Set Your Schedule & Create Boundaries at Work: Hours of Business VS. Hours of Availability

This week on Episode 123 of Productivity Paradox, we’re talking all about how to save you time each week by getting a better handle on your email – how much time you actually spend in your email, and how you can easily declutter your inbox so that, when you are devoting time to answering emails, you’re not spending a big chunk of it trying to conquer the chaos.

Because let’s be honest… Email can be a huge, huge time waster whether we’re talking about emails at work or emails at home.

So, keeping in tune with that idea just a bit, I want to focus on another way that we can get back in control over the time that we spend on work (and personal) tasks. What it comes down to is boundaries.

In order to feel like we’re in more control of our time, we need to create a schedule that works for us both at home and at the office. We need to set boundaries for ourselves and for others that clearly define our hours of business versus our hours of availability… because even though they may sound the same, they’re not!

 

How to Create Boundaries at Work

 

Define Hours of Business vs. Hours of Availability

How often have you spent the weekend answering work calls, emails, or working on projects you didn’t get to during the actual work week?

Far too many of us let our work and home lives bleed into each other… and no matter how organized you may think you are, this can be incredibly detrimental to your health and wellbeing, your relationships, and your productivity.

So naturally, the first step to creating your ideal schedule is to determine exactly how many hours you’re available for work-related tasks and similar projects… and all that this really requires is that you pinpoint exactly what your hours of business and your hours of availability look like.

While we’ve discussed this in a previous post, let’s run down the difference between those two divisions really quickly:

  • Hours of Availability are the hours that you publish on your website or mention in your voicemail that let customers, clients, and colleagues know when you’re available to respond.
  • Hours of Business, by contrast, are the focused hours that you work where you are not available to the outside world… In other words, these are the undisturbed hours in your day that you’re devoting to your tasks and other work-related projects and goals.

The better handle you have on those two aspects of your working day, the easier it will be to create the boundaries you need to succeed!

 

Maintain Separate Work and Personal Phone Numbers

This may seem a little chaotic, but I promise you… having separate phone numbers dedicated to the different areas, or compartments, in your life can be a huge stress reliever if you’re looking to set up boundaries between your work and home life.

The best part about this is that it doesn’t have to cost you anything extra! Google Voice, for example, is a free (and easy!) feature that allows you to set up a different ringtone for work and personal calls all while still using the same phone.

Maintaining separate numbers and using different ringtones for each is a great way to switch between your work and home life… and it’s a great way to weed out unnecessary phone distractions when you’re spending focused time during your hours of business!

 

Communicate Clearly

This is imperative when it comes to creating a schedule that works well for you and for setting up the boundaries you need to ensure that your schedule is actually, well, doable.

Lay out your limits at work clearly! If for example you don’t want your clients, colleagues, and other business associates to contact you at every waking hour of your day, then it’s important that you verbally communicate to them the hours that you will be available for work-related conversations—both via phone and in-person.

On the other side of that coin, of course, it’s also important that you define what constitutes an “emergency” at home and at work so that you’re not constantly putting out fires that, at the end of the day, aren’t really urgent.

 

Incorporate Time Blocking

We’ve talked about the beauty of Time Blocking many, many times before… so, it should come as no surprise that I would include it here!

While it may seem that time blocks will actually eat up more of your schedule than you think you can allot, you might be surprised by exactly how much you’re able to get done when you make a point to block off specific periods of your day when you’re otherwise unavailable to colleagues, clients and the like that often create distractions that leave us feeling like we don’t have enough time to get everything done.

By creating these blocks of time each day, you’re not only giving yourself the space to focus on your tasks without interruption (particularly during your hours of business), but you’re also making a point to devote your time in an intentional way—ultimately boosting your productivity and effectiveness on the job.

(For extra help on incorporating this technique into your daily regime, check out Episodes 6, 10, and 12 for some insight!)

 

Set Boundaries at Home, too!

If you don’t want your home life interfering with your hours of business, then it’s important that you also set up boundaries when you’re investing your energy outside of your working life, too.

In that regard, when it’s time to head home for the day, make sure that you’re prepared to really tune out of work mode so that you can focus on your priorities that exist outside of that sphere.

Some great ways to set up boundaries at home include powering off your work-related devices (particularly if you have a business-issued phone or computer), and not checking your email when you’re devoting yourself to friend or family time.

 

Prepare for Violations

Let’s be honest… Sometimes the boundaries we set, no matter how concrete they are in our mind, can get crossed! When that happens, it’s important that we have a plan in place so that we can address the issue head-on… and move forward.

One way to prepare yourself for this is to visualize how you’re going to handle those situations when they occur. If for example your boss emails you on a Saturday, visualize processing your reaction and creating a plan of action.

Will you respond right away, or will you leave it until Monday morning? When you do get around to replying, what will you say to (tactfully) communicate that you were spending your time with your friends or family?

Building boundaries takes both time and practice. When it comes to your boundaries being crossed, view the violation not as a step back, but as an instructive lesson on how you can improve your boundary-setting in the future.

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What has worked for you when it comes to setting your own boundaries at work or at home? Share your experiences – what’s worked and what hasn’t! – in the comments below… And be sure to check out Episode 123 of the podcast this week to learn how you can overcome the chaos of your email inbox so that you can get back to spending your time on what matters most.

 

YOU’LL ALSO LIKE:

READ: Declutter Your Inbox With These 5 Easy Tips

LISTEN: Episode 123: Spend Less Time on Email: Don’t Let Your Inbox Own You

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton