If work were smooth sailing all the time, well firstly, I'd be unemployed. Secondly, your job would be a piece of cake! But I know all too well, leadership speaks easy and practices hard.
How often have you set big intentions to make changes and then six months later, you still haven't taken action? We over-commit, we fall behind, and life goes on. Time does what it does well - flies by.
I mean, take this blog as an example. It's taken me five years to make the time to commit to it, and really make time to be CONSISTENT.
How often do you find yourself overcommitted?
Here's the deal - when we say yes to everything, in effect, we say no to what matters most. And chronic overcommitting ultimately leads to a major letdown for you and for others.
What happens when we don't have clear boundaries? Does your work schedule feel unmanageable? Does your boss make time-consuming demands on short notice with little real planning, preparation or thought put into it?
One of the reasons why you might struggle with boundaries is because you struggle with saying no. A lot of women in particular struggle with this and find themselves caught in a cycle of people-pleasing and saying yes to a lot of things. Establishing boundaries at work enables you to safeguard your time and energy.
No makes way for yes.
Saying no can be hard. Just saying the word causes discomfort to so many. It feels like it might damage a relationship, or the thought of letting go can make us feel like we are creating more chaos.
Yes can be equally as hard. Yes takes time, energy, attention, and if we are already overcommitted - where will we find the time?
Yes gets easier when you are clear on your purpose. It centers you around what matters most.
Here are some important questions you need to answer to better equip you to say yes and no.
- What do you want to create and stand for as a leader?
- What really matters to you that you choose to say yes to?
- What small steps can you start taking to live more fully within your yes?
- What do you need to say no to - specific requests I need to decline or promises I must renegotiate.
- How can you renegotiate or help that requester in return? In other words, what can you say yes to?
- What will be my greatest challenge in implementing my yes/no/yes - in me or with others?
There's a big connection between having good boundaries, and how fulfilled, energized and valuable you feel.
There's an important mindset shift that needs to happen in order to establish and maintain boundaries. Here are some things to think about:
Know your worth. If you don't believe you or your time is valuable, or you can't articulate your strengths, or understand the highest contribution you can make at work, it's very easy to have zero boundaries. You teach people how to work with you. It is okay to assert a boundary.
Get clear on expectations. If you aren't clear on your role, or your environment struggles with prioritizing and there's a lot of firefighting happening, then you need to establish clarity. Request a meeting with your boss to recalibrate your priorities. Come prepared with a list of all the things you think you're responsible for. Ask for clarification, and push back on anything that doesn't feel like the best use of you.
Establish non-negotiables. Each of us have things we are not prepared to lose. Maybe that's missing a child's concert, getting to spin class after work, taking an elderly parent to the doctor, or keeping your life outside of work private. Whatever it is, you need to know what's out of bounds.
Working from home needs boundaries. Working from home requires a heightened level of consciousness to make space for ourselves in and around work. Establish some ground rules for yourself, moments of rest and recovery. Clear work time and home time.
Take a deeper look at your relationship with technology. You have complete control over how much time you choose to invest there. Confront it head-on and look at how you start start day. Where do you go first? How often do you check your phone?
Establishing professional boundaries may be tough in the beginning. There will be some pushback, which is positive: it shows that the boundaries were needed in the first place. We are ultimately responsible for our own well-being, and establishing solid workplace boundaries is part of that practice.
Are you struggling to establish boundaries? My E-book, Executive Coaching Why Leaders Need Coaching, Especially in Times of Disruption, shares how, in times of rapid change or disruption to existing business models, the responsibilities of a leader become all the more challenging. It’s through these volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous times that coaching is needed more than ever. If you are ready to move from disruption to opportunity, download Executive Coaching Why Leaders Need Coaching, Especially in Times of Disruption.