Castaways marooned on a desert island and stressed business owners have one thing in common: they must survive! Catching up on Social Media is a far cry from building a crude shelter and gathering firewood, but sometimes it seems like we’re barely making it nonetheless. Before you give up and surrender to the natives, take a look at how you can set some personal boundaries in your life. Setting limits will help you get off the island and move closer to the professional success you want.
First of all, exactly what is a boundary? It is defined as “a line that marks a limit.” The lines in a parking lot clearly show where cars should (and should not) park. Without marked lines, fewer cars would fit and entrances and exits could be blocked.
In the same way, your personal boundaries mark the lines that prevent exhaustion, frustration, stress and even resentment. Boundaries can increase your productivity and improve your relationships. They keep you heading in the right direction towards the life you want and the professional success you desire.
We hear tales of survivors stranded on a desert island. One of the first things they do is gather materials to build a shelter.
Building Blocks to Set Up Boundaries
Here are some of the building blocks you’ll need to set up your boundaries in an area of your life:
Know what you want. Stop and think about what you want this piece of your life to look like.
Look at where you are now. What is bugging you? Where are the interruptions, productivity issues and frustrations?
Value your time….and YOU. When you stop to do whatever others bid you on a moment’s notice, or allow constant interruptions, you are under-valuing your time. It could stem from a deeper issue of self-worth.
Realize that good boundaries make good relationships. We train others how to treat us. Communicating our limits with people creates mutual respect.
Where to Set Boundaries
In what areas of life do you need to set boundaries? Here are some ideas:
Time – If you casually think that you need to get a blog post done, it could take all evening as you get distracted and think “Oh, I still have two hours till bedtime.” If you set a one-hour block of time, you’ll probably get the blog post done in that slot, especially if followed by a non-negotiable item on the schedule such as an appointment. By setting up a self-imposed constraint you are forcing yourself into efficiency. It’s sort of like your superhuman efficiency just before a vacation.
Tasks/Responsibilities – To some degree, your tasks and responsibilities depend on others. You will be expected to fulfill your duties and of course the unexpected will come up. But the boundary-less practice of saying yes to everything and piling more on your plate than is humanly possible can only end in stress, exhaustion and overwhelm.
Expectations of Others – Communicate to your spouse and family what you will and will not be doing. Make a plan with them to handle household tasks. Do the same with co-workers as much as possible. If we’ve decided to set new boundaries, it’s only fair that we notify others of the change, but we shouldn’t back up or give up when they protest.
Self-Care – If you think you don’t have time to take care of yourself, you’re going to have to take time to be sick and exhausted and overweight. Putting boundaries in place so that you have time to rest, eat well and exercise will protect you and give you an edge.
Space – It’s especially important for someone working at home to place limits on their workspace. Let everyone know the rules about your office supplies, office hours and office furniture. Chaos, missing supplies and constant interruptions while you’re at your desk will only create resentment and frustration
Action Steps to Create Boundaries
If you’ve realized that you need some boundaries to help you survive and thrive, start with these practical action steps:
- Start with a small area of your life that is causing frustration, such as not having longer blocks of time to write or a free-for-all of people helping themselves to your office supplies.
- Write down what you want that area of your life to look like. This might be “Two hours of uninterrupted, focused writing time” or “My office supplies are for my personal use only.”
- Take a look at where you are now. Cut out the emotion, just look at what is. “My day is fragmented by checking Facebook and email” or “My scissors and tape are both missing, and I had just bought new ones.”
- List practical boundaries you can set and who those boundaries involve. “Me: I will not check Facebook and email from 1:00 to 3:00” or “Family: No office supplies may be used without permission.”
- Communicate those boundaries to those who are affected. This is especially helpful if you explain the problem and have them help you set the boundaries.
- Use tools to help you enforce the boundaries: a timer, written guidelines, signals, reminders, visuals, an app that blocks websites for a specified time—anything that reminds you of your new limits.
- Periodically evaluate your boundaries and modify if needed.
Even though you’re not stranded on a desert island, you still have to survive your busy life. Having clear boundaries in place can protect you from overwork and stress. Setting limits may sound restricting, but it actually creates freedom. If you know that your life is in need of some new boundaries, set them up and experience the relief–and success!