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Reclaim Your Time: Setting Boundaries and Prioritising Tasks

It is the lived experience of many of the women we work with that they often find themselves inundated with tasks that may not align with their priorities or career goals. From administrative duties to “office housework”, such as taking meeting notes or organising social events, these tasks can eat away valuable time and energy. Do you recognise that in your life? Are you ready to reclaim your time? We got you covered.

In this article, we’ll explore the impact of picking up less important tasks and ‘office housework’ on women leaders and aspiring women leaders, and discuss strategies for setting boundaries and reclaiming their time.

The Impact of Less Important Tasks:

It might sound obvious but picking up less important tasks has negative consequences for women leaders. Firstly, it detracts from our ability to focus on high-impact projects that contribute to our professional growth and advancement. Additionally, it can perpetuate gender stereotypes and reinforce the expectation that women should take on “caring” roles in the workplace. Moreover, it can lead to burnout and overwhelm, as we struggle to balance these additional responsibilities with our existing workload and personal commitments.

Understanding ‘Office Housework’:

Office housework refers to administrative and “invisible labour” that often fall disproportionately on women in the workplace. These tasks are essential for the smooth functioning of the organisation but are often undervalued and go unrecognised. Examples include taking meeting minutes, organising office events, and managing team logistics. While these tasks may seem minor, they can add up over time and take a significant toll on women’s time and energy. When researching this for The No Club: Putting an End to Women’s Dead-End Work, Linda Babcock and the other authors found that at one large consultancy firm, the median woman spent about 200 more hours on non-promotable work than the median man – that’s over a month of work time!

Setting Boundaries and Prioritising Tasks:

To reclaim your time and focus on what truly matters, you need to learn to set boundaries and prioritise tasks effectively. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Identify Your Priorities: Take stock of your professional goals and priorities, and assess which tasks align with them. Within SOAR, we work with our clients on creating their vision for their future which can then guide them to focus their time and energy on activities that create the greatest opportunities for development and growth towards that vision.

2. Delegate and Collaborate: Delegate less important tasks to team members or collaborate with colleagues to share the workload. Recognise that you don’t have to do everything yourself and leverage the skills and expertise of others.

This can include taking the time to understand your personal drivers and feelings around picking up that work – we often find that we feel guilty if we don’t! Being able to let go of that guilt can be key to stepping into delegation and collaboration.

3. Say No When Necessary: Learn to say no to tasks or commitments that do not align with your priorities or stretch you too thin. Be assertive in communicating your boundaries and advocating for yourself. For many of us saying no feels challenging.

This is why we encourage our clients to find their inner Queen – the part of themselves that recognises they deserve to have their boundaries respected. When we can bring that version of ourselves to these conversations, they can feel simple and impactful.

4. Negotiate Fairly: When faced with office housework or additional responsibilities, negotiate fairly to ensure that the workload is distributed equitably among team members. Often what is housework for one could be a development opportunity for another so creating an environment where there is open discussion of how these tasks are shared out can be powerful.

It can also be necessary to challenge traditional gender roles and advocate for a more inclusive and supportive work environment in some cases – remembering that bias is often unconscious rather than intentional, we can bring compassion to flagging what is happening with our team and speak up for a new approach.

Reclaiming your time as a woman leader requires a proactive approach to setting boundaries and prioritising tasks. By identifying your priorities, delegating effectively, saying no when necessary, and negotiating fairly, you can create more space for what is important to you, and both advance your career and create spaciousness in your life with confidence.