Boundaries: The Separation Between my Personal and Professional Life

Repeat after me: my life shall not become my job. My life shall not…

I’m part of the marketing team and, almost a year in, I’m having to get stricter with my brain and the background processing it is constantly doing.

For a good length of time, I synchronised my brain switching off with my laptop lid shutting. Without even realising it, I started only switching off at the weekends, so my brain was still processing work in the evenings during the week. For a while, I carried a notepad and pencil around the house with me in case an idea struck me. I didn’t see this as a problem at the time. I looked at it with the argument that you can’t box creativity into a nine-to-five – I even worried a little about having a creative block during my working day and needing to make up for it in my own time. I quickly got into the habit of mentally working outside of hours. The problem with this lack of boundaries is that it goes too far: those evenings seeped into my weekends and then even into my dreams when I was asleep. Before I knew it, my brain was processing work 24/7.

Person quietly thinking alone.

The good news is that I quickly learnt that my creativity suffers far more in the longer-term if I leave it running non-stop. I learnt that I had the choice to either let my brain process in the background at a mediocre level all the time, or to go between having my creativity on snooze and properly giving it my full attention. Not only is the latter better for my wellbeing, but it is also more effective. I’d definitely rather have a few great ideas and feel energised and excited during the day than be tired out by the many average thoughts running in and out of my brain all the time. I can safely say that it’s healthier for me to hit the mental snooze button at 5pm each weekday.

This change came about because I went on holiday with a friend to Tenerife. I said to myself in advance of the trip, ‘you are not going to think about work, okay, Natalie?’. I didn’t convince myself. In fact, the first thing I packed into my suitcase was not my toothbrush, not my passport; it was an A4 notebook and about five pencils. Work was the priority for the July 2022 version of myself who was about to go on holiday. The August 2022 version of myself strongly disagrees with this. When you go on holiday, please make sure you take a mental break. Holidays are not just about your eyes seeing new sights or being in a different physical environment, but they are about releasing yourself from your usual lifestyle: physical, mental, maybe even emotional. The only baggage you should be taking with you is your suitcase.

Minimalist picture of sunglasses and books on a suitcase.

I’m sure that strong boundaries between work and home is applicable to lots of people and job roles, but I do struggle with it as a digital marketer. The content-creating portion of my job causes me to look at the world, things I do and conversations I have through a “marketing lens”. I often think ‘that would make a good Instagram post’ or ‘maybe I could write a blog about that’. Last week, I read a book and didn’t immediately make notes for a book review about it for the first time this year. Granted, I considered it – breaking habits takes time, after all – but I didn’t do it. I decided that that book was for me alone and would remain a personal experience. It had induced a lot of self-reflection and it could have been applicable to my work if I had wanted it to, but I don’t want everything I set out to do for myself to end up being for work.

It’s hard because a lot of my ideas take inspiration from things that I do in my personal life: the podcasts I listen to, the conversations I have; even adverts I watch or posters I see can spark thoughts that I want to incorporate into my job’s tasks. However, if we do not remain conscious of what is for us and what is for work, we can burn out or become unhappy and dissatisfied. I invite you to address the grey area between your personal and professional life, and question how effective your boundaries really are.

4-part grey area divided by smudged black.

“My life shall not become my job. My life shall not become my job. My life shall not…”



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