Episode #46: Creating and Managing Boundaries For Yourself and Your Time
Hey Rebels! Welcome back to the podcast. Is it beginning to look a like Christmas in your home? I have to say that I used to love decorating my house for Christmas when my kiddos were young, but now that they’re young adults, I’m not as enthusiastic about decorating. However, I have to say once the house is all dolled up with the lights and holiday accessories, I have to admit I love it! It really does give the house a festive feel and makes me NOT want to take it all down (which is why I’m always hesitant about putting them up in the first place). I think I just need to find a way to keep my decorating all year round.
So today we’re talking about boundaries. How to create them, maintain them and use them to not only protect yourself but also how to think of boundaries to protect your calendar and time management system. This is such an important topic because honestly, I believe one of the greatest challenges for high-achieving women in midlife is prioritizing themselves and their time. EVERY client I work struggles with this, which is why I have an entire time management training called How to Get Sh*t Done. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, burned out, stressed trying to manage several competing projects at once, and struggle with saying no, then you’ll want to pay particular attention to the podcast today and flag it to listen to again and again! So let’s get started.
What is a boundary? A boundary is something you create for yourself to achieve the results you want. A boundary is not about training other people or controlling other’s behavior around you, but about you learning how to express and prioritize what you need and want and protect yourself and what matters to you.
A boundary includes a request you make of someone to stop doing something you don’t like or find offensive AND a consequence of what you will do to self protect if they violate that boundary again. That’s a personal boundary like asking people not smoking in your home, or letting co-workers know not to just barge in your office when the door is close, or even creating boundaries around scheduling meetings at certain hours of the day.
Now the consequence doesn’t mean the person is going to get in trouble, remember you don’t set boundaries to train or punish others, just to alert them to how you’ll engage with them in the future. A consequence would be you’ll ask them to leave, you’ll leave, or you won’t attend the meeting. The keys however, are to be clear on why it's important to you, to not create a boundary in anger or to try and use it as a form of punishment, and that you are absolutely ready to provide a consequence if a boundary is violated.
When it comes to time management, you can create a boundaries around scheduling such as not working through lunch, not scheduling back to back meetings, or not scheduling meetings before noon on Mondays. You can also set a boundary with yourself that you’re going to prioritize yourself and your schedule and will not deviate from what’s on your calendar. A consequence there could be you won’t allow yourself to go to the gym, meet your girlfriend for drinks, or get that massage because you didn’t work on something that you said you would on your calendar. Instead you’ll have to finish whatever you said you were going to do during those schedule times in which you violated your own boundary.
Before you set a boundary however, you gotta get clear on what your personal boundaries are. Most people aren’t really clear about their personal boundaries, which means others aren’t aware if they’ve crossed one.
Now, for my people-pleasers out there that don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, or allow people to violate their boundaries without saying a word, stuffing those feelings deep inside, only to watch them explode when someone simply says good morning to you, you’re really going to have to do a lot of thought work to manage your feelings of fear or thoughts that people won’t like you because you’ve created and communicated a personal boundary.
And, people may be shocked that you even set a boundary and will most likely not believe there will really be any consequences. In fact, they pay try to call your bluff if you’ve been less then strong in this area. But listen to me, YOU MUST follow through on the consequence you’ve articulated or it won’t work and nothing will change, and in the end you’ll lose out. Because remember, boundaries are NOT about changing or punishing the other person, they’re about protecting YOU.
That’s why you never want to create a boundary out of frustration or anger because once that feeling of frustration or anger passes you. I mean don’t get mad at someone else because you haven’t learned how to speak up for yourself and protect yourself and what matters to you.
Since the boundaries you set are meant to protect you, you need to clearly communicate when a violation has occurred. For example, you may set a boundary with a boss who tends to yell at you by saying, “Listen, if you continue to raise your voice at me, I’m going to leave the room until you can speak calmly. If it continues, I’m going to HR to discuss the situation.” This ultimately allows your boss to choose how they will behave, but clearly describes what you will do if the violation continues. You make the request, give them the option to do whatever they would like to do, and then you follow through on that request. Or setting a boundary with someone who is chronically late. Instead of you waiting and getting mad, you can let them know you have a “5-minute rule” and after 5-minutes you’re leaving.
And for my high-achievers who have accepted this narrative that you’re supposed to be open to other’s behaviors (to not make waves or come across as difficult) or available to everyone at all times and you can’t say no to a request for a “quick” meeting, or someone wanting just “5 minutes of your time” that turns into 30 minutes, or the drop in by the senior executive that you drop everything for because you’ve accepted their time is way, way more valuable their your own, or you don’t want people to think you’re a slacker unless you work 80 hours a week (even though you’re only getting paid for 40), I just want to say stop it! Stop it!
If you’re operating like this I want you to ask yourself, “why?” What are you believing to be true that’s guiding you to feel that you just need to be available at all times.
I personally believe it’s the patriarchal imperialist sexist racist society in which we live that has promoted this idea that women and women of color are suppose to always acquiesce and be available. That our needs don’t matter, what matters is that we’re meeting and supporting the needs of those we feel we owe something to or are responsible to. It’s rooted in wives being the property of their spouses and how women were trained to be “obedient good wives” and rooted in how black women in particular, were simply property and worked at the leisure of their owner.
While these laws and norms are no longer stated or accepted in our society, we can’t escape the legacy of trauma and conditioning that’s been embedded in our DNA and has taken root within our psyche for centuries. And depending on your age, your own mother, aunts, or grandmothers may have instructed you to play small, don’t speak your mind, and make yourself available to those who show you attention or give you an opportunity. The level of gratitude you may have been taught to share to those who gave you an internship, a job, a promotion, or even a ring has also taught you that you’re the one who has to make the big sacrifices when it comes to your wants and needs, not the other way around.
Yes, I’m going deep here because trauma often informs our lives many years after the original offense and women and women of color in our society have been traumatized, whether they are conscious of it or not. I mean why do you think we struggle with people pleasing, perfectionism, and imposter syndrome? We didn’t think of that shit! It didn’t emerge in a vacuum. It’s an aspect of conditioning, and creating and maintaining boundaries is one way to break that conditioning and establishing a NEW way of operating in the world. A way that honors YOU, prioritizes YOU, and recognizes the worthiness of YOU.
So whether you’re establishing a boundary for others or one for yourself (and your time management), there are two steps key steps to follow:
The request: Ask someone to stop doing the thing you don’t like or infringes on your values, including asking yourself to stop disrespecting your calendar and time.
The consequence: Tell the person what you will do if they do not comply with your request, including what you’ll do if you don’t follow through on your own word to yourself.
Keep in mind that a boundary is not an ultimatum. It’s not a way of controlling another person so that we can feel better or to manipulate them to get what you want. This never works, and it’s not about your controlling others but having control over yourself.
So a boundary would be wishing your partner took the garbage out, or wanting them to be more romantic, or having your boss praise you more, or wanting folks to text you back within seconds of you texting them. These are you just your desires for you want someone else to act and boundaries aren’t about controlling others or telling them what to do. It’s about you telling others what YOU’LL do.
Listen, having a conversation about the boundary can be uncomfortable and challenging. Honoring yourself and what is authentic and true, along with the willingness to let other people interpret it how they will, is difficult but well worth it in the end. People who cannot find the courage to have conversations like this stay in situations where they’re pretending or worse, they’re living with built up resentment and hostility.
Others don’t have to understand or agree with your boundary, and you should be prepared for that. When you set the boundary out of self-love, value, and self-worth for yourself, you can tell them your truth without attacking or yelling at them. Your truth has nothing to do with them, and you can tell them that when setting your boundary. If they choose to be hurt, offended, or upset, then that’s work they’ll need to do.
As I said, many clients worry about being viewed as bad, rude, or uncaring when they have the boundary conversation. The irony is that this is how they generally act when they don’t have proper boundaries. When you try to smile and act like everything’s fine but you’re seething underneath, you’re acting exactly how you are trying to avoid acting. When you tell someone the truth about yourself, you open the space for more honesty and truth. Not only with them, but with yourself.
And that includes having the hard conversations with yourself about managing your calendar, respecting your time, and honoring your schedule. You violating those boundaries are no less important than others violating your boundaries.
Now, don’t set boundaries for others or yourself if you’re not in a good place, if you don’t feel peaceful, clear, calm, and in a good headspace and well suited for boundary work.
For example, if you hear yourself saying, “I’m done with that person,” or “I can’t take it anymore,” or “I’m sick and tired of ….. (you fill-in the blank),” that’s not a good sign.
Instead, try asking yourself powerful questions such as “What can I learn from this experience?” especially if this person is a family member, boss, co-worker, or someone you’ve known for a long time. Ask yourself, “How can I use this as an opportunity to take care of myself and create real authenticity through this conversation?” Ask, “why am I struggling with honoring my calendar or my word to myself?” “Why is it so easy to negate or compromise my time or what I want for others?” You’ll learn quite a bit about the underlying challenges you’ll have to overcome to create boundaries in your life.
When I’ve done boundary work with clients, in the end they say it’s transformed their lives. They not only find they have more time and energy, get a lot more things done, but also have greater confidence and self-respect. And you can not underestimate the power of having that in your life.
Boundaries are the most amazing, wonderful, and somewhat difficult things to implement. It’s a beautiful tool to create more satisfying and effective life and career, if you’re willing and have the courage to protect yourself, be authentic and tell your truth, and ultimately honor YOU.
Well that’s it for today’s episode. If you’re ready to do this boundary work, then I invite you to schedule an exploration call with me as soon as possible. I’m taking call through December 16th before I go on holiday break. We can talk about how I can support you with managing your time and great boundaries for a better life in the new year. I’ll have a link to schedule a call with me in the show notes.
Until next time, have an amazingly rebellious week.