• Advice

6 tips for knowing when to work–and when to rest

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A frequent question I hear from my clients and entrepreneurs is: How do I distinguish between when to work and when to rest? This is a tough question for many to answer.

Our society’s expectations have shifted drastically over the past 50 years. We’ve gone from having desktop computers to portable laptops and landlines to mobile phones. Not only are our phones mobile, but now we can check our email, send texts, pay bills, make calls, check live news all over the world, and order a pizza with one click of a button–all from the device in our pocket.

Where do you draw the line?

As remarkable as technology is, it can also be quite the pain in the ass. There used to be a much clearer boundary between your professional and personal life, but now that technology can go with you everywhere, it’s hard to get peace–even in the bathroom. Where do you draw the line?

I read this story in a book recently that conveys how we are becoming more and more a part of our jobs, instead of our jobs being a part of us. The story revolves around Spiderman. It talks about how Peter Parker was so excited for the opportunity to be Spiderman initially. All he could think about was the awesome supernatural powers he’d gain, how he’d be able to save and help people, and how he’d be an indestructible force.

But as time went on, he was getting less and less sleep and he was becoming more and more miserable because there was always someone that needed his help. He could never rest; he even tried to take off his suit, put it far away and sleep, but it would somehow find itself back on him and out the window he’d go. He was functioning on autopilot. He then realized that he was not in control. He once thought the suit, the job, was a part of him, but the reality was, it was the other way around.

Sacrificing boundaries for success

Does this sound familiar in your life? Did you start a career or business ecstatic for the opportunity? You focused only on the positive and set no healthy boundaries for yourself. As you advanced in your position, slowly but surely, your work took over your life. You sacrifice sleep to work, to respond to emails, calls, texts, etc. You’re on autopilot and anytime someone needs you, you sacrifice your own well-being for the business or organization.

The bottom line is this: Work will always be there

There will always be something that needs to be done or someone who needs help. Knowing that, you’ve got to establish clear boundaries about when you’ll work and when you’ll prioritize time for yourself.

When to work and when to rest: 6 guidelines

• Set your values and personal mission statement.
If you haven’t written these down yet, I highly recommend you do so. This alone will help you answer the question of whether you should keep working or rest. If your values revolve around family and you’re working 12 hours a day and missing tee-ball games, then you’re not living out your values. I understand wanting to work to give your family a better life, but your loved ones will remember how you made them feel, how you taught them something, how you were there for them. They’re going to hold onto the memories; so be there for memories to happen.

• Create realistic to-do lists and expectations.
Your to-do list should focus on what you need to get done for that particular day. Before you begin working, set your expectation of what you would consider a “successful day.”

• Give yourself a deadline.
If you don’t give yourself a cut-off time to get your work done then you'll get distracted throughout the day because there is no time crunch. Setting a deadline will make you do the most important things first and work more efficiently.

• Establish your non-negotiables.
What in your life is non-negotiable? Taking your kids to school every morning, making it home by dinner, working out on certain days, a daily 15 minutes set aside to read or meditate? Set limits for yourself so work and things less important cannot overtake you.

• Be stingy with your time.
You’ve only got so much time. When you say “yes” to one thing you’re saying “no” to something else. Saying “yes” to work is “no” to yourself or your family. Give your time to those who deserve it and when you give it, be there in the moment.

• You are your greatest asset.
Without you, there is no work to be done and no business. You only get one body and one mind. Make sure that you are properly taking care of them. Running yourself down every day and never recharging is going to lead to long-term health problems. You maintenance your car and you charge your phone; you understand that these things have to be maintained or they will not work properly. Same thing goes for you. Are you telling me that you’re not more important?

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.” –Dr. Kathleen Hall

There's always more work to be done.

Ask yourself, “What is most important for today?” To your surprise, you may just find out that less is more when it comes to work. Don’t confuse the amount of time you put in over the quality you put in. Don’t feel guilty for resting and recharging. Make sure that your work is a part of you and you are not becoming a part of the job.

You are in control of your life; put yourself on your to-do list.

Erica Ferguson is a coach who empowers others to manage their stress or simply put, a Stress Management Coach. I also work with clients to navigate through life transitions. As a former athletic coach, I now prepare people to win the championship of their lives.