How To Create Boundaries
Ever found yourself bending over backwards to get something finished and missing out on your fave gym class/tv show to do it?
Ever regretted saying yes to running an event and then dreaded every minute of the run up time?
Ever wished you’d not taken on that awful client who never pays on time, always demands more and rarely takes any action, but blames you for not improving?
If you’re resonating with any of this then we probably need to talk about boundaries.
What is a boundary?
I’d describe it as an understanding (both of yourself and from others) of what you will/will not do, what you do/do not find acceptable, what you will/will not tolerate and then sticking to your guidelines on that. Everyone will have different boundaries and find some things more acceptable than others. No one can tell you what is acceptable, it’s up to you to know what you’re comfortable with.
Some of my boundaries include:
Not checking my social media work accounts after 8pm (its actually usually earlier than that). My evenings are a time for my family, not my clients. But… I do have the first hour of the day alone downstairs. I make a cup of tea, meditate, stretch and say some affirmations – then I clear any social media notifications. I like it – it sets me up for the day ahead. It doesn’t matter that it’s often pre-7am. It’s my boundary and I set it.
Saying no to clients who need a high level of emotional support. I do have an active background in mental health and still work in the sector BUT, I don’t do that job in my business. I have a professional boundary… as an accredited coach, I am insured as a coach and not as a mental health support worker. I can coach someone to seek additional support, practice self-care and reflect on what they need to do but I have a boundary of who I do and don’t work with. It’s professional integrity.
Not giving away free places on events and on courses. This one took me a while. I can’t save everyone. I can’t help everyone. Some people are not ready to take action. Some people won’t like me. Some people I won’t like. All of that is ok. I’ve stopped giving away free places (unless as part of an intentional marketing campaign like a competition) because I value my work, my qualifications, my experience and expertise and my clients should too. If they don’t, we’re not the right fit.
You can imagine some scenarios where not sticking to boundaries or respecting someone else’s boundaries may cause an issue, I’m sure.
Having these boundaries in place have genuinely made me happier.
I spend quality time with my family, being 100% present, which of course improves our relationships, communication, trust and respect.
I have a good work/life balance. I say no to some work that I can’t fit in or just don’t want to do.
I don’t feel social pressure to conform. If I don’t want to do something, I politely say so. My friends respect this and I don’t feel guilt.
From a self-care perspective, having good boundaries is a great big green tick in the box.
What are your boundaries like?
I’m assuming that because you’re reading this you may feel like they could do with a little tweaking?
Have a think about some recent situations that you’ve been nervous about, regretted, avoided or cancelled. Think about times when you’ve really felt out your comfort zone or wished you could go back on something.
Then with compassion, (because I don’t support people who aren’t willing to be nice to themselves in this refection process!) ask yourself:
- Do I have any clients I really don’t want to work with?
- Then try and reflect on why you don’t like working with them. Maybe they don’t pay on time, expect freebies, keep you on the phone too long, expect you to drop everything to help them, don’t respect your time etc.
- From here you can identify some key things that are important to you. For example, if a client doesn’t respect your time and keeps you on the phone too long always asking “one more quick question” this will give you some guidance for a boundary you need to set.
- After you’ve identified the kind of boundary you want to set, you can then start to implement it. You may find it easier to do this with all new clients if you’re nervous about changing things with existing clients – but it’s great to start somewhere!
To use the example above – once you know that time management is an important boundary for you, you could start to think of ways to enforce the boundary:
- Use an excuse – “I’m going to have to cut you off I’m afraid I have another client at 2pm”
- Give a 5 minute warning – “We’re coming to the end of our call now, so we may have to save that question for next time we chat”
- Remind them of the contract/deal – “We’re just coming to the end of our hour together. I have another 30 minutes free now if you want to go over and I’ll send you the invoice after? Or we can stop and carry on in the next session?”
It’s REALLY important to not be too hard on yourself with all of this. This is about self-awareness not self-criticism! Recognise you might want to make some changes and do it, but also recognise the things you do well.
Good boundaries shows professionalism, self-respect, clear rules around what is and is not acceptable and guidance about how to interact with you. It actually HELPS your customers, colleagues and family to connect to you better. I’d much rather hire someone to help me out in my business who has clear guidelines around when I can contact them, what they’ll do for me and how they can help.
I challenge you to think about one new boundary today and start practising enforcing it. It’s ok to not get it right, or chicken out a few times – that’s normal. But the most important thing is that you start!
If you haven’t yet downloaded my free masterclass Self-Doubt to Success, make sure you do. In it, I share the 3 main mindset blocks holding women back from business success, help you recognise yours so you can take action, and take you through a mini-coaching session.
For tips and advice about boundaries, and so much more, I’d love you to join us in Self-Belief School – my free Facebook community for female entrepreneurs. We have weekly live training about subjects to improve your mindset (and therefore your business success).