How To Set Personal Boundaries
I think a lot of people struggle with setting personal boundaries. Quite often we’re too afraid to offend and will shy away from that scary word…’No’!, and end up being involved in things which we’re not really that interested in. We become overwhelmed and sometimes resentful, but in the end, it’s our decisions that have led us into a situation in which we feel uncomfortable.
But knowing how to set personal boundaries is a cornerstone of time management. After all, how on earth can you expect to manage your time effectively if you’re unwilling to set boundaries around the things that are most important to you?
So, in the interests of achieving our goals and doing the things we want to do, here are three hints to set personal boundaries which will allow you to get on with your life without feeling guilty!
Have you heard of the phrase ‘manage expectations’? It’s kind of related to the idea of over- or under-promising on something and it can have a huge impact on our personal boundaries.
Every day of our lives, we’re managing other peoples’ expectations of us. In other words, our actions and behaviours are telling people what we will and will not do or tolerate.
These are simplistic, but useful examples…
~ If you always or usually agree to give family and friends a lift, then they come to expect that of you.
~ If you bake a great cake for the raffle prize, that becomes an expectation for future raffles.
~ If you offer to do a little handy work around your neighbours house, that becomes an expectation.
All of these, of course, are helpful and kind. They only become a problem when the expectation that’s been created in someone else’s mind is out of sync with how you plan to spend your time.
It’s important therefore to manage the expectations of the receiver, especially if this is just a one-off that you happen to be able to fit in to your schedule.
Hint: think of a task that you feel obligated to carry out and for which you feel a certain amount of resentment. This is likely to be an area where you need to start managing expectations in order to protect your personal boundaries.
Know What’s Possible Today
Do you fill your to do list with every task you can possibly think of until it looks like Santa’s Christmas list? Do you then set about your work, picking and choosing at a whim?
If that’s your normal routine, then it’s likely that you feel overwhelmed and also lack a true sense of purpose. Your day is being run by the needs and whims of others and your goals are getting little, if any, attention. In other words, your personal boundaries are compromised.
I believe it’s important to know what’s possible today before we can have any chance of protecting our own personal boundaries. This skill isn’t inherent, but it can be learned over time.
In the first instance, it’s useful to acknowledge and accept that there are a number of ‘housekeeping’ tasks that we should address each day. These could be email, filing important documents, team meetings etc (you get to decide for you).
Then there are the ad hoc tasks that come in which we may deem as ‘emergencies’, ie, we’ve assessed them as more important than other tasks we had planned today, otherwise we would make a note and schedule them for another day 😉 .
Finally, there are our goal-related tasks. Things that are important to move along each day, even though there might not be any immediate crisis if we didn’t do them today.
Now, with these tasks noted as work for ‘today’, is it feasible to fit anything else in? If not, why is it on your ‘today’ list?
Hint: Get a feel for what is possible in a 1-day timeframe using the thought process above. Then, use time blocking (block time out in your diary) to do these tasks. Once you run out of space, that’s it. No more tasks today, you’ve set your boundaries.
Dealing With Emergencies
Work and life emergencies crop up all the time. In fact, if you didn’t have the odd unexpected emergency cropping up from time to time in your life, then you’d be living a very unique life!
So, when an emergency crops up, what do you do? Are you someone who routinely deals with it and then gets back to your (planned) work for the day, or do you become mired in the drama of the situation?
Let’s face it, we can all get caught up in the drama, bad feelings, gossip, feelings of unfairness or overwhelm when things get out of hand, but, allowing ourselves to fall into the ‘poor me’ trap is just another way of ignoring our time management boundaries.
Emergencies or circumstantial drama can easily steal you away from your plans for the day. Of course, what ever the circumstance demanded needs to be dealt with. But, once that’s done to the extent that you can contribute at that time, it’s time to get back to your goals for the day.
Also, as an added benefit, getting back to your plans, instead of wallowing in the difficulties, unfairness or worry of the circumstances has the benefit of helping you manage your worry and stress because your mind will be focused on more productive activities.
Hint: Think back over the last week or so, looking for circumstances that have knocked you off your plans for that day. What could you have done differently? What can you learn from this so that the next time something similar crops up, you can get back to your plans sooner and easier?
These are just three tips that will help you set or re-assess your personal boundaries. Taking some action and re-establishing your boundaries will then give you the space you need to manage your time and energy exactly as you want it, rather than at the demands of others around you.
However, making changes that affect people around you will be unpopular and you must be prepared to stand up for your beliefs and your boundaries, because often, saying no offends, especially where someone has been used to having things a certain way.
There are, of course, may other ways we could improve how we set our personal boundaries which include knowing who your time wasters are and knowing what your time wasters are.
Related Post: How To Recognise Your Distractions
But making a start with these three hints will give you a great start in finding more time in your schedule to do the things you really want to do, rather than the things that you feel obligated to do!
If you have any examples of how you’ve set your personal boundaries or have any other tips, please leave a comment so that we can all learn a bit more!