I was speaking with a friend recently, another entrepreneur, about how we sometimes feel overwhelmed and out of balance with all that our lives and our jobs present us with. It’s like we’re being stretched too thin, and we wish there were more hours in the day to get everything done.
There’s a fine line between our personal and professional lives, and sometimes that line gets crossed. Setting boundaries is important to physical, emotional, and mental health.
When you’re running your own business, you’re more at risk of having business concerns overflowing into your personal life. Your business is often an extension of yourself and your values, and it’s difficult to determine where work ends and our personal life begins. We immerse ourselves in our work and sometimes forget to come up for air.
Working longer hours to complete more work leaves less time for leisure activities and sleeping. Feelings of exhaustion and anxiety can creep in and contribute to chaotic work environments where we have difficulty completing work and making decisions. The result: a decrease in productivity during work hours – the opposite of the effect we were hoping for. We may resent demands placed on our time, and our personal relationships may suffer.
Start by establishing your personal core values. Is spending time with family on weekends most important to you? Do you regularly do volunteer work or belong to a sports team? Define what personal time is most important to you and use this to establish your boundaries between work and personal time.
Once you’ve defined your boundaries, communicate them clearly with co-workers and clients. Set times when you’ll be available for phone calls and emails, and “unplug” outside these hours.
At first, you may get some pushback from your clients and staff when you set boundaries, but don’t let this throw you off course. In time, they will see the benefits of this practice. Setting Out-Of-Office messages on your voice and email accounts indicating when you will be returning to work can help manage their expectations and reassure them that they’ll have your full attention when you return.
Delegating some of your workload to underutilized staff could help you stay within your newly defined boundaries. As entrepreneurs, we sometimes hesitate to pass work on to our staff, who could effectively complete it. Look closely at what available time and untapped talents your staff possess. You may be very pleased with the results!
Make good use of technology to help streamline your company’s workflow. There are a good many applications, like scheduling and project management apps, available that can simplify workflows and communications. Many can be integrated with each other or existing apps that you’re already using, so keep this in mind when evaluating the use of any new apps.
We also need to learn to say “no” when necessary. It’s hard to pass up new clients or extra work, and that’s perfectly understandable. But taking on this extra work when we don’t have the time to properly complete it will lead to an inevitable sense of imbalance.
Take time off regularly and really “unplug” to allow yourself to rest and rejuvenate truly. Encourage your staff to “unplug” in their time off so they can rest and relax on their time off, too. When you’re rested and refreshed, you can make more productive use of your time at work.
As you experiment with setting boundaries, remember that the process is fluid and ongoing. It’s not a one-time exercise. It should be “tweaked” and re-evaluated when necessary. Reflecting on core goals before taking on new work or clients is crucial.
As we gain a deeper understanding of what we want rather than what is handed to us by a boss, customer, partner, kid, friend, or society at large we can step back and reflect. By evaluating our desires, we can realize that they aren’t limiting. They give you the space to create a life that reflects your true values.