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Maintaining Personal Boundaries: Keeping Work at Work

Updated on August 31, 2011

Does it ever feel like your life is just a blur?

Everything happens so fast. Time goes by so quickly. The next thing we know the day is over and we haven’t got anything accomplished. Personal boundaries in today’s society are rarely clear cut lines separating one activity from another. Instead our work blurs into our home life and our personal life blends into our professional life.

When we get to the point where we don’t know whether we are coming or going, it’s time to realign those boundaries. We must regain control of our own schedules before our lives spin out of control. Personal boundaries are in fact very personal. Each family, each individual must set their boundaries according to what works for them.

The purpose of boundaries in our lives is to keep life from getting messy. Boundaries tell us ahead of time what’s appropriate and what isn’t. For example, fidelity in a marriage is a boundary. When we keep within that boundary, we aren’t confused on who we should be with. Other aspects of life have boundaries as well. Work is to be done during the work-day. Personal life is to be lived outside of work. While that may sound simple enough, it’s easy to let those types of boundaries slip.

There have been times when my own boundaries have been blurred or out of line. Many times I’ve brought my work home with me or allowed it to seep over into family time. Even if I wasn’t actually “working”, I was thinking about work, talking about work, or constantly checking my work e-mail. I’ve learned, however, that this can cause resentment and bitterness. I never want my husband or my children to feel as if I’ve prioritized my work over them. For this reason, I have set the boundary not to do any work related work after 6:00 pm.

It wasn’t until I breached my own boundary that I realized its importance in keeping me balanced. I had a few extra minutes once on a Sunday evening and I decided to check my work e-mail before going to bed. I wasn’t really working, I reasoned with myself, I just wanted to see if anything was going on. Among the handful of meaningless e-mails, however, was a message from someone who was very upset over a miscommunication. While it wasn’t my fault, I immediately felt my heart sink. The rest of the night, I tossed and turned going over the e-mail in my mind again and again. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and planning what I would say or do to smooth out the situation.

There was nothing that I could do about this until I went into the office the next day. Yet because I’d checked the messages, I was stressed and had a very disturbed night’s sleep. Had I waited until Monday morning to check my e-mail, I would have saved myself much strife.

This happened another time on a more positive level. Again, I checked my e-mail when I knew I shouldn’t have. I had a big event coming up, I’d reasoned, and I just needed to check on something. The e-mail that kept me up that night was a good one. A group of people that I hadn’t been expecting were going to attend my event. While this was great news, I still tossed and turned all night thinking about things I would need to do to for this group at the event. When I did sleep, I dreamt about the e-mail. Had I checked it the next morning at work, I would have still been excited about the additional attendees, but I would have had a clearer mind to deal with the details. I wouldn’t have been as sleep deprived either!

Can You Relate?

Have you found your work blurring into your home life? What about your personal life blending into your professional life? Do you find yourself thinking or worrying about what’s going on at home while you’re at work? Do you have to take care of personal calls or appointments during the day? While some of that cannot be avoided, I wonder if we would need to take care of as many personal items during the work day if we were keeping our work life separate from our home life.

For example, if you’re overloaded at work and you’re bringing your work home with you and that is causing resentment and bitterness in your family, you’re going to go to work the next day and feel guilty. While you’re at work, you’re going to worry about things that were said the night before or the promises that you’d broken and it’s going to affect your work productivity. That in turn will cause you to have to bring your work home again or for you to worry about work once you go home that evening. When our boundaries are blurred, it becomes a vicious cycle.

Regain Control!

If you’ve found that you need to reconsider your boundaries and regain control of your life, there are a few things to keep in mind. Everyone’s personal boundaries are going to be different. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Make a list of your priorities. What’s really important in your life? While your work is important, your family should be the priority. Look at how you spend your day, your evening, and your weekend. Do your actions reflect that priority? How would your family answer that question?
  • Make a decision to keep work at work. If you must bring work home with you, set aside a certain time when it’s most convenient for your family for you to work on it. Don’t accept work e-mails on your phone during family time. The constant interruptions from the office may seem insignificant to you, but they speak volumes to your family.
  • Strive to be more productive at work. Utilize your office time to get the job done. Figure out your most productive time of the day and take advantage of it. Eliminate interruptions as much as possible. Don’t spend so much time at the watercooler. Stop looking up videos on You-Tube and updating your Facebook status during the day. Don’t complain that you have too much work to do when you aren’t actually doing your work.
  • Develop better time management skills. I’ve learned to schedule most of my meetings during one or two days during the week so that I can focus on work items the other days. Block out certain times of the day to get tasks done.
  • Learn to disengage. Use the drive home as a buffer between work and home. If you drive in heavy traffic, listen to soothing music. Try turning off the radio entirely. Put the work day behind you and start focusing on the family ahead of you.
  • Reengage with your family. Don’t gripe and complain about your day. Don’t overshadow them with your successes and accomplishments either. Ask them about their day instead. Show an interest in what your spouse did at work or what your kids learned at school. Put the focus on them and show them that they really are your priority.
  • Schedule family times and stick to it. If you’re going to make the promise, make sure you can keep it. If you’re going away for the weekend, turn the phone off or leave your laptop at home. When you’re with your family, be with your family. Be present. Be all there.
  • Get a good night’s rest. Don’t check your e-mail before going to bed. Leave your work for the morning. Sleep deprivation causes us to be sluggish and make poor decisions. If you’re going to be more productive at work so that you can spend family time with your family, then you are going to need some good rest.

Personal boundaries are a great way to maintain balance in our lives. By recognizing that there are certain times for certain activities we can keep our priorities straight and our schedules from spiraling out of control. There will be times and seasons, however, when we will be busier or in crisis mode at work. If we are able to maintain boundaries such as these on a regular basis though, our families will be more understanding and helpful during those times.

What are your personal boundaries? Do you have some guidelines that help you determine your schedule or how you spend your day? I’d love to hear how you’ve but boundaries into practice or how these steps may be helpful to you. Please use the comment section below for your thoughts. If you enjoyed this Hub, please be sure to vote it up! Thanks for reading!


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    This is a very good piece, being at times I definitely do see the blur of home life and work life. Very inspirational

  • kimh039 profile image

    Kim Harris 

    6 years ago

    I'm good at keeping work at work and home at home. Where I work, we have the option of working at home. Everyone who does it, loves it. I have passed, though, because I really do feel like that is a blurring of boundaries.

  • mieketownsend profile image


    7 years ago from Washington State

    Thanks for this hub!! My life is currently a blur of school, meetings, and family life and I'm feeling overwhelmed by it these days. Its so easy to get to this point. Ugh!

  • lisabeaman profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

    Thanks for the comments! Very true - our families will always be our families. It's so important to put them above the temporary. Thanks for reading (and voting!)

  • viking305 profile image

    L M Reid 

    8 years ago from Ireland

    Yes it is very important to set boundries otherwise as you say our work and personal life becomes blurred. Our family will be always there our work could disappear overnight! Voted up

  • LeanMan profile image


    8 years ago from At the Gemba

    I am very lucky, I can totally switch off my work when I leave the gate! You have to or you would go mad!

  • kaltopsyd profile image


    8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

    More people need to read this Hub! Voted up! Thanks.

  • lisabeaman profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

    Thanks for the comments!

    @Pamela - your are right... but I think that traditionally we think of men putting work ahead of their families. More and more, however, women are losing their sense of priorities and becoming disengaged with the family relationships. Being careful what we say yes to is very important!

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    A very important topic. Keeping boundries in place at work or anywhere is vital.


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I think this is an excellent hub and I think woman quite often have a problem with boundaries than men, particularly if they have children, work outside the home but have to cook, etc. I have had a problem with boundaries and I am much more careful about saying yes to someone when they want something than I use to be.

  • miss_jkim profile image


    8 years ago

    Great hub! I found this informative with good wisdom. We all need to sit down and re-evaluate our priorities and time management. It’s easy to get overloaded and let things get out of whack.


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