Drawing Lines Around Your Day

Lines Color

Credit: flickr / dOOnLoL

Arriving, stressed, on a Monday morning the other week I decided to shut the mail tab on my browser, with no intention of opening it again. This impromptu panic started a new thing – I’m checking (work) email at most once a day, if I have a meeting. No meeting days – usually one a week – are now even better than before. I think I’m more productive, but it’s hard to quantify. Those half an hour chunks which seemed only good for going through email turn out to be surprisingly productive.

I’m definitely happier and less stressed out by my inbox. I appreciate the good things that arrived (my patent is going through! Yay!) and get less stressed by the bad things. It could be the novelty – we’ll see how that goes. People are supportive of my eccentricity with respect to my inbox. It’s hardly a secret that I loathe email, and I’ve managed to keep the volume low by sending as little as possible.

The worse thing that happens is that I miss something important, but if it’s that important someone will IM me. I missed meeting someone when they emailed at the last minute, which was unfortunate, but hardly the end of the world. The tradeoffs that seemed so worrying turn out to not be very bad at all.

I think, though, that what really makes me happier is that I’m drawing lines around my day, which means that I feel more in control. It’s like not taking my laptop home with me after work. I could take it home with me and not work, which a lot of people seem to, but by not taking it home I don’t even give myself the option. It’s not, “oh I could catch up on X but I want to read my book instead” – it’s “I’m home now, what do I want to do?”

Of course, there’s a lot of things which I don’t define as work which others might – and my personal laptop carries more than it’s share of guilt. Events to attend. Talks to prepare and papers to write. This blog. What’s important to me is that whilst I might be stressed out by having too much on, I’m not stressed out by my job. I’ve drawn a clear line in my head between what is my job, and what is not – even if it’s professionally helpful to me.

There’s a few people at work who are legendary for their balance. They probably call it something different, but interacting with them I see that they too draw lines around their day. This is when I go home. I don’t work at the weekend.

Those people legendary for balance? Also incredibly productive.

My view is that that I work as long as I’ll be productive, then I leave. I don’t work later than that – at best, I borrow productivity from tomorrow. At worst, I do that and mess things up that I have to fix tomorrow. As a result, sometimes I leave at 4, sometimes I leave at 7. Overall, I don’t think I do more than 45 hours a week.

I’m not sure it matters too much what the lines are, or where you draw them. The point is, to have some – you’ll be happier for the control.

What lines do you draw around your day?

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