Setting boundaries can be really hard—not just with others, but with yourself too.
For me, saying yes has always been much easier than saying no because I don’t want to disappoint the person on the other end of the situation. BUT, I’ve also been challenging myself to say no to the things that aren’t really right for me and have learned that if you want to start being taken seriously by yourself and others in both life and work, you need to start setting healthy boundaries.
Today I’d like to share some different aspects of your life where you can start to set healthy boundaries with the people and things that may take up the most time in your life.
But before we get to that, I want to emphasize how important it is to remember that this is a process that will take time and it will make you uncomfortable at first (and for a while after that). But, you have to fight through that feeling in order to teach yourself that you and your time are worth being protected. And remember, it will go away the more and more you practice.
So, let’s dive in….
Your inbox might control your time and day more than you’d like and if you want to start making time for work that really matters in the long run, this is a great place to start. My biggest tip here is to turn off your notifications IMMEDIATELY. Every time a little message pops up on your screen indicating someone else needs you and your time, you become distracted and feel you have to deal with that message right away. STOP THAT. You know where your time needs to be spent and email shouldn’t dictate your day.
Second, minimize (or even better, completely close) your email while you’re working on other tasks. If you keep Outlook, Gmail, or whatever email server you use open all day, you will be on high alert for other people’s problems constantly. Close the window and focus on the task at hand only.
Finally, start clustering the time you answer emails. Not sure what clustering is? You can check out my post titled “How to Master Your Calendar” to learn more. But, the most helpful tool I’ve been using is what I now like to call the “Email Power Hour”. Each day, I set aside certain hours of the day (usually 11, 1, and 4) and I power through answering as many emails as I can for that 1 hour time period only. Once the hour is up, my inbox is minimized and I’m onto the next task of the day.
If your phone, laptop, iPad, TV, video games, etc. control most of your waking hours, this one is for you. Much like with emails, the first, easiest, and most effective way to control when YOU want to use your devices is to turn off notifications. I know this may sound extreme, but it works. I put some of these tips from Jake Knapp into practice and since then, I can happily go hours without knowing where my phone is because I’m spending my time getting REAL work done (and doing it better and faster than ever before, too). By turning off text alerts alone, my relationship with my phone has transformed. My iPhone is now a device that helps me be productive, versus one that sucks up my time on things that don’t really matter to me (like social media).
If you want some more specifics on this topic, check out my previous post titled “Disconnect to Reconnect” where I share 15+ tips and tools to really be in control of your devices.
FAMILY & FRIENDS
Setting boundaries with family and friends can be one of the hardest to put into practice. You never want to disappoint the people in your life who love you, support you, and have your back, but if you want to start putting yourself first, than saying no to some things is going to be necessary. I’m not suggesting that you say no to everything because you should definitely attend kid’s birthday parties, holidays, and special celebrations. But, if plans to hang out and watch a sports game are causing you stress and making you miss out on important deadlines, than you need to speak up now, change plans, and start to say no in the future.
This is another one that will be a challenge for most, but it is so important if you want to create a life that makes you both proud and happy. Does this situation sound familiar: it’s Saturday afternoon and you’re standing on line for a museum/ride/show/event/bathroom/etc. While you wait, you take out your phone and think “hmm let’s see if I’ve gotten any new work emails since I left the office.” Within seconds you learn that you did and now you have 5 different people to respond to, all of whom think their problem should be your first priority. Has this happened you before? I bet it has. (I know I’m guilty.) Let me ask, are you ever happy you checked your phone in a situation like this? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the answer is no.
Going forward, instead of putting yourself in situations like this, set a rule for yourself to not check emails when you’re off the clock. If you have a tendency to answer emails or phone calls at 7:30pm on Saturday’s while you’re with your family, you’re not only teaching the person on the receiving end that they can reach you whenever and wherever, but you’re also disappointing and taking time away from the people you’re with.
Now, I want to clarify that emergencies are different than random emails. Urgent situations do come up after hours and those situations should not be dismissed. But, I also think it’s very important to point out to the person on the other end that this situation is an exception to your rule. By doing so you set expectations going forward, prove that you respect both your time and their time out of the office, and you might even inspire them to start setting their own healthy boundaries with work. (That has happened to me before!)
I know “FOMO” is a serious fear for some, but if there’s something you need to accomplish or a dream that you want to achieve, saying no to nights out with friends needs to happen. Now, let me clarify something from the start: I’m not suggesting you never leave your house again. Instead, what I am suggesting is you may need to start saying no to random nights out so you can get to bed on time and wake up early the next day to accomplish the work you need to do.
If the people you are hanging out with are truly supportive of you, they will understand that you have to put your priorities first. I’ve had to say no to lots of things recently (including this passed Friday) in order to wake up early and work on important and exciting stuff that’s coming for you on With Cheryl. (In case you haven’t heard, a big announcement is coming in just 3 weeks, so be sure to subscribe now and be among the first to get a special subscriber bonus!)
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These 5 different aspects of your life (email, work, family and friends, work, and nights out) can be a great starting point when it comes to setting healthy boundaries. Once you begin establishing boundaries in these parts of your life, you’ll begin to realize that putting your time and priorities first is not only possible, but it’s crucial if you want to be successful and happy.
BONUS NOTE: You may find that some people are much easier to say no to than others. Those who understand that you’re saying no so you can focus on what’s important to you right now (whether that’s you, your side hustle, your relationship, or anything else) are the people who really want what’s best for you. Take note of this because they are the people you want to keep in your life and make a priority going forward.
So, where are you going to start setting healthy boundaries in your life? Share one specific thing you’re going to say no to this week in the comments below. I got us started!