Setting boundaries for yourself and your energy

My quitting time experiment

During a recent session with my life coach, we were discussing how I could get more done during my weeknights in order to free up my summer weekends for FUN!

My biggest barrier? I’m TIRED when I get home from work! Can anyone else relate? (If you can’t: a)who are you?! and b)you may as well stop reading right now.) But seriously, everyone knows this feeling. You walk in the door and the couch calls your name.

I mentioned how it’s often hard for me to plan my evenings because my days are so variable. Depending what comes through the door I might get lucky and be out at 4 pm or I might be there until 7.

I felt this was something I had little control over.

After all, if I didn’t make it through all my notes or reports from that day, they’d simply be waiting for me the following day, with more on top. And things would just build and build. So I had to get through as much as possible, even if that meant staying longer.

Or at least this was how I perceived it to be. Until my coach challenged me on the concept. What would happen if I set myself a quitting time each day, and committed to leaving at that time?

Experimenting with a quitting time

She asked if I’d be willing to try it out as an experiment. For one week I’d set myself an ideal quit time at the start of each day, and do my absolute best to leave by that time.

In order to do this, I had to identify the fallacies in my previous way of thinking. Following are some of the things that came up.

Sometimes I “have” to leave on time – and guess what? I do it.

On nights when I actually have something in my calendar – say a dentist appointment or yoga, I somehow manage to leave at a predefined time. Because I know ahead that’s what I’m working with, and I don’t have a choice. If there is more work to do than there is time, I simply have to prioritize.

Which brings me to my next point.

Most things are not urgent.

When I’m away on holidays someone checks my labs and reports, skimming for anything urgent. But most of it waits until I’m back. Case in point that the majority of things on my list can wait a couple days. Also …

Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s law states that we expand to fill the time we have. So if we give ourselves 30 mins to complete a task, it takes 30 mins. If we have 2 hours available, it takes 2 hours.

Deadlines are a perfect demonstration of this concept. If you have a meeting in an hour you have to be prepared for – you get it done.

Any of you master procrastinators out there will know this well – you might put something off for a month, but then when it comes down to the wire, you put your head down and GET IT DONE.

In this way, setting a quitting time, so long as you treat it as a real deadline, forces you to be more efficient.

So how did it actually go?

Lets says … better than expected.

I didn’t get out at exactly the time I planned every day. But I was pretty close. Usually within 15-20 minutes tops. I found I was more focused both between and after seeing patients, and gave in less to distractions like checking email, because I knew I had a deadline to meet!

Not only that, I managed to tackle a couple of big forms that had been sitting in my inbox (fellow docs, you know what I’m talking about!).

I also got more done when I got home because I was through the door earlier and I knew that was MY TIME. Work was done for the day.

Turns out, I have more control over my time and energy than I thought. But it’s up to ME to set those boundaries.

Applying this to your own life

Maybe you’re a workaholic or you spend all your time on tasks and priorities that other people set for you.

What if you could reclaim some of that time? Even 30 minutes a day to do something YOU actually want to do.

I challenge you to lay down some boundaries. A quit time if that applies to you. Or another defined period of time if it doesn’t. Put it in your calendar, and respect that commitment.

Because, you deserve it.



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