School is back in session in some cities, work offices are opening back up or increasing the number of days you need to be in person, and it feels like life is speeding up again post the shutdown due to COVID. It might feel like life is getting back to...normal?
But normal is relative. Here’s what I’d love for you to consider:
Were you happy with the pace and structure of your life before the pandemic? During the lockdown? Following the re-opening?
For most of us, those answers vary. And the return to “regular” life can feel scary for so many reasons. There’s so much we don’t have control over. So much that we now have to think about and so much that has changed over the last 15 months.
What likely hasn’t changed is the fact that you still have some things to take care of. Cause #billsaintgoingnowhere, #kidsaintgoingnowhere, and/or #responsibilitiesaintgoingnowhere. And each of these territories comes with being at the mercy of others’ expectations of you.
There’s some outside force that rules portions of your day, but surprise! Those things don’t need to take over your entire day. With some intentionality, you can create moments that have a huge impact on yourself for the better. Here’s a couple to think about:
How You Start Your Day. Waking up in the morning...how’s that going for you? Are you rushing out of the bed because you decided to sleep in? Or are you waking up 2-3 hours before your day begins so that you can ease into the day? I’ve been on both ends of this spectrum and let me tell you, while the extra sleep feels good in the moment, I can definitely notice a shift in my spirit when I wake up early. Having a set morning routine allows you time to focus on yourself before the world’s demands start weighing on you. It gives you space to accomplish something if you desire first thing in the morning or it gives you time to just sit still and sip your water/tea/coffee prior to being on the go all day. Make it what you want it to be. Here’s mine as an example:
Wake up. While still in bed before I open my eyes, I smile and show gratitude for waking up and for a fresh start. Get up, brush my teeth, wash my face. Read and write scripture. Workout. Shower. Get my kid up. We get dressed. Eat breakfast. Take her to school. Review my day. Get started with work.
The beauty of the morning routine is that you can create it to be whatever you need it to be. If mine gave you some peace, steal it. I don’t mind, honestly. If it didn’t, find what does and start that. Start small. Change it up until it becomes perfect for you. And if you like rushing out the bed, then keep doing that. The point here is to make a decision about what’s best for you and to intentionally do that thing.
Boundary: I owe it to myself to honor my own needs before that of the rest of the world.
Caveat: You might have kids (like mine) who sometimes like to get up and interrupt your routine. Either create a modified version that you’d still be happy with or have a set of quiet activities for your child to engage in while you finish your routine.
Bonus Tip: Create a nightly routine for yourself too!
How You Structure Your Day: Regardless of if you’re working from home, the office, your workday likely has some sort of structure in that of meetings. Naturally, there are meetings that we will likely need to attend that we aren’t in charge of and therefore, can’t set the time for, but there are other times where either there aren’t meetings and/or you’re responsible for setting the meetings. What works best for you?
Are you the type (like me) who needs time in the mornings to respond to emails before jumping into a meeting? Are you the kind of person that likes to get all of the meetings out of the way in the morning so you can have the afternoon to yourself?
What are you doing for lunch and breaks? Do you work through them or are you stepping away from your computer? Do you need to meditate during the day or take a walk outside?
In meetings, how do you need to participate in order to be your best? Should you be taking notes so you stay present or do you need to doodle to focus? If you’re leading a meeting, what do you need to do to prepare for that? Can you multitask during meetings and if so, what are you working on?
For your independent work blocks, do you batch your tasks and try to get similar things done around the same time? Is it easier for you to work on things according to their deadlines?
How do you wrap up the work day? Do you leave everything behind for tomorrow? Do you clean your desk each evening? Do you close out all your tabs and shut down your computer so that you can open to a clean browser in the morning?
If you’re not working right now, you can simply think about it like this: How are you structuring your day? What do you need to make time for (your priorities) and when over the course of the day will you do those things?
Okay, yes, this is like a thousand questions. But the thing about this is that none of these styles are better than the other. It all depends on what works for you. You just have to intentionally make the decision for what’s best and roll with it!
Boundary: I create elements of the day that speak to my needs. I recognize the pieces of my day that I can own and do so in ways that have a positive impact on me.
Caveat: There will be moments where you won’t be able to own your day in the same way. Create your priorities for your working style and at a minimum, give yourself 2-3 of these daily, even if you switch on which ones to offer yourself each day.
Bonus Tip: Talk to others to find out how they structure their day. Maybe something they do could work for you!
How You Interact with Others: As COVID is now a factor in our daily lives, you need to make decisions about how you’ll engage with others (especially if you’re in the office with others). Are you cool with giving handshakes or are you offering elbow taps only? If your job mandates masks and you see the same handful of people not wearing theirs, how will you navigate that? Will you use hand sanitizer after any interaction with others (and if so, do you need to carry your own to ensure that you have access to it)? Decide what you feel most comfortable with and then adhere to that.
Boundary: I have a right to feel safe no matter where I am.
Caveat: Your boundaries may be more strict than what your others have in place. Be okay with being the outlier if that makes you feel best.
Bonus Tip: Have this conversation with others that you’ll be in close proximity to so that there’s no interpretation of people's comfort level.
So you named them! Yay you! Let’s not get too excited though. You did the first part. The second part is actually telling people. Boundaries that only exist in our minds don’t let others know how to respect your needs. There’s no need to send out a mass email with your boundaries though (please don’t do this...please). Instead, let people know as situations arise that go against the boundaries that you’ve set. Respectfully yet with confidence and without a ton of justification. Your needs don’t require an explanation.
Whew! Okay. I know boundaries aren’t the sexiest thing to discuss, but if you get nothing else from this, there’s 2 things I want you to leave with:
Your boundaries are yours to name, to communicate, and to uphold. You should have no expectation that people can read your mind or just automatically know what you need. You should also have no expectation that just because you said it once, people should respect them. Ideally they would, but more times than not, they will believe they are the exception to your rules. Everyone can’t be the exception.
You have to intentionally decide what these boundaries are. If you leave it up to deciding in the moment, you’ll go back to being at the beck and call of everyone else, resulting in your needs being diminished and feeling burned out. Let’s not do that anymore, kk?
So sit down, grab a pen and some paper, and work through the topics listed above. Light a candle, grab a glass of wine if that’s your thing, and use this time of reflection as an opportunity to DateYourselfGirl!