Every single day I quit the same thing - I quit my work.
Have you ever been home with your family and that little “ding” sound goes off notifying you of a new email? You immediately check it and feel the urgency to respond right away. While you are simply trying to get your thoughts from your head through your fingertips and onto the screen so you can press send, and your child walks over to you and says, “Mommy, look at…” only to be abruptly cut off by you with a response that resembles something like, “Honey, I need you to give mommy just a second - I’m just trying to finish this one thing then I can listen to you.”
I remember the first time this exchange happened between my daughter and me. She looked heartbroken. I knew I had crushed her little spirit. I knew the message I had just sent her was what Mommy was doing on her phone was more important than she is.
So I decided I wouldn’t work until after she was asleep.
One night after she fell asleep, I crawled into my bed, adjusted my pillows and opened up my laptop to answer emails and work on updating my website. As I was typing, my husband asked me a question. He received an incredibly rude response that probably went something like, “Can’t you see I’m typing? I’m working! Let me finish this!” My husband, who is the kindest, most supportive person I have ever known looked defeated. I’m sure he was thinking something like, “Well you’re always working so when would be a good time to talk? When are you going to have a second for me?”
It wasn’t long until I knew something had to change. These were the most important people in my life. They deserved so much more. They deserved my best. They deserved my undivided attention. They deserved a mommy and a wife who is present, who is fully engaged in them.
So I decided to establish a quit time and stick to it - every single day.
I start working around 8am and at 3pm - I quit. I’m done. I won’t see it again until 8am the following day. Here’s the thing: There is always more work to do - ALWAYS - but (and here’s the beautiful part) IT CAN WAIT. I promise. It really can. What I’ve found by establishing a clear boundary between work and home is when I’m at work, I work better because I only have seven hours to get it done. I work more efficiently. I don’t spend my time searching on the internet or looking at social media because I don’t have time to do those things. I know I don’t have the option to finish my work tonight after the kids go to bed because that is my time with my husband and it’s not something I’m willing to sacrifice. I not only feel more productive - I am more productive! I get more done during those seven hours than I ever used to when I took my work home with me. I leave work every day feeling really good about what all I was able to accomplish. I shutdown my computer, I don’t have email on my phone (you heard me right - I don’t have email on my phone. More on this later!), I completely walk away from it. I take off my business hat and as I hop into my sweet mini van (I still can’t believe I drive one of those), I joyfully put on my wife + mommy hat because it’s the best hat of all.
1) PUT YOUR PHONE IN ANOTHER ROOM
When my husband and I get home each day, we put our phones on silent and we place them on our bathroom vanities. The phones are still on, but they aren’t distracting us from our family. If we need to walk back to the bathroom to check our phones, we can. If we need to make a phone call, we can, but we aren’t doing this in front of our kids. I never want my kids to think my phone is more important than they are so I just made the decision that the less they physically see me with my phone - the better.
You are going to hear me say this a lot throughout this series - it's simple, but it isn't easy! Putting your phone in another room is a simple thing to do, but good grief it is NOT easy. In fact, it's hard - really hard. We've become so accustomed to having them with us at all times, to being totally available - it's a very hard habit to break and you won't break it overnight. I know I sure didn't.
When we first started this exercise of putting our phones in our bathroom, we were back there a lot. The beautiful thing was by having to physically walk down the hall through our bedroom and into our bathroom in order to do something as meaningless as scroll through Instagram or check an email that could have absolutely waited until the following day, we began to realize just how much time those little phones were taking away from our family. Every day we went back to our phones less and less.
This is what works for us. Figure out what works for you. I understand not everyone is able to be away from their phone for extended periods of time. The goal here is to figure out what is distracting you from what is most important? Establish what that is and then put a plan into motion of how you can do better. What is distracting you from being present in your life? Not your work life - your ACTUAL life. Your friends, your family, your hobbies - remember those?
*What is distracting you from your ACTUAL life? What change can you start today to be present in your life? I would love for you to comment in the comments section below so we can get ideas from one another!
2) Work from home? Separate your spaces
Setting up a professional-quality workspace is crucial.
A separate room helps create a sense of separation, making it easier to 'go home' at the end of the day. If possible, try to put it in an actual room with a door - a real office with a real desk. Tucking it in the living room or kitchen doesn't give you the separation you need to be able to quit at the end of the day.
I'm fortunate enough to have studio space downtown - miles away from my home. However, I sat down and seriously asked myself, "If the studio was no longer an option, what would I do?"
I really did think about this - I came up with a couple different options but eventually decided on this: we have a playroom upstairs. My daughter's room is downstairs. I would move my daughter upstairs and convert the playroom to her bedroom. Yes - this would leave us without a playroom, but that's not necessarily a bad thing (more on this later!). The reason I wouldn't want the upstairs room is because the lighting isn't great and I know natural light makes me happy when I work. Stella's room has a huge window and a door I could shut at the end of my work day. That is what I'd do.
If you can't dedicate an entire room - think hard about what changes you could make. What are you willing to give up to achieve what you want? As my dad was proofing this newsletter (he came over to see the kids one evening and said to me, "Hey sunshine! How's work? What have you been working on lately? A newsletter? Well I sure would love to read it!" He's so supportive. I love that man!), he told me that before I was born he worked from home. He and my mom lived in a two bedroom house - a room for them and a room for my sister - so he went out in the garage, cleared out a corner, put up two walls and a door. It was just big enough for a desk and chair, but it was separate so he could physically walk away and 'go home' at the end of the day.
*For those of you who work well from home - I would love for you to share what you do in the comments section below!
3) ESTABLISH YOUR QUIT TIME
Maybe you can’t quit at 3pm. Maybe you are working towards doing your entrepreneurial job full time, but you work a full time job to pay your bills right now. Maybe you are a nurse and work three 12 - hour night shifts a week - whatever it is - establish the boundary that works for you, for this time in your life right now.
I don’t like to look at things like this so permanent. In fact, I look at a calendar year like I did in college - spring semester, spring break, summer, fall semester, fall break, Christmas break (more on this and how I plan each semester later!). My boundaries change a little for each. Don’t overcomplicate it. Simply establish when you can quit work during this semester.
STAY AT HOME MOMS - In my opinion, you have the hardest job of all and I am in awe of what you do. I know simply from being home on the weekends with my three little ones how exhausted I am by the day's end. I would encourage you to establish a quit time - a time where you stop doing all the things and simply carve out some time to just be - to be fully present in the evening with your family.
*Now, I want you to comment in the comment section below what your quit time is for this semester. I’m here to encourage you, to support you so we can get back to what truly matters most. What time are you quitting? Go!