work email

These proven ways to reclaim work-life balance will help you shut off the firehose of work email and after-hours phone calls once and for all. We've all encountered managers or coworkers who can't leave work at work, and it's tempting to let that behavior encroach on our own free time. Try these tips to regain control over your 5-to-9.

  1. Say no. It sounds obvious, but many of us willingly let others dictate how we spend our weekends. If you're asked to do work on a project over the weekend that can easily be done Monday morning, say no.
  2. Make yourself unavailable after hours. Another simple yet foolproof solution. If you don't want to answer work calls on Saturday, don't answer them. If you don't want to receive emails from your boss on Friday night, don't check them. By altering your behavior and setting firm boundaries, you'll shift others' expectations of when you are available.
  3. Make other plans. Whoops! You can't come in to the office on Saturday morning: that's when you take Junior to baseball practice. Schedule other commitments -- correspondence courses, volunteer time, fitness classes -- if they give you the crutch excuse you need to enjoy your free time. (See No. 1.)
  4. Wheel and deal. Sure, you can stay an extra hour on Thursday -- if you can leave an hour early on Friday or come in an hour later on the following Monday. This sort of negotiation sends the message that your time is valuable.
  5. Approach your manager. Your boss may not even realize that you've been suffering, or that her after-hours emails are bothering you. Instead of approaching her with a problem or complaint, come prepared with an idea or solution. You could start the dialogue by saying something like, "I've noticed that you've emailed me the past three Saturdays to follow up on the status of Project X. What if I save you a step and email you the status on all of my projects by 4 p.m. every Friday?"

Notice that all these suggestions have one thing in common: they require you to be assertive. How have you reclaimed work-life balance?

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