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Career Monday: Setting Healthy Boundaries in Business

With smartphones at our fingertips, boundaries around business are more blurred than ever. Applications like Slack and Gmail make us radically accessible, conference calls can happen at any time of the day, and laptops make it easier than ever to work on the weekends.

It’s no surprise, then, how stress begins piling up. Things happen at work that leave us feeling frustrated and burnt out.

We find ourselves balancing clients who cancel at the last minute, working extended hours, and juggling others’ expectations that we are always available.

If you feel resentful, guilty, or angry about things that happen at work, chances are you have overcommitted yourself.

The key to overcoming that resentment and achieving work-life balance is learning to set healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are lines we set about our expectations, availability, and energy. Because boundaries protect our energy and focus, they allow us to be more productive in the workplace.

And they do not have to be hard, aggressive rules. Boundaries simply prevent us from overcommitting and make our lives easier.

We might think that setting boundaries pushes others away from us. However, setting boundaries can actually help us have better relationships with others in the workplace.

Use these tips to set boundaries in business:

1. Explore what you need. Identify where you feel guilt, resentment, or anger around work.

• Maybe you feel anger towards a client who cancels on you at the last minute.

• You might feel guilty because you’re not spending enough quality time with your children or partner.

• Figure out what makes you feel resentment or guilt. Then figure out what you need instead.

2. Create structure around what feels right for you. After you understand what you need, create a structure to help you achieve your desired outcome.

• Set formal policies around cancellation.

• Set office hours based on when you would like to be available.

• Whether you work from home or in an office, set up a structure (like closing the door or working with headphones on) where you can work undisturbed.

3. Start small by setting boundaries in low-risk situations. If you have gone your entire life living up to everyone else’s expectations and demands, setting boundaries can feel uncomfortable. Start by choosing an easy area, like hours you will check emails, to set a boundary.

4. Be consistent with your boundaries. Be as firm as possible with your new boundaries.

• If you only want to take calls on certain days, stick to booking calls on those days.

• Do you have days of the week you want to be free from work?

• You get to decide where you allow exceptions.

• If you schedule a vacation for yourself, stick to it.

5. Delegate. What responsibility can you pass onto others? Delegating can help you free up time or address those areas around work where you feel resentful.

6. Learn to say no. You might have trouble saying “no” to things because you feel obliged to impress clients or appear dependable. Be in tune with how a “yes” might lead to resentment. Here are a few ways to say “no”:

• “Thank you, but this doesn’t work with my schedule. Here’s my availability later this week.”

• “I can’t commit to this right now, but let’s circle back to this in a few weeks.”

• “That sounds like a great idea, but I don’t have the availability for this project. I recommend asking (colleague) about his/her availability!”

Setting boundaries will look different for everyone. You might find that as you evolve into a different season of life or your business, your needs change. As your needs change, the boundaries you have around business will change too.

Overall, setting boundaries in your business can help reenergize you and the relationship you have with your business.

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