If you've ever felt pulled in too many directions and wondered why, a big part of the problem is boundaries. Boundaries are the lines that divide your work life from your personal life, and they can help keep you sane while allowing you to be more productive. But as with most things in life, it's important to set boundaries that work for you—not just any old boundaries will do! So sit back, relax (as much as possible) with a coffee on hand.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are the limits that you set for yourself. They are the things that you say NO to, the things that you say YES to, and everything in between.
Boundaries help you take care of yourself and your needs by letting others know what is okay with YOU and what’s not okay with YOU.
Put your boundaries in writing.
When it comes to setting boundaries, writing is one of the most powerful tools you have. The act of writing down your limits and sticking to them can help you make decisions in stressful situations that would otherwise be hard to make.
For example, let's say there's a family function coming up. . By putting it down on paper beforehand exactly how much time you're willing to spend at this event and what type of behaviour will make you leave sooner rather than later, then planning what you'll do once that limit has been reached—for instance, calling an Uber right away—you've got something concrete by which to guide yourself instead of just letting yourself get dragged along by the flow.
Writing down your boundaries also makes them easier for other people around you to understand: they're no longer ambiguous ideas floating around in your head but real guidelines they can follow when interacting with you instead of having their own assumptions about how open or closed off from others' experiences those bounds should be based solely on how things were going before now.
Plus if someone does cross one line too far? Writing down what was said/done gives some proof later on when trying to get through the emotional turmoil caused by such an encounter without any witnesses who might remember exactly what happened but not why; having written proof helps keep things calm even after emotions have died down so everyone involved has access again.
Learn to say “no.”
If you’re like most of us, saying “no” is not your favourite thing to do—it can make you feel guilty or even mean. But learning how to say no without feeling bad about it is an important boundary-setting skill.
You don’t always have time for everything that comes your way, and if you try to do everything yourself, life can get pretty overwhelming. If someone asks you to help them out with something at work or in your personal life (or both), ask yourself if this task fits into your priorities right now. If it doesn't fit in with what's most important for you right now, then politely decline the offer by saying something like, “I would love nothing more than take on this project but unfortunately I don't have the bandwidth right now."
Own your time.
Set a time limit for phone calls, meetings, and other distractions. If you don't have an external force enforcing the boundaries on you (like a boss who won't let you leave early) make sure that there are people in your life who encourage those boundaries and respect them.
Leave the office by a specific time. This can be as simple as saying "I'm leaving at 5:30." Or it could be something more detailed like "I'm leaving at 5:30 sharp." The problem with being vague about when exactly you're leaving is that it's easy to be labeled as someone who stays late every night. If no one knows when you finish work there's no real boundary established between groups of people in general
Know when to cut people off.
Setting boundaries is about knowing when to say no, how far you're willing to go and how much you're willing to take.
You don't need to let people push you around or treat you like crap. If someone has been rude to you, it's OK that they apologised. Forgiveness is your choice, but knowing when someone is getting too close or pushing your boundaries is also a choice. You get to decide what works for YOU!
Put processes in place for client interactions.
Make sure you have processes in place for managing your clients.
Use a CRM system to track all client interactions, from initial contact to project completion.
Use a calendar to schedule meetings with your team and create a work-life balance that keeps everybody sane.
Get into the habit of using tools like Trello or Asana for task management—and make sure everyone else does too!
Boundaries don't have to be barriers—they can help you be more productive and get more done, while feeling better.
Boundaries are good for your health. They can help you get more sleep, feel better, and be more productive in the long run. But it’s easy to think of them as barriers when you're used to a different way of working or living. You'll have more time for yourself. You might even find that setting boundaries makes you stronger and more productive!
If you’re looking to set some boundaries, I'm here for you. I know it can be hard to figure out where and how to start, but I'm here to help. At this point, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. Don’t worry—I understand! The first thing I recommend is taking a deep breath and giving yourself permission not to do everything at once. Start small: maybe just implement one new boundary today or tomorrow. It might seem like a lot of work at first glance (and sometimes it will be), but once you get into the habit of setting your own personal limits on what others expect from you while still caring about their needs too then life gets easier because there is less stress involved with making decisions about how much time each person deserves versus another person's needs being met through compromise.