It’s that lovely time of year when I begin to notice the increasing day length: my journey to work now ends in daylight and I am almost home in the evening before I have to switch on the car headlights. I like the blurring of the day into evening, particularly when we’re treated to a fabulous sunset. Twilight can be rather beautiful.
The Twilight Zone: well, that’s not such an attractive option. Defined as ‘the ambiguous region between two categories or states or conditions’, the twilight zone is an unsettling place to be.
‘I’m finding it so hard to separate my work from my life – and my life from my work’ explained Claire (not her real name), one of my coaching clients. ‘I feel like I’m living in a kind of grey area, a twilight zone, where I’m neither one thing nor the other, there but not completely there.’
Claire works part of the week from home, part of the week in the office. She uses social media for work and to keep in touch with her friends. She also has a weekday at home on which she doesn’t do paid work but spends the day with her daughter. Claire’s husband also has a busy job so their lives are pretty hectic.
It was clear that Claire was frustrated and felt that this twilight zone feeling was preventing her from fully enjoying and engaging with her life. ‘Sometimes I feel like I’m tied to my Blackberry, just waiting for the next email or call, more poised to respond to that than I am with tackling the report I need to write or preparing for a meeting with my team. At home, it’s the same. I hear something on the news whilst I’m having a glass of wine before dinner and think “oh, I should tweet about that”. I need to find some separation between the two areas of my life.’
Working with this word ‘separation’, we bounced around some ideas about what that might look like for Claire. Physical separation meant that she decided she was going to rearrange their spare room so she could have a table in there for her work space, rather than sitting at the dining table with her laptop. Separating her work days from her day off with her daughter meant that she changed her voicemail and email bouncebacks to say that she was unable to take calls or email on her non-work day and resolving not to even switch on her phone that day.
Claire didn’t feel it was practical to set aside 20 minutes at the end of her working day to review it and decide what her focus for the next day should be: however, she travels to and from work by train so she decided to use that journey as her time to separate herself from work. During that 45 minute journey, she answers emails, returns any urgent calls, reflects on her day and plans the following day. Then Claire gets off the train, switches off work and enjoys her free time. Accepting the fact that she might well hear/read/see interesting items which would be relevant to her work, she keeps those separate by jotting them down on a notepad by her keys which she picks up on her way out the following morning.
All this is an experiment. Claire’s been working to this new regime for about six weeks now and so far, it’s going well. She’s ready to tweak the ideas if necessary but reports back that she’s feeling like she’s stepped out of the twilight zone and that her family, friends and colleagues are commenting that she seems far less stressed.
Today’s pebble for you: do you feel like you sometimes get stuck in the twilight zone? What will you do to step out of it?
I’d love to know what you think,
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?