Four Boundaries You Need to Set to Get Anything Accomplished
During a year-end coaching call, I was thrilled to celebrate one particular client’s 2015 victories: a long-awaited promotion, carving out more quality time on weekends to spend with his family, and a new exercise habit.
“Mazel tov!” I said to my client.
“And how do you think you did on your goal of making time for planning in your new role?”
He replied: “Yeah…that one didn’t happen.”
“Any chance,” I offered with a smile, “you mean that you didn’t do what it takes to make it happen?”
He smiled back, somewhat sheepishly. “Yes. I guess I mean that.”
“And what do you want for 2016?” I asked.
“To do what it takes rather than waiting for it to happen.” He responded.
And so we began…
Of course, as we all know, doing what it takes to set aside time for something that feels important (rather than urgent) is easier said than done. Somehow, I can always find the time to read the new Entertainment Weekly and binge-watch “Making a Murderer” and yet, finding the time I need to write my new book or get my office organized seems not to “happen”. Why? Because “hoping it will happen” won’t get it done. Making the time to do it AND setting four types of boundaries to honor that time will.
In her research paper, “Positive Psychology and Work-Life Integration: The Mutually Satisfying Relationship”, The University of Pennsylvania’s Katharine E. Comtois suggests that we need to set the following boundaries in our work and lives in order to focus on what matters most:
- Temporal – Being clear about what you will do and won’t do, and when.
- Physical – Setting a specific place and space for certain tasks and activities.
- Behavioral – Acting consistently in ways that are designed to get you what you want.
- Communicative – Letting people know your priorities and expectations, and sharing how they can help or might hinder the process.
In January 2015, I decided that I was no longer going to travel more than 25% of the time, which would effectively cut my travel schedule in half. It was something that I wanted, but wasn’t “happening”. Of course it wasn’t happening – I hadn’t set any boundaries to support it. With that aha! top of mind, here are the boundaries that I created:
- Temporal – I will be from home no more than 7 nights a month, period.
- Physical – Any activity that I could do virtually rather than in-person, I did (like webinars for teams and organizations when on-site facilitation wasn’t needed).
- Behavioral – I actively sought out work opportunities that kept me sleeping in my own bed, which lead to a great teaching gig at Wharton Business School.
- Communicative – I told my clients, “I’ve used up all of my business travel for March and April, but I can travel to you in May. Would that work for you?” (And if it didn’t, I was happy to refer someone else!)
I couldn’t be prouder of how the boundaries I set – and continue to honor. I also found that setting these boundaries felt scary (what will happen to my business? Who will I be disappointing?) and living by them feels exceptionally safe and satisfying.
Here are some questions to help you strategize how you can use boundaries to stay focused on shifting what you “hope” will happen to actually and practically making it happen:
- How can you leverage other people to support you in honoring your boundaries?
- What technology can you rely on to help you set and keep boundaries?
- What decisions do you need to make that honor your values? (These can include decisions about what to do and what to stop doing).
- What habits can you implement that make honoring your boundaries automatic?
- Where can you create a physical boundary to separate the different roles you have?
- How can you use tangible items (like different phones or email addresses) to separate your work, life, self and community domains?
- What do you need to communicate to your stakeholders to establish boundary expectations?
- What can you plan (like a massage or vacation) so that you can take a short-term break from managing boundaries?
- Where will you allow for “fuzzy” boundaries?
- How will you handle boundary violations when they occur (because they will)?
Feel free to share any responses with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear them!
Are you committed to make Work-Life Integration a priority for 2016? Get a head start by downloading our insightful, informative and inspirational one-hour webinar here.