Warren Buffet said that time is the only asset you can’t get any more of, so be extremely selective when handing it out. Here Amazing If's Sarah Ellis explains how building boundary habits can help you spend your time better.
Technology, productivity pressure and an ‘always on’ mentality means there is more blurring of lines between work and the rest of life than ever before. And the reality right now means that most of us are living and working in the same space, and you might have an extra job on your CV if you’re caring for someone, or attempting to keep kids occupied.
Setting and sticking to any sort of boundary might feel impossible when we’ve lost track of what day of the week it is but the downside of becoming ‘boundaryless’ is serious and not to be under-estimated. Research demonstrates that poor boundaries is one of the most significant contributors to individuals experiencing feelings of resentment, anger and ultimately burnout.
And though rationally we all appreciate the benefits of clear boundaries the reality is hard, as Brene Brown says: “daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. We can't base our own worthiness on others' approval. Only when we believe, deep down, that we are enough can we say "Enough!" This might feel a tad lofty, and personally I’m going to choose to interpret Brene’s wise words as permission to disappoint my toddler and watch a few less episodes of Paw Patrol, but we can all build boundary habits that will leave us feeling more energised, motivated and productive during the week.
Monkeys are a metaphor for the actions we carry around with us (inspired by Ken Blanchard’s book One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey). We have to work hard not to acquire other people’s monkeys, especially if you’re in a service industry where you’re likely to be motivated by a desire to help and put other people’s needs before your own. A few useful ways to manage your monkeys:
As Warren Buffet says “time is the only asset you can’t get any more of, so be extremely selective when handing it out.” At the end of every week ask yourself was your time well spent? If the answer is no you need to start practising saying ‘no’ in a way that works for you. This is something that I’ve always found difficult but I’m borrowed some top tips from people I’ve worked with who do it brilliantly:
Share with a friend or colleague a boundary that really matters to you and ask them to help you stick to it. Talking about a boundary to someone else makes it much more likely to become a reality. You are simultaneously reminding yourself of something that’s important to you and you get a helpful extra nudge from a person who is on your side and wants you to succeed. And a few things to remember about boundaries:
Finally, it’s worth remembering that setting and sticking to boundaries takes effort and can feel uncomfortable, particularly at first. It’s easy to say yes to everything, work longer hours and de-prioritise yourself. When we get caught up in being busy and the day to day taking a set back and getting some perspective is helpful: “Start with the end in mind. You are ninety on a park bench looking back. What matters?” (Amanda MacKenzie, OBE, CEO Business in the Community).
Sarah Ellis is the co-author of the No.1 The Sunday Times business bestseller The Squiggly Career and host of the UK’s no.1 careers podcast: Squiggly Careers. She is the co-founder of Amazing If, a business with a mission to make work better for everyone and was a previous Chair of Judges for the IPA CPD Gold Awards.