Centred Content

Dear Joanna

I’m just a girl who can’t say no! I am working as a medical office clerk and my Reena job coach is helping me handle five bosses. Each one assigns me different tasks, and I’m learning how to multi-task and prioritize but I’m stressed and exhausted. How do I set my boundaries at work and hopefully return to a healthy work-life balance without jeopardizing my job?

Signed: Exhausted

Centred Content

Dear Exhausted,

I’m most impressed with the advice of corporate consultant/blogger Jennifer Winters of http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2013/04/26/3-crucial-ways-to-set-boundaries-at-work/. Winters recommends the following strategies to juggle a busy job with looking after yourself.

  1. Take breaks. Make sure you take your breaks including each meal time, depending on whether or not you are starting early or working late. Take your lunch for sure and small breaks throughout the day. Walk away from your computer and desk. Get some fresh air and exercise if you have time. Talk to people. Do what you need to do to have fun and relaxing time during this “time for me”
  2. Unplug. Technology improvements to cell phones and remote desktop computer access can make it possible to work from virtually anywhere. But despite the convenience, these technologies can also make it very difficult to pull yourself away from your job. Unless absolutely necessary, try to disconnect yourself during personal times such as evenings, weekends or vacations.
  3. Focus on your career. Prioritizing your tasks and responsibilities is key. Those that are closely related to you to achieving your career goals or your dream career should be the first on your to-do list. Winters suggests that “working towards an ambitious, long-term career goal is a great way to keep yourself motivated, focused and ultimately achieve success”. If you are already putting in those extra hours, make sure it is relevant experience for your resume as well as opportunities for you to learn new skills and improve on your existing ones.
  4. Put your health first. When work gets busy, it’s easy to find excuses to skip meals, choose unwholesome fast foods and cut back on physical activity. In the long run, though, an unhealthy lifestyle will only make you less productive by lowering your energy level and making you more susceptible to illness. Find convenient ways to make healthy choices, such as packing nutritious meals from home, taking the stairs or going for a daily walk.
  5. Make time for your personal life. To be a successful people leader, you have to set goals and carefully schedule your time. If you’re having difficulty balancing your work  and personal life, apply the strategies you use at work to activities in your personal life. Try blocking off specific times in your schedule to spend time with friends and family, or to unwind with your favourite hobbies. Similarly, you might consider setting personal go als, such as going to the gym or visiting with friends a minimum number of times each week.
  6. Ask for help. Get support. Meet with your mentor and/or with your boss to manage expectations, or seeking help from a professional, working through your challenges with others can help you get perspective on your situation, set appropriate boundaries and achieve a healthy balance. Know your limits. Understand what you will be able to reasonably accomplish each day. Don’t work alone. Get support. Are there opportunities with your team members to delegate?
  7. Just say no. If you’re too busy to meet with team members or take on non-essential new assignments, don’t be afraid to say no. When turning down work or a meeting, always give a reasonable explanation and, where possible, suggest some alternatives. You might, for example, offer to reschedule a meeting for a later date, or recommend giving an assignment to another qualified team member.


To submit your questions and comments to this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email jsamuels@reena.org