Are your work days generally productive? Do you spend your work time getting done what you really need to get done? Do your customers and co-workers respect you? Do you feel happy at work? If you said no to any of these questions you may need to set boundaries at work.
How do I know? Years ago I had few boundaries at work (or at home, for that matter). I said yes to every request. I avoided conflict at all costs. I tried to appease everyone around me and paid more attention to what other people thought of me than what I thought of myself. I was unhappy, overworked, stressed, tired, and less reliable than I like to admit! Living without boundaries just wasn’t working for me.
Setting boundaries clarifies expectations and builds trust. Boundaries are keys to time management and work-life balance. Learning to set boundaries took years of practice and I’m still learning. I know I need to set healthy boundaries at work when I start to feel irritable, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Those feelings have been creeping up on me lately and I need to revisit my boundaries.
How to set boundaries at work
Before I can determine if I need to set boundaries, or what boundaries to set, I need to recognize I have a problem, that my life has temporarily become unmanageable. For me that means identifying that I feel irritable, frustrated, and overwhelmed.
As long as I blame other people’s behavior for my problems then I am a victim and my well-being is determined by everyone and everything around me.
When I take responsibility for my own well-being I discover I have choices. I am no longer a victim, I am an active participant in my own success. I decide how to respond, not react, to the situation. I can improve my situation by setting boundaries.
Determine what you are willing and able to do
I can only do my very best with the skills, talents, and tools that I possess today. I will consider my potential as well as my limitations to help me decide what I am truly willing and able to accomplish.
If I’m unable or unwilling to take on a task it is absolutely okay to decline or remove myself from the situation to take care of my mental, physical, and emotional needs. I might tell a boss or client I can’t work this weekend but I can put in an extra hour every day next week.
Define YOUR behavior, not anyone else’s
Setting boundaries is not about limiting anyone else’s behavior but, rather, defining my own. I don’t tell someone else what they can do, I tell them what I’m going to do.
Although I may be tempted to simply ignore an individual that interrupts me frequently, or even tell that person, “stop interrupting me!” but that’s not setting a boundary. Setting a healthy boundary might be to say, “I’m going to turn off my phone and close my door for an hour of uninterrupted work.”
Be honest and don’t make excuses
I’m an honest person yet there are times I have been less-than-honest to avoid conflict with a client or co-worker. The problem with making excuses to to avoid conflict is I remove the opportunity to share mutual respect and trust with others.
Maybe there won’t be a conflict, and if there is, maybe I will handle it with dignity and grace. Instead of making excuses I will simply be honest about what I’m going to do.
Show kindness, respect, and compassion
Setting boundaries is hard. Sometimes people get upset. Sometimes I get upset! Sometimes I don’t like other people’s boundaries.
When setting boundaries, as with all things in life, it’s important to show kindness, respect, and compassion to myself and others. We’re all doing what we can with the tools we have. We all have days of suffering and pain. We all have days of irritability and unreasonableness. I need to be considerate when setting boundaries and not heap too much responsibility on myself or others.
Life is wonderful, perplexing, challenging, and growing! When I set out to set healthy boundaries I don’t always get it right the first time. I take a deep breath and try again.
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Who are you living your life for? Are you creating a purposeful and thoughtful life, or more often than not stumbling through your life, reacting to people and situations?
The best way I know how to live my life is to live it for me. To be thoughtful and intentional in my choices, and loving and grateful in my attitude.
I tried for years to do all the right things all the time, yet I never stopped to ask what the right thing really was. I was usually doing what was right for someone else, not what was right for me. I was so busy trying to please everyone, I was pleasing almost no one. Do I really need to tell you I was pretty miserable at this point in my life?
I decided to start disappointing the right people. Let me explain; I can’t control what anyone thinks of me, really. Spending my energy trying to be something for someone else and living up to other people’s expectations is the kind of behavior that leads to feelings of resentment, frustration, and unhappiness. That’s not what I want- I want to be happy!
As I practiced putting myself first and living a life that is meaningful to me, I found the more I minded my own opinion of myself, the more others valued my opinion. The more I respected myself, the more others respected me.
Disappointing the right people doesn’t mean that I have a free pass to act like a jerk, ignore commitments, or otherwise treat others unkind. What it does mean is that I am honest about what I can and can’t do, I say no when I need to, and I do my best at whatever I do.
Accepting that sometimes I will have to disappoint the right people takes practice, and some days I need a refresher. Today just happens to be one of those days!
Disappointing the “right” people
The only person I can truly make happy is me, so I put myself first on the list. My immediate family comes second. In my life, everyone outside of myself and my immediate family falls into the “right people to disappoint” category. My friends, my acquaintances, my co-workers, and even my boss!
Doing my part
Putting myself first means taking responsibility for myself- for my health, my attitude, my thoughts, my feelings, and my behavior. I must do my part to be the best me I can be. When I’m not doing my part, I’m disappointing myself.
In my personal life I take care of my health by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, scheduling me time, enjoying time with family and friends, and caring for my mental, emotional, physical, and financial well-being.
At work I do my part by doing my job to the best of my ability, asking for help when I need it, challenging myself to learn grow professionally, respectfully communicating with co-workers, and having a positive attitude.
To be happy I must live in harmony with those around me. I will try to the best of my ability to be open and approachable, and be willing to work on problems to improve the situation for everyone. I don’t have to concede to others opinions, but I will at least consider them.
Though I regularly give my best effort to whatever I do, sometimes other people don’t appreciate what I do. When my efforts are not appreciated, hopefully that person has some productive feedback to share. Whenever possible I will do my best to accommodate others, and work together to achieve shared goals.
Disappointing the right people often means I am setting boundaries. Boundaries allow me to be considerate and kind to myself and others. I do this by being honest about what I am willing to do, as well as what I am unwilling to do. I show respect for myself and others by telling them what I am willing to do.
Setting a boundary can be as simple as agreeing to show up or leave by a certain time, setting a deadline, taking on a specific task, or saying no when I am honestly unwilling or unable to agree to a request.
Sometimes life brings unexpected change. As I work on living a great life, I must be adaptable to change and reassess my position as needed.
If I find myself over-committed, or unable to follow through due a change in my situation, I can quit. I can cancel plans, or come up with a different solution. Adjusting to change doesn’t mean I’m irresponsible- I’m being honest about what I can and can’t do.
It’s okay to make mistakes! Making mistakes is how we learn and grow. Making mistakes can lead to great revelations. We’re all human and we all make mistakes.
Sometimes making a mistake is the very thing that disappoints another person. Though I do my best every day, I hope that when I make a mistake the right people will be understanding.
When I am taking good care of myself and living a purposeful life, I can share my happiness and health with others. Disappointing the right people means sharing my life and my gifts with others when I have first taken care of me.
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Growing up I was taught to be agreeable and that “no” is a bad word. The truth is, all I got out of being overly agreeable and avoiding saying “no” was unhappiness and stress. Since I did not want a life of unhappiness and stress, I learned to stand up for myself, set and follow through on appropriate boundaries, and say “no”.
Some of the disadvantages to saying “yes” too often include:
• Wasted time and energy on unimportant requests
• Valuing someone else’s time over your own
• Increased requests for your time and efforts
• Missed deadlines
• Decreased quality of work
• Taking responsibility for others
• Helping others avoid appropriate and fair consequences of their behavior
• Lost focus, confidence and creativity
• Setting aside your well-being
• Sacrificing your health and happiness
• Feeling overwhelmed, resentful, frustrated and worn-out
The disadvantages of being overly agreeable are not pretty, and they are certainly do not promote healthy living!
The advantages of saying “no” when appropriate are many! Here’s how you can improve your life by saying “no”:
• More time and energy pursuing your goals
• Better time management
• Spending time on what what’s important to you
• Respecting yourself
• Earning the respect of others
• Becoming more reliable and trustworthy
• Being realistic about what you can and can’t do
• Increased credibility
• Showing confidence in other people’s strengths, skills & talents
• Believing in someone else’s ability to handle difficult situations
• Giving others room to take chances and grow
• Giving yourself more opportunities to learn and grow
• Being better positioned to help others when truly necessary and advantageous to everyone
• Boosting creativity and innovation
• Taking care of yourself
• Feeling balanced, confident, focused and strong
The word “no” is not a bad word. Like most things, “no” is healthy when used appropriately and for the right reasons. Saying “no” can drastically improve your personal life and your professional standing.
If you’re stuck, here are some tips on how to say “no”.
I love your comments! Do you find it difficult to say “no”? What have you gained by saying “no” in your life?
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This week- scratch that- this month has been incredibly busy for me at work and home and I’m finding myself to be a bit overworked and bit overtired. What a great opportunity for me to take a look in my work-life balance toolbox and put those tools to good use!
When life gets busy, the most important thing I can do to maintain balance is take care of my basic needs. I need to get enough sleep, eat three meals a day, take a walk, stretch my body, laugh, relax and have a little fun each day. Practicing self-care keeps me healthy, focused, and better able to make good decisions in my work and my life.
It’s also important for me to let my goals guide my choices. I have limited time and lots to do! I am able to make good decisions when I let my goals and values guide my energy and effort instead of running around putting out fires and checking off unimportant to-dos.
When I’m busy I find myself getting caught up in the rush without giving purpose or value to my activities. When this happens I go back to the basics of working mindfully. When I’m not working mindfully I feel drained instead of energized as I jump from task to task. Being active, open and aware of the present moment allows me to give my best effort at whatever I am doing.
When I am working mindfully, I stop multitasking and allowing what I can accomplish one thing at a time be enough because, after all, it really is enough! We often tell ourselves we have to get more done than is truly important and necessary.
I’m better able to balance my work-life by saying no when I need to do so. Saying no appropriately allows me to follow through on my commitments, effectively manage my energy and efforts, and create clear and honest boundaries.
I love your comments! How do you balance your work-life? What is it like for you when you are overwhelmed? How can you live the life you want today instead of living life as it rushes past you?
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You may think mindfulness is a spiritual or meditation practice but mindfulness is so much more than that. The benefits of mindfulness are many and you can put mindfulness into action in your work and your life today. Mindfulness allows you to have greater enjoyment of life, as well as improved concentration. Mindfulness can focus and inspire innovation and productivity.
Psychology Today defines mindfulness as, “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
How can a practice of mindfulness benefit your career? Mindfulness can help you do your best work, and feel confidence in your abilities without the stress of your boss’s, client’s or your own expectations. When you are being mindful in your work, you are working in the moment and awakening to your success. Paying careful attention to your work, without judgment, allows you to consider alternative methods to accomplish your work, gain a deeper understanding of business concepts, and opens your mind to innovative and creative ideas.
Let’s consider mindfulness as more than an abstract thought. You can put mindfulness in action in your life this very minute.
Inventory your work
Just as a retail store counts and records the quantity of their product stock, you can inventory your tasks, talents and time.
The purpose of this exercise is not to judge your tasks, talents and time as good or bad, positive or negative. The purpose of your inventory is to assess what you need, what you have, and how much time it will take.
You can start your inventory by answering these simple questions: Who?, What?, Where?, Why?, When?, and How?
Who is the end recipient of the information?
Who will be involved with the task?
What is the purpose of the project?
What do you need to accomplish the task?
What is the desired result?
Where will your report be put to use?
Why is it needed?
When is it needed?
How will you accomplish the task?
How is the desired result measured?
Recognize your limitations
Once you’ve taken your project inventory, assess the tools you need to accomplish the desired result. It’s important not to judge your inventory results, only to recognize what you have versus what you need.
It’s likely there are tools, skills or resources you need that you don’t have. This is your opportunity to ask for help, delegate, ask for more time, or determine a boundary. Setting a boundary may sound something like, “I haven’t been trained on this project, but I’m willing to give it my best effort.”
Accepting your limitations doesn’t mean you’re not up to the task, it does tell your employer or client you’re taking ownership of your product, that you care about communication and meeting shared goals and needs.
Engage yourself in your work
Have you ever worked on project that didn’t require much thought or attention and you simply did exactly what you were told without considering the task in front of you? Don’t be content to merely do, instead you can be present. Think about what you are doing!
Consider your actions. You are encouraged not to judge your actions as right or wrong, simply consider them. What are you doing? What other method, software, or process might you use? Brainstorm possibilities from the realistic to the ridiculous, even if you don’t change your action. Sometimes it’s enough to know your options.
What skills, talents and experience are you putting to good use? Think about past projects where you may have used similar solutions or methods. Perhaps you can refresh an languishing skill or expand your experience.
How does your work align with your client, team or company? You are part of something bigger, an essential member of a larger community. What you do affects that larger community, just as your community affects you. This awareness can lead to collaboration, information sharing, and appreciation.
Be thoughtful about what you’re doing. Engaging in your work means you are mindfully participating, considering your actions, methods and your responsibility. When you are being mindful in your work, you are actively engaging and participating in your career and your success.
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