When I was planning my sabbatical I didn’t have the savings to leave immediately so I sat down with a pen and paper and wrote down every way I could think of to make work more tolerable.
Generating and implementing them gave me a sense of control and helped me work through burnout until I hit my savings goal and could leave work.
If you're not able to take a work break yet, these tips may help you create healthy boundaries at work.
Use the tips below for inspiration, but do the exercise for yourself and see what you come up with :)
- Review your recurring and one-off meetings; cancel or stop attending any that don't need you and look for opportunities to merge others.
- Suggest having an agenda and meeting roles for every meeting if you don’t have them already.
- Don't feel guilty about skipping "fun" meetings (happy hours/team trivia/coffee chats) if you aren't finding them fun anymore.
- Keep your video off for the meetings you do need to go to.
- Reschedule required meetings for when you have more social energy. For me, this included moving my weekly 1:1 with my manager from the afternoons to the mornings. This helped me bring much more energy and enthusiasm to those meetings.
See this new post for more ways to Communicate Under Pressure.
- Set times to check email, but don't make it the first thing you do. I had good results putting off checking email for an hour or two, or after I had gotten a bit of actual work done.
- Communicate your preferred channels to your team and let them know when to expect a response from you.
- Close email and messaging apps, such as Slack or Teams, when not actively using them.
- Go through your inbox and unsubscribe from any lists that aren't directly related to work.
- Create filters for group/admin/notification emails that don't apply to you and that you can't unsubscribe from.
- Turn off all notifications except direct messages and mentions.
- Leave or mute non-work or old project messaging channels. Keeping the #random or #puppies channel open can be a fun distraction when things are going well. It can also be a drain when you're trying to focus your attention.
- Leave extra/non-work messaging communities.
- Remove all work apps (email, Slack, Zoom, etc.) from your personal phone (or at least from your home screen).
- Say no to new or extra projects that aren't directly related to your job function.
- For any new projects that do come up, communicate how they will impact the timelines of your existing projects.
- Ask your coworkers for help when and where you need it.
- If you find yourself spinning your wheels on a project, work with your manager to identify the blockers. Find alternative ways of reaching the desired outcome.
- Write down everything you have to do to get it out of your head, then decline, delegate, or deconstruct tasks into their component parts.
- Take frequent breaks away from the screen; I started walking at least once a day and took naps in the afternoons to recharge.
- Review your workstation ergonomics. For example, I moved my mouse from the side of my desk to in front of my keyboard to relieve RSI. I also started standing and kneeling at my desk to break up all the time I spent sitting.
- Don’t overcaffeinate trying to be productive or get drunk trying to forget work. I (mostly) replaced coffee and alcohol with herbal tea and seltzer.
- Compartmentalize your home and work lives. I asked my girlfriend to stop asking how work went because I didn’t want to revisit the day.
- Clean up your space. This can be challenging to do when work is hard and you’re already stretched thin. Finding a small way to start makes it easier to stop digging the hole and start making progress.
- List your personal obligations, decide if they're worth continuing, and do this exercise for them to see if there are ways to reduce time commitments or mental loads.