How to Create Boundaries

Something that consistently appears in the top three issues I am presented with as an Executive Coach is “How to manage boundaries between work and the rest of our lives?”.

Here is a perfect example… a client this week has just returned from maternity leave, she is working four days in the office and one day from home. Yet she’s already found she’s working six days a week. Her comment to me “learning to prioritise and maintain boundaries has been the most challenging part of returning to work.”

Why is this so? Well… we can blame technology, speed, the complex nature of flexible working, the global presumption that everyone is always available and our personal need to achieve.

However rather than blaming, it’s more important to find strategies to effectively control the way we work, in a way that suits us individually and to gain agency in our ability to make these changes.

If we can get this right, it creates so much more time, space and energy to get the work done we need to get done.

In my experience, there are two types of boundary setting: there are the universal strategies that seem to work for many people and then there are the personal strategies that work for each individual.

Examples of universal strategies include:

  • Having clarity on your role and the expectations of your workplace. This involves having honest conversations with your workplace and being consistently open, respectful and transparent about what’s working and what’s not.
  • Prioritisation. Knowing the hierarchy of what the important tasks are in your role.
  • Values. Understanding your personal values and limits around what you will and won’t do and setting boundaries around those.
  • Having clear delegation hierarchies within your team structure

The personal strategies can be anything that helps you to maintain your boundaries. These can include:

  • Turning off your phone at a certain time in the evening
  • Not taking work devices home
  • Locking yourself out of your email at a certain time
  • Creating reminder alerts during the day to have a break
  • Prioritising fitness or personal to-do’s so they are actioned
  • Taking a lunch break and leaving the office for a short while

To be frank, it’s not always going to work perfectly, so it’s important to be flexible in your approach to boundaries and understand that sometimes boundaries may move in certain situations. Plus if you feel your boundaries have been crossed, it’s best to address the situation there and then in a polite but assertive manner.

It’s also important to remember that boundary setting should never be about resentment nor be created in a time of resentment. They are a strategy that is put into place to provide you with more balance and promote a more healthier productive lifestyle.

In this episode of the Fast Track podcast, I spoke to Jill Hannaford, Technical Services Leader, GHD Group, where we outline what it means to set boundaries in the modern workplace and Jill’s shares with the listeners her personal strategy for managing boundaries at work.

Have a great week and remember, whatever you do, make good choices.