What does it mean to have ‘better’ boundaries? How do we set and uphold boundaries for a better work/life balance?
Even if you feel you have firm boundaries already set up, it doesn’t hurt to reflect on them and see if there is any tightening up that you may need to do.
What are boundaries?
So, boundaries help to keep our energy levels protected, our time protected, our headspace protected, and our family time protected. Setting clear boundaries helps to tell the world what is and isn’t acceptable to you. But sometimes it can be hard, especially if we’re people pleasers, always wanting to make sure everyone else is ok first - sound familiar?
If you ever find yourself resenting any time a client contacts you, or resent something that you’ve agreed to do, even if you’re being paid for it, then it’s possible you need to check and reset your boundaries.
Without boundaries we can feel like things are being ‘done’ to us and that they’re out of our control. We may feel like we ‘have’ to do something because we’ve historically been doing it, but we’re here to let you know, that just isn't the case. It’s ok to say no, we promise.
Did you know you can make your own rules? It doesn’t feel like it at times, hey? But, you can define what you want to happen and how you want your life to happen. By setting boundaries you take back control of your time, focus, energy, and head space. Now, who doesn’t want more of those things? By doing this one thing, you can just feel the stress and anxiety slipping away while imagining the effect of those boundaries.
Admittedly, upholding boundaries at the start can be challenging, especially when you haven’t had any strong or clear boundaries and you’ve been accepting calls from clients at all times of the day.
But, once you start setting them and make a commitment to stick by them, your clients, friends, family, or whoever it is that you need to put up boundaries with, will soon realise they can’t cross them and it won’t take long for them to respect them.
Are you aware of your boundaries?
Are you aware of your current boundaries? Are there clients, friends, family members that are always contacting you at ridiculous times of the day and always expecting you to respond straight away?
Do you have a client who messages you late at night and gets stroppy if you don’t respond straight away? Have you asked yourself, maybe the reason they get funny is because they are so used to you responding straight away, and that when you don’t it takes them by surprise as it’s out of the norm of what they usually get from you.
Try setting hours of availability
It’s ok to set a message on your website, social media page, or even message all of your clients to say, ‘I have new contact times, I am available for contact Mon - Fri between the hours of X to Y (input in here whatever days and times you are setting) and I will endeavour to respond within X hours of receiving your message between these hours. Messages sent at the weekend will be responded to by close of business on Monday.’
How would that make you feel if you communicated that cleary to everyone?
Turn off notifications
Once you have set these times, stick to them otherwise it will make it confusing and muddle expectations. If you need to turn off your notifications then turn them off. If it’s not convenient to turn your notifications off, make sure you don’t open messages from clients until your next working hour.
It won’t take long for clients to stop expecting you to respond out of your hours.
Don’t blur the lines
You blur the lines if you step outside of the boundaries you set. You send mixed messages which can lead to frustrated clients, and you can possibly lose clients because of the mixed messages.
Emotional boundaries are important too
Boundaries may need to be put into place because of the way someone is speaking to you, or treating you. You might have tolerated someone being short and snappy with you, or perhaps a client often doesn’t turn up or always cancels 5 minutes before their appointment.
Ask yourself, is this ok? Be honest with yourself and if you feel it’s not ok, put in some boundaries to stop it from happening. Protecting your emotional energy is important too.
Perhaps put in a cancellation policy, so clients will be charged if they cancel within 24 hours of their appointment, or put in a non-refundable deposit policy.
Or maybe you need to ask the repeatedly snappy client not to speak to you in a horrible way at each appointment. It’s ok to stand up for yourself, as you don’t deserve to be treated badly by anyone. And if you lose that client because you put clearer boundaries in place, well…do you really want disrespectful clients on your list anyways?
What’s important to you? What are your values? Decide and put boundaries in place
What’s important to you? What are your values? What is ok and what is crossing the line? Be honest with yourself and set boundaries that will protect your time, energy, income, and head-space.
With boundaries we’re a better person and we can come from a better place. Without boundaries we deplete our energy sources and become resentful, irritable and not much fun to be around. Our families may then resent us for being moody with them, which starts a vicious cycle going on.
Your boundaries within your business may be on point and you may be reading this and thinking I’ve got great boundaries, but I’m not so great at saying no to friends.
Set clear boundaries with friends and family
We have to set clear boundaries in all aspects of our lives, from work to both friends, and family. It can be harder to set boundaries at home than at work, but, for the sake of your whole life, your mood, and your happiness, you have to cover all bases.
Perhaps your social media time is creeping into your meal times? Bedtimes? Family time? You find yourself scrolling through instagram when it’s the weekly family movie night, or your best friend is trying to ask you about your day. Does your husband get annoyed because your face is constantly looking into those pretty pictures of instagram reels that we can’t tell if they’re real or fake?
Communication is key
Create new boundaries that enhance your family life, or your ‘you’ time. Have conversations with your family and friends about what boundaries you would like to have in place.
Perhaps you leave your phone in a different room from the hours of 6pm - 7pm and sit with your other half and discuss your days together. Maybe, buy an alarm clock and leave your phone in another room at bedtime, stopping your phone being the last and first thing you look at.
Maybe tell your friends that one Saturday a month you’re going to spend on your own relaxing, turning your phone off, doing some things for you, and tell them not to come round or try to tempt you to go out.
Or perhaps you need to stop answering late night calls with friends because their emotional baggage drains you before you go to sleep, and you end up worrying about them all night.
Put a structure in place
Put a structure in place, tell the people it involves because communication is key to healthy boundaries, as how can you expect people to respect them if you don’t?
Use your boundaries to recharge your energy
Use the space to recharge your energy and stop allowing others to drain you. Schedule time for yourself and stick to it. You are the most important thing in your life, because if you’re not fully charged and on top of your game, it affects those around you. When you take better care of yourself and your boundaries, your life works better, you’re happier, and so are the people around you.
Be the example
Setting boundaries also gives others permission to do the same. Maybe your clients, friends, or family also need to set boundaries in their own lives. If they see you setting and sticking to yours, it shows them it’s ok for them to do the same thing. You can lead by example, be the shining light and lead the way to better boundaries.
Caro Syson is the Founder of Pocket PA and is passionate about helping small business owners to reach their full potential in the easiest possible way.
Pocket PA is a super easy system to manage your finances, accounts and gets you organised in your business to ensure you love your work and shine your light brightly.