4 minute read

The power of priorities and boundaries

Working in a chaotic organization can be both mentally and physically taxing. The constant barrage of random tasking from multiple levels of the organization, coupled with rapid iteration, ambiguity, and the expectation that work is its own reward can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.

Looking back

I know this feeling all too well. In November 2022, I found myself on the brink of burnout. I had to take a step back and reevaluate my priorities. It wasn’t just impacting me; it was impacting the quality and quantity of time I spent with my family; negative impact on all of my relationships.

Looking way back

Like to the Greeks and Romans… I looked to the Stoics for some insight. These quotes highlight the importance of investing our time wisely, controlling our reactions to external circumstances, and being content with what we have. In a chaotic work environment, it can be easy to lose sight of these principles, but they can be incredibly powerful tools for maintaining a sense of inner peace and balance amidst the chaos.

“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.” - Seneca

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” - Marcus Aurelius

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” - Marcus Aurelius

“What is the point of having long life if we do not use it to prioritize what is important?” - Musonius Rufus

“You cannot pursue two goals at once. Do not try to do everything at once. Be selective with your battles.” - Zeno of Citium

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” - Epictetus

Making it real

After some reflection, I realized that I needed to establish healthier boundaries in my life to regain some sanity. So, I took action.

I identified the steps I needed to take to get back on track and then summarized them in an email to my direct managers:

“I’ve recently made some relatively major adjustments to my approach to working hours in an effort to improve. I perceive it will have an impact in my availability and response times, so I want to over-share in case there is any concern that something else is going on. I’m fine, just need some more healthy boundaries to sustain.

  • Working Hours - changed my working hours to 7:30 AM – 6:00 PM Mon-Fri in Outlook and set a recurring “Out of Office” block for the opposite
  • 24/7 access – I’ve removed Outlook and Teams clients from my mobile phone
  • Focus Time – made my peace with “No meeting Fridays”… switching my focus on keeping Mondays open for work to “catch up” from previous week, plan out work and priorities for upcoming week, and generally remember what work is like after a (hopefully) disconnected weekend(!)
  • Year End Downtime – I’m planning on taking 1 Dec – 15 Jan off at slow year end time to ‘recharge’. Currently working on coverage plan with my team to make it as smooth as possible. I’m hopeful that it’ll be an opportunity to reshape daily habits and get some quality ‘think time’

I’ll be looking to you to keep working on stable top 3-5 priority list … and for coaching on how to delegate workloads out to the team. As we’ve discussed, this is an immediate improvement area for me to scale impact and to provide the team more opportunities to grow and develop.

Thanks for the continued support and guidance,


Results so far

These changes were not easy, but they were necessary. Since then, my life at work and home has improved significantly. By slowing down and reevaluating my guardrails and boundaries, I was able to reprioritize my time and approach to work/life balance.

In a chaotic work environment, it can be easy to feel like you have no control. But, as the Stoics believed, we have the power to control our reactions to external circumstances. By establishing healthy boundaries, we can take control of our lives and thrive, even in the most chaotic of environments. It has been life changing so far for me.