In a world that’s becoming busier and where business is conducted 24/7, boundaries have become blurred or nonexistent. In many workplaces there’s an unwritten expectation that you are always on and always accessible.
But I wonder what would happen if you were to create clear boundaries.
Recently I was delivering training in large corporate organisation with a group of professional leaders. The recurring theme for these women became clear; they had failed to set clear boundaries.
For some this meant filling their schedule with small menial tasks not really within their scope of work, while for others they found themselves working excessively long hours.
I loved the realisation from one participant when she said, “I need to downgrade my relationship with my phone.”
She had found herself obsessing over emails and text messages from colleagues in her evenings at home rather than being fully present for her family.
Setting boundaries and sticking to them is difficult!
I think this has something to do with the need to please. Many of us equate being available, responding promptly, saying yes and helping out… with building goodwill and respect.
Unfortunately, in my experience it often does the opposite. Setting personal boundaries protects our personal space, builds respect and allows us to focus our productivity. People who work hard and maintain boundaries typically get more respect and better results than those who allow others to take them or their time for granted.
And how many people do you know that get burned out, stressed, over committed and over worked just because they cant say “NO”? Perhaps you’re one them?
How to set clear boundaries
1. Get clear on what matters most. Get clear on what’s most important to you in terms of your life and your career. A client recently had the massive realisation that what mattered most to her was spending quality time with her young children. She had however been increasingly focused on her work at the expense of time with her family. Setting boundaries has been crucial for her to better integrate her family priorities with her inner need to do quality work.
2. Clarify your standards. And by this I mean – make a list and write it down.
- Reassess the hours you are prepared to commit to work, both in the office and at home.
- Decide whether you will respond to emails, text messages and phone calls outside work hours.
- Get clear on what work you will routinely say YES to and what you will choose to say NO to.
- Notice what irritates you and create boundaries to limit the opportunities for this to happen.
3. Let go of the guilt. Beating yourself up and feeling guilty isn’t helpful. If it’s important that you attend your child’s school assembly or make it to a weekly yoga class… then be ok to do what it takes to make it happen. We shouldn’t feel guilty for putting ourselves first.
4. Prioritise and plan. The only solution many women see when their workload increases is to work harder and longer hours. In many instances this is definitely not the answer. It’s more likely to lead to overworking, decreased productivity, poorer quality work and resentment.
Instead, take some time out to review and prioritise your workload and create a plan focused on those activities that matter most to you and your organisation.
5. Take responsibility. Know that we teach people how to treat us. So if your team are dependent on you or you are seen as the go to girl to get stuff done or people are constantly interrupting you … it’s likely you’ve allowed this to happen. To put it bluntly… it’s your fault.
People are predictable. They will always take the route of least resistance. So it’s actually good to create a little resistance, eg: push back, say no, or respond on your terms not theirs.
Others will only respect your limits if you do.
Too often in our effort to produce our very best work, be seen as a team player or purely get through the “to do list” we allow our boundaries to be crossed.
And only you can set and maintain your boundaries.
It takes consideration, being intentional and persistence. Maintaining you’re your new and improved boundaries is about creating a new normal, for you and those around you. You need to be consistent and be ready for those who will fight against them.
But know… it will be worthwhile.