.
My boundaries for work and home
If I try and work when I am the primary carer, it might be okay for a short time (15 minutes!), but it never works well for long. If I am trying to finish something off for work, it is like a magnet to the kids who all seem to need me right then and there. I try not to, but inevitably become frustrated at the kids and will push back for them to wait “5 minutes”. The kids are not happy, I am not happy and the quality of work I am trying to do is compromised. Unless there is an extreme issue I have to solve, I don’t bother working with all the kids around.
My boundaries at the moment are I don’t work until the kids are off at school and stop when I pick the youngest two up from school. Then if I have work to finish that evening, I won’t start it until I have put the youngest two to bed.
There are a couple of exceptions to not working after school. When the kids have their swimming lessons, I use that 30 minutes to work offline but write the first draft of my weekly newsletter. One other evening, I do the soccer training run and will stay at the training in the car working for the hour.
On weekends, I only work when Mr I is around to be there or if the youngest three are having their allocated 1.5 hours technology time. This is the case on school holidays too.
Then when I set to work, I need to stay focused on work. It is not the time to do the school paperwork or clean the bathroom (even though it might need it). My weekly schedule is my guide and I follow it as much as I can. It outlines my boundaries and takes the decision making out of it for me. I don’t have to think about “should I work now?”. I know when I should be working and when I need to be doing family stuff.
Batching email and social media time
Email and social media can be two of the biggest productivity sucks of all time for me. Blogging requires active and heavy use of both, but as mentioned earlier, it is so easy to go beyond what you need to do for work and waste a ridiculous amount of time on it. Wasting time then means I have more work to do in the evening, meaning I go to bed later, meaning I get less sleep, meaning I am less likely to be patient and present with my kids the next day.
This has been my biggest target area this year with boundaries. I have always been quite good with not working with the kids are around, but when it comes down to work time, I knew I needed to become more efficient at how I managed my social media and email.
Some strategies I am currently using with great success:
- Using existing boundaries – my main processing time for email and social media is in the afternoon in the hour before school pick up. I can often be seen in the car out the front of the kids school on my MacBook responding to emails until the bell goes and the kids come out. Then the computer is shut and I am back into home life. Knowing I have definite end time to make my way through the work is a great incentive not to become distracted, clicking on links and getting lost on the internet.
- Scheduling social media – while I do check in on social media almost every day, the majority of links etc I share on social media are scheduled in advance. I find the fewer times I go on social media a day, the less time I will spend on it.
- Self control app – I have mentioned the Self Control before, but mention it again as it is so effective. This helps me stay off social media when I should be doing other work.
When I fail
There are times when I step over my own boundaries and work when I should be focusing on family and vice versa. The world doesn’t fall apart and sometimes it even works out okay; but most other times it doesn’t. It creates the wrong energy in the house and it takes time to turn that around.
I have worked out I am more likely to cross my own boundaries if I am tired or stressed, so preventing this happening in the first place is a continual work in progress for me.
I have also found that the simple act of putting my phone in another room is incredibly helpful. I will leave it in our ensuite for example for hours. By not having the phone near me, it means I am not tempted to do a quick check on email or just have a little look on Pinterest.
The most important thing though about when I cross the boundaries and it goes awry, is I remind myself I have another chance tomorrow to stick to them!