3 Ways to Create Boundaries
I used to think creating and enforcing boundaries would involve being really strict with people and pissing them off in the process. I had absolutely no idea of how I could incorporate them into my every day life, and quite honestly, where I was already incorporating them.
But boundaries don’t have to be big, dramatic statements. They can just be simple lines in the sand that you know you have.
Boundaries and Self Care
There are certain things in my life that are non negotiable. Every day I start the day with my favourite coffee, in one of my favourite mugs. It used to be that this was always alone, and in silence, but now have that I have a baby, it is usually with the baby attached to me. I also meditate for at least 1 minute a day, and I always get some fresh air, even if that is just hanging the washing up or having a tea in the garden.
If something happens to prevent one of these happening, I’m happy to say “nope, sorry, gotta do it” and make the time. Why? It’s not because I’m being super inflexible, but simply that these 3 little things make a big difference to how I feel. They’re cheap or free, take collectively about 20 minutes out of my day and yet they give me what I need to function well and be a happy human.
I can tell you 100 other ways for me to practise good self care, but these are the ones I’m willing to stand up for, day in, day out. It helps that I can do them anywhere too.
However, for me to benefit from them and for me to enforce these boundaries around my time, I had to get clear with myself on what made the difference to me. Try it yourself. What small things are sacred in your day, and how can you mark off that time?
Maybe you need to be up a few minutes earlier in order to get that quiet head space, or to tell a partner that coffee time is just for you. When we have visitors here, I don’t give this up! I will make my coffee and say “good morning” to people, before going to an empty room or the garden to drink it. I’m not rude about it, but I enforce the boundary with how I behave. I’m just not available for those few minutes.
Easy ways to prioritise your self care and ensure it doesn’t get forgotten?
Leave your phone in another room so that early night isn’t interrupted, join a class and leave the house for it so you’re not tempted to watch Netflix instead, block off time in your calendar so you can’t be scheduled for meetings, set a reminder on your phone or have an accountability buddy who will check in with you.
Boundaries and Work
When I heard Elizabeth Gilbert speak about her good working hours, and ask us, the audience, what ours were, I was stumped. I also felt pretty stupid because I had no idea, and given that I work from home and can schedule my day however I like, shouldn’t I have known this?
Well some experimenting quickly showed me that my best hours for sitting down and getting the work done are 9 am to 1 pm. After lunch, I can spend my time taking client calls, resting, going for a walk, seeing friends or doing chores but I cannot concentrate well on written work. Just as with my non-negotiables, once I knew this, I put it into place and it’s worked well as a system ever since.
It is however easy to get led off track. When I’m invited out with friends at 11 am and I have writing to do, I need to say “no”. When I have one eye on the ironing pile and feel the need to just get it out of the way, I have to be strict with myself, shut the door on it and come back to it later. I didn’t do this in 2018 and so my attention wandered more easily but since I’ve shored up that boundary this year, and said to my friends that afternoons, evenings and weekends are much better for me, I am much more productive. I work in my good hours and get 5 times more done that if I were to be at my desk from 1 pm to midnight. Again, it’s that idea of saying “I’m not available” either with my actions or my words.
A small switch, with big results.
For more tips on making working from home work for you, head to this blog post.
Another way to set a healthy boundary and not even tell anyone is to change when you read and reply to emails. If something comes in after your cut off time in the evening or at weekends, that’s OK. You won’t even see it, but you’ll get back to the sender once you have the time. I don’t have notifications for email on my phone for this exact reason and no one has ever queried why I haven’t replied more quickly. If you find your phone intruding more and more in your down time, then make it less tempting. Have phone free time in the evenings and weekends, where you aren’t around it. It’s much easier to enforce that boundary.
Boundaries and Our Relationships
Sometimes the people around us might react negatively to being told “no” whether by our words, actions or availability, but it’s not always the case. Like many things, we assume we know how people will react when we enforce a boundary, but the reality is we’re often wrong about what others are thinking. People may respect you more because you make time for what’s important to you, and it doesn’t even have to come up.
Friends want to meet you at 6 pm for drinks, but you’re set on going to the gym? Then you’ll be there at 7 pm. You don’t need to apologise or explain. It’s just a line in the sand that you’re sticking with. Being firm but polite goes a long way.
In any event, what’s the alternative? If we’re always available and have no sense of our boundaries, then it’s far easier to be worn down by others and leave nothing for ourselves. I’d much rather have a bit more time, energy and motivation to do things for myself, thanks very much!
Putting it into practise
Have a think about the areas in your life where you feel as though you’re giving too much, from the big to the small. Get in on paper if that’ll help you remember it.
Start by picking one thing that you want to mark out the time or the energy for and decide how you can set a boundary for it. Who do you need to tell? How will you clear your time? What can you do to make this a regular thing for yourself?
What boundaries are you ready to set, so that you give yourself that little bit more?