Who out there struggles to set work boundaries?
I can’t you see you and you can’t see me but I am raising my hand. And I bet you are too. As moms, I feel part of our struggle comes from our caring hearts. We want to help everyone, we want to do all the things. But in the end, when we run ourselves ragged trying to do all things because we haven’t created good boundaries, we end up stressed, overwhelmed, and with no time for ourselves. Sound like you? This is why we need to set work boundaries.
This episode was inspired by a chat with one of the members of the Business Savvy Mama community. She told me “I feel like when I make a phone call or am dealing with a client request that requires a bit more texting, my kids are drawn to me like a moth to a flame. They will be peacefully playing with each other and the second I take a call or pick up the phone they are hanging on my legs. Then I get short tempered and irritated with them.”
Yep, been there. How about you?
That is precisely why we are talking boundaries today. Setting clear boundaries improves your work-home life. It helps you work more productively and get more done. Clearly communicating your boundaries creates a respect for your time and activities in both your work life with clients and home life with your family. And it can reduce stress around working because your boundaries help you work with less interruptions.
Can you identify your limits? Clearly communicate your boundaries and expectations? Can you invest in keeping those boundaries in place? Then you too can enjoy the benefits of setting boundaries.
The method we’ll talk about today differs from what you’ve tried in the past because often, we try to establish boundaries from a point of frustration or anger. Yep, been there too! We let the interruptions or additional tasks or constant calls outside work hours go until it boils over and we explode. And sometimes we let go on our family who had nothing to do with the overstepping client. That is why we are going to establish our boundaries from a place of calm.
So, where are we now? We know we need to work, we need to get stuff done, but we are also stuck in a cycle of “start a task, get interrupted or get frustrated or distracted and unfocused.” We let ourselves take on more than we can reasonably accomplish which eats into our family time or time off. We don’t shut off which allows clients to take advantage of our off-work hours. This is why we need those boundaries.
Setting boundaries now helps you accomplish those urgent and important tasks and get done what needs to get done. Usually quicker and better. And you’ll feel less frustrated and stressed on a regular basis. You’ll have work time, family time, home time and, dare I say it, self-time clearly established.
And setting clear boundaries creates clear expectations for your clients and your family. Your client won’t expect an email response at 10pm because you’ve told them you don’t work past 5pm. You children understand that when the door is shut, mommy is working on something that needs her attention but when that door opens, she’s all yours.
Steps to Set Work Boundaries
I completely understand if the idea of setting boundaries feels intimidating or that you’re afraid to not be available to everyone everywhere at all times. But trust me when I tell you, the sooner you shut it off and create a clear line between your work and home life, the sooner you’ll feel the weight of that struggle to balance it all lift. And here is where you start…
- Identify Your Limits…Notice how you react when you feel particularly stressed or overwhelmed. For me, I feel like I have to go to the bathroom a lot. But seriously, what is happening when you feel that physical or emotional stress creep in? Is it deadlines? Social media? Answering emails? Too much on your to-do list? When you identify the trigger, you can put a boundary in place to prevent stress. Stress over deadlines? Break task in to smaller chunks so the last day isn’t overwhelming. Social media? Put a limit on the time you spend scrolling. Email? Set an autoresponder saying you’ll get back tomorrow. To do list? Delete or delegate tasks that don’t need your attention. Identify the trigger, develop a response.
- Give Yourself Permission to Set Boundaries…We often feel if we work from home that we have to be always available to our kids. I am here today to tell you that is simply not true. Your job at home is as important as anyone’s job that is outside the home. You are allowed to set boundaries that say “I am working, I need space and concentration unless it’s an emergency.” If this is one of your triggers, refer to step one. Do you need child care? To work when your spouse is home? An outside the home workspace to create an actual boundary? You have permission to work in a focused, productive way. Repeat that over and over until it sinks in. I have permission to work in a focused, productive way.
- Have a conversation…When you’ve identified your triggers and solutions and given yourself permission, be sure to let the other people in on your boundaries. Have a calm, clear conversation with your spouse, kids, co-workers, boss, or clients about what your boundaries are, why they are important, where you need help maintaining them, and how it can benefit them. Because a focused, productive, accomplished, and happy mama shows up better for everyone. Right?
Your action step for today is to start a limit log. Brainstorm any of those triggers that cause you anxiety in your work and home life. Keep it somewhere you can reference when those stressors creep in. Once you’ve established the stress, figure out how you can put a boundary in place to protect your mind, stress levels, mood, and productivity. And remember to repeat to yourself on a regular basis “I have permission to work in a focused, productive way.”