How to set boundaries (and why it is important)

Have you found yourself responding to emails late at night before bed? Do clients email you at the weekend expecting results first thing Monday?

This sets expectations with your clients that you can always be contacted. Mostly because it appears to be true. Then, when you don’t manage to live up to that (unrealistic) expectation on another evening or weekend, it begins to damage your working relationship. 

So, if these or similar scenarios ring true, you have a boundary issue that could, over time, erode your mental health, family life, and your business. It is worth taking some time to reassess and then see how some boundaries could help.

Here is the framework I use for setting boundaries:

  • Review my day/week
  • List out all my activities
  • Filter out non-essential activities
  • Lay it out on a calendar
  • Practice and evolve
  • Communicate expectations

Let’s unpack each step:

Review My Day/Week

Start by sitting down with a piece of paper. Then, write down everything you do for a week. Maybe two weeks. Everything. Every. Little. Thing. Even weekends.

  • Include your personal time. Did you go for a run? Do yoga? Read a book?
  • Include your family time. Did you have a meal together? Spend the evening watching a movie?
  • And, of course, note your work activities. How often do you check your email? What else do you do for work? Coding? Consulting? List everything.

List Out Regular Activities

Soon enough, you should see some patterns emerge, and you’ll see some regular activities. Check for daily and weekly repetitions. What do you do every workday? Every weekend? Highlight from the review those activities that happen regularly.

Filter Out Non-Essential Activities

Non-essential activities are the things you do that are not related to the core of your business or otherwise don’t fit with your values. (And you probably know what they are!) These are the activities that take you away from what you do best.

Lay Out the Regular Activities on a Calendar

Then spend the time to map out what your average workday, workweek and weekend should look like. This makes it possible to visualize the boundaries between your work, family, and personal activities

Practice and Evolve

Once you visualise these boundaries, you can start to implement them. But chances are, you won’t get them exactly right the first time. Because life changes. Your first ideas may not be what you can keep up with – try it out – then change what needs changing.

Communicate Expectations

Everything until this point is designed to help you clarify your boundaries. Now that you are clear, you can tell others. Only once you communicate your expectations can you expect anyone to respect your boundaries.

So, boundaries don’t suck. Boundaries are healthy and good for you and for those around you, personally and professionally. Create the boundaries you need!

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Lee Jackson

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