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Your Laptop is Your Pantry

It’s always there. Always available. Always tempting you. Like those pretzels or potato chips or donuts right there in your kitchen or your office breakroom. Work is always available if you want it. But you know that grazing isn’t a healthy strategy for your diet. It’s also unhealthy if you’re always peering into your work pantry.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

When work is always on and easily available, it’s vital you create some healthy segmentation—a separation between work and life.

You’ve got to close the pantry door.

To me, the key to success here is about being purposeful. Routines, rituals, and boundaries exist whether you choose them or not. For example, is banging out emails from your bed at 1 am. Really your most productive time?

Maybe. Maybe it’s the only time you’ve got. Hey, I’ve been there. But I’ve been there enough to know that no, crunching emails and working in the wee hours of the morning isn’t really productive. Sometimes things bubble up, but is making a habit out of working all the time sustainable? Helpful? Desirable?

Whether we realize it or not, humans are creatures of habit. What work habits are you cultivating? How are your routines and rituals helping you to practice success?

Striking a sustainable balance between work + life requires a deliberate design around your schedule—those boundaries are essential to your long-term success. Whether you’re working from home, hybrid, or headquarters, create routines, rituals and boundaries that define:

  1. A Strong Start: What is your routine for starting your day? How do you signal to yourself that it’s time to start the day? When you go to the office, you have a get-ready routine because you have to be somewhere, dressed a certain way, and ready to work at a certain time. What happens if this habit doesn’t carry over to your home office or hybrid office? Business is a process: working from anywhere is a process as well. What’s your going to work routine when you’re in the company office? What’s your going to work routine when you’re working away from the company office? Don’t leave your career to chance—don’t freestyle your way to success. Establishing a schedule is the first step in setting routines that matter.

  2. Are We Done Yet?: How do you know you’re not at work—what do you do, as a signal to yourself, that it’s time to end the day? Consider establishing a “stop time” each day and setting an alarm to alert you. When the sounding bell rings, what’s your ritual to transition from work to life? Being deliberate about how you use your time—especially your work to life commute time (whether it’s a commute of 6 steps or 60 minutes)—is critical to your success. Believe it or not, you can always make more money. But you can never make more time. Choose wisely: align your time in a way that’s deliberate. That way, you establish new routines that help you to take advantage of your most valuable resource—your time.

  3. Power Peak Performance: What every high-performance athlete knows it that periods of peak performance require periods of peak rest. Jim Loehr, author of The Power of Full Engagement, studied the intersection between high-performance athletes and high-performance executives. “Balancing stress and recovery is critical not just in competitive sports, he reveals, “but also in managing energy in all facets of our lives….Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.” How well are you managing your currency? What routines and rituals could you put in place to balance your renewal and recovery?

  4. Divest Before You Invest: When you invest in something new, you must divest of something else. To make room in your schedule and in your mind to make the most of your new path. When you fail to divest before you invest, you lay the foundation on which to build damaging stories. And habits. “I have to keep all the plates spinning!” “I’m sure I can do it all if I just try a little harder!” “I don’t want to be seen as a quitter!” “I’m so busy that I must be important! And successful!” Is that always-on routine serving you? Putting you at your best? Consider one thing you can remove from your calendar or your to do list as soon as right now. How can you make regular “energy investment reviews” a part of your routines and rituals?

The first step in breaking the pattern, so that you can maintain your energy and sanity? Build routines, rituals, and boundaries so that you step out of the time warp. Shut the work pantry with purpose from time to time. Be deliberate about your calendar. Set up your own guidelines for success, and you’ll define it in your own terms.

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