How To Draw The Line Between Work And Personal Life Without People Thinking You’re Lazy


A good working life has a lot to do with boundaries. Are you going to answer your phone after 9 PM? Are you going to cut vacation short in order to work on an upcoming project? If you have these hypothetical questions answered ahead of time, then you’re already doing a good job of defining such boundaries, but it’s also too easy

You’re the boss. What you say goes. Make your own approach to work very visible and public. If you’re purposefully not answering emails after 9 PM, then it needs to be okay for other employees to follow suit. You might even write up a document and email it around to your team to describe what you do and how you do it. Everything you do as leader helps shape company culture in some way. Better to embrace this fact than to hide from it.

Prioritize, and learn to become comfortable ignoring things. The cliche is painfully true: there’s never enough time to do everything you need to do. Prioritization is not only an essential career skill, but an important life skill as well. And if you’re prioritizing effectively, that means you’re only worrying about the top two or three items on your list, though it may be several items longer. Get comfortable in this liminal space and have faith that a good prioritizer will be able to meet expectations and then some.

Stop complaining. That which you talk about and think about, you invite into your world. If these are naggy complaints, then you can internalize them and make them part of who you are. This is incredibly unattractive. Complaints probably stem from your unwillingness to accept parts of reality, so learn to accept them, then make a plan for addressing them. For example, if you have too much work to do, you should prioritize rather than complain—it’d be incredibly disconcerting to hear the boss of a company complain about small-potato items like having too much work.

Turn off push notifications on your smartphone. Depending on your workflow, this move will change your life. Imagine suddenly interacting with your phone on your own terms, and not because some bell dinged and alerted you to something that “needs” to be done right away (even though doing it in 30 minutes is just as good).

Define some hours that you will definitely be at the office, and some hours where you definitely will not. Time spent out of the office is arguably more important than time spent in the office because it is what allows you to rejuvenate and return to work fully charged. Consider setting a “hard exit” time every day. For example, no matter what, you’ll be on your way home by 6 PM.

These kinds of boundary-setting decisions are all about “moving the needle.” There’s effectively no difference between returning an email in 10 minutes and returning it in 20 minutes. This is not what makes the difference between any company and a truly great company. Grant yourself this flexibility wherever you can and you’ll find yourself enjoying work and home life much more often.