Prior to getting married, I had a hard time setting boundaries between my life and work. Granted, a lot of the pressure to stay way past the close of business was self-imposed. Growing up, my mother taught me that there were rewards for going above and beyond when it came to my profession. I was taught that a mark of professional was that you did not watch the clock. You stayed until the job was done. You stayed until the job was well done. As a classroom teacher committed to our brown little ones, I did not necessarily view staying late to finish a bulletin board or grade papers as an infringement of my personal time. I was happy to do it.
But as I transitioned into a more corporate-run setting, I grew tired of an office culture that expected employees to cancel personal appointments to accommodate last-minute meetings on a regular basis. Coworkers with children were often given a pass, but, as a single woman without children, I was not granted the same respect because they thought whatever I had going on outside my work life could be rearranged.
Once I got married, though, I had to start to develop a backbone. I was continually getting home late, flaking on my commitments to my home and husband, and while there was no official performance evaluation, I was definitely failing as a new wife. One night, I came home and found husband hovering over the kitchen sink eating out of a tuna can, I felt so bad.
Moments like those made me realize what it meant to be a partner and committed to another. I was not a team of one anymore; I had a family of two now and had to put in some real work to make it thrive in the same way that I have done with my career.
My priorities changed. Once they changed, my approach to work and time-management soon followed:
I leave work on time. There is this false belief that staying long hours means that you are more dedicated and productive. When it’s not. Knowing that I have date night, someone to run home to, and my writing and blog to attend to, I use my time more effectively while I am on the clock. I keep a checklist of things to do and keep the chitchat to a minimum so I can meet all of my deadlines. I aim for efficiency not the perception of it.
I turn off my Blackberry during the weekends. This was hard for me because I thought that the world would somehow end if I did not return emails or phone calls over the weekend. Creating this boundary was really important though. When you start doing the math, assuming you grind at a 9-5, Monday through Friday, over 71% of your week goes to work close to 29% goes to running your life, recovering from work, pursuing passions. Understanding it from this perspective makes you not only more protective of your time, but also you become more selective with what activities you will use your time on.
To help better plan for the upcoming workweek, I may skim some of my messages Sunday evening.
I take all my vacation. My definition of happiness includes having free time to be with my husband and to be by myself. I do not want life to pass my husband and me without us experiencing what we have on our ‘bucket list.”
I stop wondering why others stay late. Before I used to really worry about why others consistently stayed at work sometimes two or three hours past the end of the day. Do they know something that I don’t know? Are they working on a special, top-secret project? But once my work is done, I leave my office knowing that I have put in a hard day’s work and that I don’t need an answer to that question because the answer has nothing to do with me or my work. Every person works at their own pace, has their own motivations for staying late (i.e. praise, meeting up for drinks close up, access to free office supplies, waiting for traffic to pass) and are adults with their own priorities.
Frugalistas—How has marriage changed how you work?
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