Been thinking a lot lately about how to establish some boundaries between work and life. Yesterday morning I woke up at 2 AM remembering an email I meant to send to a colleague. It was really important to follow up on a task and I meant to send it, but as I composed the email I was derailed by someone else’s emergency and spent my last two hours at the office putting out their (metaphorical) fire.
Dammit, I needed to send that email.
I tried to shake it off and fall back asleep but my brain had already engaged and suddenly I had a whole list forming of tasks hanging like undone threads on a sleeve. Too annoying to ignore. As I went downstairs to make coffee at 2:40 AM, I hoped that Thursday would not turn out to be another insanely chaotic mess. Maybe by getting up literally in the middle of the night and getting a jump on emails I would finally, finally have a calm day.
By 11 a.m. already my Number Two in charge of our biggest project announced she was moving to Chicago, I got two huge last-minute design tasks dumped on me by two separate teams, and also the contract for one of our folks starting on Monday had mysteriously come into question.
There was a moment around 5PM when I thought of walking away from it all and letting it burn.
Then I thought of that old Smokey The Bear commercial where he says sternly into the camera, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” When it comes to setting the boundary lines, it’s up to me. Only I can prevent the forest fire that is currently engulfing my life.
Saying NO has been difficult for me. I don’t like turning folks away when they need help and I still have enough people pleaser-itis that I enjoy making folks happy. Part of that is just the artist inside: I love creating beautiful things for people and delivering great projects.
But NO has to happen. When you’re overcommitted and underfunded and there are only 24 hours in a day anyway, you gotta say NO to something. Until now, I’ve cut corners by putting myself and my own needs at the bottom of the list. This happens at work constantly, but I’ve noticed a few times I’ll even do this when it comes to prioritizing my home tasks. On a busy Monday morning, I’ll pack a lunch for the Captain and make his breakfast smoothie but run out of time for my own. By 10am I’m starving and eating candy from the office stash.
My monthly goal lists are a way for me to try to institute some good self-care practice on a daily basis. September started out pretty strong but then the hackathon planning became intense at work and I missed a couple of days of stickers and now it is the end of September and this is my pitiful little list:
I know I say this a lot, but the best thing about being alive is that every minute is a new opportunity to do it differently. The Captain and I are spending a nice weekend together and I will not be checking email and working on my to-do list and if people cannot figure out the answers to their own questions it will have to wait until Monday morning.
While I still have the walk away and let it burn option in my back pocket, October is going to be all about me preventing this forest fire from engulfing me. I want it to be a super positive month full of healthy decisions, plenty of walks, some actual downtime, and the occasional well-placed NO. Maybe more than just occasional. We shall see.