Reams have been written about how women are empaths, nurturers, collaborators, and catchers of all slack, random tasks and flotsam that falls well out of our scope – in the workplace and at home. We’ve been told it’s how we’re wired – and that’s why we have to work consciously to Lean In.
Yet more reams have been scribed about how multi-tasking doesn’t work, how switching roles to pick up the overflow left by resourcing gaps or lack of a willing set of hands at home leaves us burnt out, stressed, resentful and at worst, suffering from serious mental or physical illnesses.
But a funny thing happens when you finally start to actively protect your time.
Others sometimes find it difficult to come to terms with your new approach. And interestingly, it’s often other women who pick up on it first.
We hear a lot about the “girl tribe”, “girlbosses” and how when the tide lifts, all ships (also shes) lift too. We tout the works of Ariana Huffington and Sheryl Sandburg.
But watch what happens when you say “If I pick that extra task up, it’s going to impact the rest of my workload and something which is a higher priority will need to go. So I’m going to be saying no to that one.”
That’s right, I’m going to say no.
Despite a constant push for progressive attitudes, and a strong movement towards consciousness that women do more around the house and are still paid less than men for performing the same roles, the dynamic in the workplace is often such that when one woman acts purposefully to boundary her time others get a little, well irate. It’s a case of “I am pulling extra weight, picking up extra tasks outside my scope, how is this fair?”
And that is completely understandable. If you were on the receiving end of this statement, you might feel that because another woman has found the courage to protect her time, you’re not only left trying to power through your own list – you now have to work out how to reshuffle your expectations around asking for help from someone you used to be able to rely on to help carry the load.
This points to a bigger problem – the need for a collective reset around the value of our time, as women. Both in the home and in the workplace. We need to pull together ladies.
So before acting on operation Mind Your Time, I am going to recommend a practice which was suggested to me through Growth Coaching: prepare the ground, so your responses don’t come as a shock.
This means, taking some time to talk to your girl-tribe – in the workplace and in your personal sphere. Explain to them what you’re doing, and why. And that as women it’s even more important to set boundaries. Strong, well maintained fences. But perhaps picket-style – allowing you to occasionally edge into the margins of doing a touch extra. Because let’s face it if you’re a good-hearted person you’ll always help a little more than required. From here on in you’ll just be selecting your “extra” a little more mindfully.
As you begin implementing this in your career and at home, here are some phrases to consider:
I am working hard to protect my time, to ensure the best outcomes for this business.
I respect this role too much to allow too much scope creep to impact my effectiveness.
I am happy to dive in when you’re in a bind, but we need to resource this area properly so we can grow as a business and be scalable.
This mindset shift can also help with protecting your home life – in this crazy world, extra hours are the norm rather than the exception. So when after-hours starts to almost feel like part of your regular hours, try this:
I am working hard to protect my time, to show my family that they really are my number one priority by my actions, and mindfully making and planning time with them.
Tough to argue with that one, and a workplace that doesn’t respect that is maybe not somewhere you want to be long term.
And when it comes to your life, and your real priorities, it’s always worth remembering.
“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do – Karl Yung.”
Now I’d love to hear from you, what are some phrases you use to protect your time?