By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
In our workaholic society, working long, hard hours is accepted—even glorified—and masked as a good characteristic to possess. But that seemingly hard work ethic may be wreaking havoc on our relationships. Although in some instances, people need to work long hours to make ends meet, we often use work not only as a status symbol but also to stuff previous pain and other emotions we want to avoid.
Work Is a Part of God's Plan
Although work is a part of God's plan for us, it is important to keep work where it belongs—at work. When you come home, it is best to focus your time and energy on your family, friends, and on God. But with technology that comes home with us, it is tempting to answer emails and take phone calls when we are supposed to be at rest. Here are six ways to keep work at work:
1. Draw Proper Boundaries
A great resource to help you do this is Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. In it, they help people who have trouble saying no to prioritize important parts of their lives and rid themselves of toxic people in their lives. In the same way, when a person can't say No to that boss that calls ten times on their day off or that never-ending pile of paperwork that someone else in the office can drain you of much-needed mental, emotional, and physical energy. In order to get much-needed rest and have good relationships with others, we must learn to say "No." Although it may be difficult to say "no" to the boss, the boss may take advantage of your generosity if you teach them it is ok and your life doesn't count.
Practice drawing boundaries with the easiest person first. Start by saying no to your spouse or children until you feel comfortable. Don't accept extra work on weekends, and let your workday (with some exceptions) end at the designated shift. Work up until you can say "no" to the most intimidating people in your life.
2. Make the Best Use of Your Time
As much as we hate to admit it, we may not be as productive as we'd like to be during our workday. Studies show we are productive about four out of the eight workday hours. Throw in a company meeting or unexpected phone call, and it can throw off our work-related goals. We may start off with great intentions, but that co-worker who asks to meet with us unexpectedly or scrolling the internet instead of working on that project means we may have to bring our work home with us. Set small goals and plan for breaks throughout the day. When you are constantly working from 9-5 and not giving yourself breaks, it is easy for your mind to wander or to take breaks and lose focus on the tasks at hand.
Set a timer on your phone for 90 minutes. Vow to work the hardest at your tasks within that 90 -minute parameter. Then reward yourself by looking at that website, taking a walk, or getting a snack to keep your energy up for the next 90-minute window of work.
3. Take a Sabbath
Genesis says, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."
It is God's plan for his people who work six days a week and rest for an entire 24-hour period. But with laptop computers, phones, and apps, it is tempting to answer what email or call that client on your day off. Your body needs to regularly recover as that increases productivity, not decrease it. Choose one day a week when you can cease all work. It may have to vary each week, but God doesn't have a specific day when your sabbath has to be. As long as it fits your schedule and it's a full 24-hour period, it can be considered a Sabbath. During this time, go shopping or participate in your favorite hobby. Focusing your mind on something other than work helps the brain to refresh and renew from the mental energy it takes to complete your job.
4. Prioritize Rest
We often equate rest as merely sleeping in or taking a nap. But there are other areas of rest we need to focus on if work is to stay out of the home and in the cubicle where it belongs. There are several types of rest besides physical: mental, creative, emotional, and technological, just to name a few. To fully rest means we take rest in every sense of the Word. We may not be able to take a vacation every year, but are there other ways we can unplug and recharge our minds and body? Can we stay at a friend's house or visit family in place of an expensive excursion? Can we learn a new skill or travel to a new place we've never been to before? Discover places and activities that fill our spiritual tanks, and soon discover rest doesn't have to be closing your eyes but rather rejuvenating your soul.
5. Turn the Phone Off
Although this is equally as difficult as keeping a Sabbath, your phone may contain apps and other access to websites you may need for your job, intensifying your temptation to work at home and not keep your job at your job. Turn your phone off for twenty-four hours (preferably during your Sabbath). There's rarely an email so dire that it must be answered on a day off. And if you are constantly checking email and social media, your mind is not getting its proper rest. Furthermore, if you do read that much-anticipated email, your mind will be focused on that email rather than being fully present with your family and other important relationships. If keeping it on but not checking it is too tempting, turn the phone completely off. It is not only good for your mental sanity but also for the well-being of the successful maintenance of the phone.
6. Plan Your Time Off
When we finally get time off, we often spend so much time trying to figure out what to do in our free time that we've spent it planning instead of enjoying it. Sometimes you may need to flee the home and go somewhere else to keep your mind present. Home, as comforting as it may be, may pose serious distractions. That home repair that needs to be done, that bill that needs to be paid, or that phone call that needs to be made will stare you in the face. If you need a cheap place to go, so you are not at home, go to a park or your favorite hangout spot. Try the beach or a cabin if nature is a place of respite for you. Whatever makes you most rested, strive to do that.
Nowadays, it is harder than ever to keep work at work and your mind fully engaged. It is not only vital to have good social relationships and to get your mind, body, and soul the rest it needs. By drawing some clear and firm boundaries and taking the rest on a regular basis, work will become less of a priority and more of the important but not primary focus of your life.
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.