A couple of weeks back, I had a conversation with Katie, a long-time client. We talked about boundaries, something that we have talked about over the years. She had, again, agreed to take on the program chair position at her local art guild. The guild was in a real bind since the current chair was having surgery with a long rehab period, and they really needed her, she said. That was on top of Katie’s picking up the slack for one of the moms with snacks at the kids’ soccer games. And, she also lamented a call the day before from a long-time friend who needed someone to talk with. The problem was that the friend was always in a crisis mode and she picked Katie as the go-to person on many occasions.
During our conversation, Katie admitted she was exhausted and felt like her needs, both personal and professional, were taking second place. That was true. She may have had good boundaries, but she was not guarding them. She was giving away her time and energy. What we discussed was a test for Katie to make some changes in her life.
I will admit right up front I could be a better boundary setter. Well maybe not a setter, but rather a keeper. I can set those boundaries; I just do not always stick to them. How about you?
What are boundaries?
This might be the first part of the conversation. If you own property, you understand the concept of boundaries. This is where my property begins and what I am responsible for. It is the same with personal boundaries. It is where you begin and your sense of responsibility begins. Your business will have boundaries, too.
I think that boundaries are a form of self-respect and it travels further. If you don’t respect yourself and your business to create boundaries, how can you expect your customers to respect you?
Why are boundaries hard?
I told you that I’m a good boundary setter but wasn’t always such a good boundary keeper. If you are in the same boat, I think you get stuck in a few places.
You’re afraid you might lose the customer.
You’re afraid it will affect your income in a negative way.
You want people to like you.
You want your customers to be happy so they say good things about you. And they might not come back if you have boundaries.
You don’t want to take the chance to miss out on something.
You don’t appreciate your value.
It can start you on a spiral to forget about keeping your boundaries.
What other fears to do you see?
Here are some guidelines for setting boundaries
When you get into particular situations, what happens to you? Do you become anxious, lose energy, feel unsure, flee, fight, get overwhelmed, etc. Being aware of how you respond is the first step to learning to set boundaries that work for you.
Start with simple boundaries or limits
Start to think about what is negotiable and non-negotiable for you. How do you want to run your business? Some simple boundaries for you might be:
Not working past 7 pm
Saying no to extra commitments (or even learning how to say no)
Saying no to rush orders or adding a fee
Not taking personal calls during business hours
Not staying late at the shop for that customer who can never get there on time
Not waiting for late-comers to your class
Specific times to answer emails
Not working on weekends
Not going down the social media rabbit hole during work hours
As your business changes and grows, so will your boundaries.
Once you set your boundaries, you do not need to defend your position. It just is. If someone questions you on it, you just repeat your position.
Stay committed to your course
If you give in this once, you will find yourself giving in again and again. You end up feeling guilty if you don’t. (I think that is often a woman people-pleasing guilt issue.) People will start to ignore your needs. And, you end up back in those feelings I outlined in self-awareness above.
I’m not saying you won’t ever have an exception. I know I have some. But be clear with yourself why this is an exception and don’t let it become a rule. Remember why you set the boundaries in the first place.
Boundaries are a system
You know I like to talk about creating systems in your business. Systems support the business and let you get more done. If you think about it, boundaries are really just systems that help you live your life the best way. They put you in charge of your life. They also help you manage your business the best way for you.
If you want to read more on boundaries, I read a wonderful little book. It is called Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
If you are not a boundary setter, make a commitment to start this week. Set some standards or boundaries for yourself. Just one boundary and build on that. It will make a big difference.
It’s Your Turn!
How do you handle boundary setting and keeping?