Achieving Work-Life Balance: Define and Create Boundaries

When I first started my business, I thought I needed to be available 24/7 in order to be successful. That led clients to think I was always available and caused frustration and exhaustion on my part. I knew I couldn’t continue like that so I took a serious look at what I wanted and identified what needed to shift so I could meet my client’s needs and regain my life!

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Last week we talked about identifying your needs. Now let’s talk about my favorite step: defining and creating boundaries. Boundaries are limits that define acceptable behavior. They are your limits. You decide what’s acceptable for you, your life and your business. Boundaries give you permission to say “yes” and “no” at the appropriate times. They are the key to guilt-free freedom.

Guilt-free freedom?! Yes. An example I have is around my work hours. I am clear with all clients what my work hours are and I communicate this in my outgoing voicemail message that states “If your call is after 5pm or on a weekend, please note that I will get back to you on the next business day.”

Boundaries solve problems. I cannot tell you how many people compliment me on that message, how clearly I state this boundary and how empowering that is for them. Honestly, most people are willing to give you want you want if they know what it is! Communication is the key to allowing others to meet our needs.

Boundaries are empowering, instilling confidence and allowing you to control your interactions with others. Boundaries manage expectations, making for smoother relationships with everyone, even with yourself. They even lead to happier clients!

So how do you create boundaries? You set up systems that give you a desired result. I don’t want clients to expect a return phone call from me after work hours so I let them know this in advance.

Need some ideas to get started?

  • Set and maintain concrete work hours
  • Send new clients a “welcome” letter explaining your hours, communication policies and preferred modes of communication
  • Create the next day's to do list (keep that list short and achievable!)
  • Stick to your to-do list with minimal distraction
  • Batch-task instead of multitasking (stay tuned for more on this!)
  • Commit to self-care

A new client wanted to take a weekday off as she works weekends and her partner has Wednesdays off. She worried her clients would think poorly of her for not working in the middle of the week, that they wouldn’t respect her boundary and she’d have to say “no” when they asked for something. I challenged her to simply let them know she wouldn’t be available on Wednesdays. This wasn’t about asking for permission, but rather about making a statement. Want to know what happened? They said “Thanks for letting us know!” That’s it. She set a boundary, communicated it and now she has Wednesdays off.

In the Vickery and Co Entrepreneur Survey, 55% of respondents said they have a hard time saying no. By saying no you are setting a boundary on what you will or won’t do. Once you have identified what’s acceptable to you and you communicate clearly, in most cases, your boundaries will be respected and the fear begins to diminish.

ACTION STEPS:

List your Current Boundaries

Examine your personal and professional lives. What boundaries are already in place? List these boundaries.

Identify what Should Stay, Change or Go
You’ve listed your established boundaries; now examine them. Which ones are really working for you? Keep these. Next, identify which are good but could be tweaked, then those that no longer serve you. Create space to make room for new boundaries that better fit the work-life balance you are designing.

Create a New List
Consider your ideal work-life balance and identify at least 5 new boundaries that would help push you towards your goal.

Setting boundaries is one of the most important things you can do in life and in business. Identifying where you need to establish or modify boundaries changes things. Without them, you’re likely to burn out more quickly and are not able to give your best to your work or your family.

Observe
Once you have done this work, observe the changes they created. Do you feel more in control? Are you more empowered? Does it seem like there is more balance in your life?  Let me know! We are in this together.