37:3 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?If these or similar scenarios ring true, then you have a boundary issue that could be affecting your health, your business, and your family life.
Lee Matthew Jackson
This week I share the framework I use to establish healthy boundaries:
- Review my day/week by taking a snapshot of my daily tasks
- List out all my activities, making sure to highlight my regular activities
- Filter out non-essential activities that are wasting time
- Lay it out on a calendar to help visualise those new boundaries
- Practice and evolve to maintain a better work/life balance
- Communicate those expectations to everyone involved
This episode was inspired by this live where Lee openly discussed boundaries with the Agency Trailblazer community.
Welcome to the Agency Trailblazer podcast. This is your host Lee, and on today’s show, let’s set some boundaries. Before we continue, I would like to thank Cloudways for sponsoring this episode. They are my host of choice, and you can find out why over on cloudways.com. Now on with the show.
Let’s learn how to set boundaries and why it is important for any business owner. Have you ever found yourself responding to emails really late at night before bed?
I can certainly think of many scenarios where I’ve checked my phone, I’ve seen a message. I get that feeling of dread and of stress because I recognize there is something that I am going to have to sort out and I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about that thing until I run downstairs to my office at the back of the house, boot up the computer, open up my email, go and do the research and see the relevant emails questions to resolve the problem so that I can finally send an email back and go to bed and relax.
That was a really long sentence. But is that something that you recognize in your business? Perhaps it’s not email. Maybe it’s a telephone call from a client at the weekend. You’re hanging out with family and you notice several missed calls from a client and you answer the phone. And low and behold, they want to talk about work whilst you are in your space, in your family time. Or perhaps another scenario might be you check your email on Monday morning. And low and behold, a client had actually emailed you on Saturday evening requesting something and expecting get ready for first thing on Monday morning.
If any of those scenarios ring true for you right now, then there may be a boundary issue in your business and in your work life balance. And before you feel judged, please don’t, because I’ve been there many, many times. I set some boundaries. I break those boundaries. And low and behold, I find myself getting in a pickle all the time.
So the biggest lesson you can draw from this is that setting boundaries is a work in progress. It’s something that will have to change as your life and business evolves and changes, and that is totally cool and we’re not always going to get it right. The reason I shared those scenarios was to highlight the importance of having some boundaries in place. If you are being affected by emails late at night, that’s going to affect your mental health. If you are being interrupted by your clients, by work, by things outside of your personal space, when you are spending time with family that can really affect your relationships equally, it can really affect your business and your relationship with your clients if your clients are expecting the earth from you.
I created a business many years ago where I felt like I had to move mountains for my clients, and they came to expect that they expected me to answer the telephone instantly. They expected me to work at weekends. They expected me to be answering emails in the middle of the night or responding to texts. They expected to be able to send me something on Friday evening and have whatever it was, no matter how big a deal it was, have it ready for them by Monday morning.
And I found myself having to consistently push myself. I’d created this and I could see no way out of it. And what’s worse is I was attracting more and more clients who expected the same. This is because my existing clients were getting an experience that was amazing for them, but ridiculously unsustainable for me. My mental health was suffering. My family life and relationships were suffering. And believe it or not, my business was suffering. I was I was in a position of attracting the wrong type of client, not valuing myself enough, thus not charging enough and being stuck, attracting more of the same.
So you can see it’s really important to have boundaries because there are three core areas that you really don’t want to be messing up, and that’s your personal health, your family and your business. So let’s get practical and for the next few minutes, I’m going to share with you the framework that I use to ensure I set boundaries based on the activities that I’m engaging with and how I continue to both practice and evolve the plans and the boundaries that I set.
There are six easy steps in this framework, and the first one is to review your current day or week. The idea is to get a snapshot of what has happened recently in your life, and that’s in your personal space, in your workspace and in your family space. For example, in work, you could have been engaging in emails and client calls, responding to RFP’s, delivering services and so on. In your family life, you may have been having a meal together, cooking dinner, going out for walks and so on.
And then finally, in your personal life, you could have been meditating, reading a book, going for a bike ride, doing exercise. There’s all sorts of things that will have been going on in your life that you could note down next. You can use this list to highlight regular activities, things that you are engaging with on a regular basis week to week. This will be useful for when we’re planning our times, but also useful for the next step, which is to filter out anything that is non-essential before we start creating boundaries, before we start adding activities to a calendar where we plan things, we want to remove those things that we work on that aren’t essential to our lives.
It’s the same in our personal life. What activities can we remove that waste time and that are not essential? It’s easy in business because I can outsource what I’m working on or pass a responsibility over to another team member. But it’s certainly a healthy exercise as part of any sort of time management to cut away anything that is a distraction to your work life balance. We should now be left with a list of regular activities that you engage with on a personal level, a business level and with family.
And you can use these activities to lay out on a calendar or on a planner times where you can engage in those activities for myself. In the early morning, it’s my time where I’ll be reading, meditating, investing in my spirituality or perhaps even exercising, and that’s my time. That’s something I can put on the calendar. Equally, I will set 9am to check emails, create a space for client conversations and other work related activities. And then finally, for home, I can create time for my family, be at food, watching movies, going out together.
However, that looks that particular time is for family. By doing this on a planner, I can see what I’m going to engage with at what times and I can establish a boundary with my clients and with. My family and, of course, the most important person right now with yourself, the two final steps go hand in hand. We’ve mapped everything out and we need to practice these activities, practice keeping things within the boundaries that we have set.
And if it doesn’t work, we need to evolve them, move times around, move things around so that it will facilitate you having a good active work life balance and the final step to a company that would be to communicate, and that’s to communicate the plan and to communicate expectations with your family and with your business. That means my clients know at 4pm I do not pick up the phone and I do not respond to emails anymore. My day is done.
Likewise, my family understand that if the door is shut to my office whilst I’m working from home, that I am working and will be available at 12:00 lunchtime for us all to get together for lunch. It does take time for our clients, for our families and for ourselves to get used to the boundaries that we are setting. But it’s hard to set boundaries without all of that due diligence and planning at the beginning. So let’s recap what we said the framework would be step one review a recent day and week and a list out all of the activities that you engaged with.
Step two is to look at that list and draw from it the regular activities. In step three, you’re going to filter out all of those non-essential things that you are doing and looking to outsource or remove them entirely. In step four, we lay everything out on a calendar to ensure that we’ve got the space and the time to do what we need to do. This gives us a visual on our boundaries and allows us to carry on with step five, which is to practice working within those boundaries and evolving them to suit a better work life balance.
And finally, step number six is to ensure that you continue to communicate and set those expectations with yourself, with your family, with your clients, with your colleagues to help facilitate that better work life balance and to ensure that people are not stepping over their boundaries. That wraps up today’s show.
Let us know, how are you setting boundaries in your work life balance? Tell us over on trailblazer.fm/ group where you can join our ever growing community. This is a space where design and Web agency owners can gather together to support each other, share humorous gifts and make great lifelong friends. That’s trailblazer.fm/group. If we do not see you in the community, then we will see you in next week’s episode.