A reader asks asks, “Could you please write an article about the most important personal life/work boundaries that you have set for yourself that go beyond a regular day off a week and not friending the youth on social media until they’re 18?”
Great question! Here’s what I’ve done for myself. Now, my situation is different from many of you. I work for myself, at home. However, I’ve also was a pastor for years (before the social media frenzy and the pressure for constant availability.) But working at home does create its own challenges.
Here are ten of mine.
- One day a week with no email (well–truthfully, some weeks I have one day with very little email, which is not the same as none). I need to start tracking this more carefully
- Keep notifications off, and check email manually. I took email off my phone, but just put it back on for a trip. I’m assessing this. I feel the pull.
- Leave my phone outside the bedroom at night. I use a regular clock-radio as an alarm.
- Practice not thinking about work when I wake up at night. (I have to practice this….)
- Monitor how much I go on and on to my husband about work over dinner and how much I listen to him. (I have to practice this, too.)
- Limited time on social media, keeping my purposes in mind. Just this year, I’ve stopped scrolling through the feed. If I want to know about what someone is posting, I look them up by name. Cal Newport talks about using social media and the internet in ways that are satisfying. I’ve found that helpful in making decisions.
- Put my phone away when I’m talking to someone (personally or for work).
- Set a beginning and ending time for my work day. I did this when I was a pastor, too. Meeting kids after school was a great, if challenging, enforced deadline when they were young. Now I have to do it for myself.
- Staying off non-work websites during working hours, or work-related websites that are just a distraction (the internet rabbit hole….) I’ve just started tracking this by number. (0 is the target number.) It took me years to get to this. It helps me end my day when I had planned.
- I don’t usually read ministry-related books on my days off or on vacation. This is not a big challenge for me, truthfully, since I love fiction. In addition to the pleasure I get, wide-ranging reading helps me with the creative side of my work. And it was a big help to me when I was preaching weekly. I keep a novel available on my phone in the Kindle app for times I have to wait for someone
I know pastoral ministry can be difficult, when church members text you at all hours and expect a response. Most of my “congregation” is made up of clergy, so I don’t have that challenge to deal with. (Thanks for not texting me at midnight!) I do believe you can set some parameters with your people, but it can be tough to make a change.
What are your most important personal life/work boundaries?