Dubai Diaries: Is your routine damaging your life?
Why by not setting your own work-life boundaries you could be harming yourself
A few weeks ago, my partner and I went on a staycation to Ras Al Khaimah. The sole purpose of the trip was to disconnect from the rigours of our daily life and rewire ourselves.
Some promises were made — no work calls or messages after 9 pm, no work talk after we entered home and focusing on things that we truly enjoy doing in our spare time.
The reason was that both of us were experiencing signs of burnout, having not taken a break in the longest time.
I came back from the trip adequately rested and thoroughly motivated — fresh mind and even fresher perspective.
Within a week of taking that vow, I found myself doing exactly the things I had promised my partner I won’t; though he kept his word.
I expected him to be disappointed, but all he did was to pat me on the back and say, “You will not change.”
I do feel I won’t. And that may have something to do with the fact that in the early days of my professional life, I was exposed to schedules that went late into the night.
I was fresh out of college and evenings, in my mind, were meant to rewire oneself after a day’s work (which, at that time, was studying).
Working late nights also meant missing out on family celebrations, meeting friends and not generally being around at a time when people are expecting you.
While those around me understood my reasons for doing so, what I didn’t realise was that I was creating a template for my work life.
If the job demanded that I should have been available in the evenings, I should have been careful to disconnect completely in the mornings. I didn’t and I let others believe that it was alright.
We love the routines we create for ourselves because it brings an order into our lives. These routines can be messy and they can just often be as damaging to us.
Most of us are tempted to believe the problem is the other person who doesn’t understand that we are switching off; but often, if not always, the issue is with us not drawing neat enough boundaries about these things.
In fact, such is our love for routines that we do not make conscious attempts to make changes to them.
Familiarity becomes reassuring. But knowing that familiarity can be injurious to our mental health is key to protecting oneself at a time when burnouts are rampant.
Many of us romanticise the 9-5 routines. Waking up in the morning, going to work and returning just in time to watch primetime shows or play with our children.
Modern workplace often does not give us luxury to remain connected only for nine hours. Its scope goes beyond.
There are, at times, urgent work calls or messages that demand your attention, but should that mean you reach out to your phone every time?
The key is to draw boundaries between work and life, assessing what needs to be addressed immediately and what can wait.
In the absence of this basic lesson, we will flounder. My learning has just begun.