Setting work boundaries: 7 tips to take back your time

Setting work boundaries is a challenge. Not because you don’t want them, but because you may only realize one’s been crossed when you’re massively annoyed. Then in hindsight you can see what happened and wish you could have a do-over.

Seven tips to set work boundaries

Decide when you’re available

You’re available all day for work issues. Outside of work is time to regroup, re-energize and focus on your personal life.  If you’re exhausted or busy at the moment, you decide whether you want to be interrupted by that ring, ding or notification.

Communicate when the best time is for you to discuss heavy subjects

You’ve had a tough meeting or a stressful day and someone wants to get into a serious or complicated discussion. If you’re not in the right mindset, say so. Then offer up an option for another day or time. I’m a morning person and my husband is a night owl. Conversations requiring intense brain power happen on weekends.

Choose what you let into your brain

Whether it’s dismal news or toxic people, you don’t have to allow it to claim real estate in your head. Choose what you take in  and spend mental energy processing. No need to apologize to anyone for your choice.

Know why you say “yes”

“Yes” is often an impulsive reaction with ongoing repercussions. Before you say anything, get very clear about where this request lies in terms of your boundaries. Time is finite and when you say yes to one request you’re saying no to something else. Don’t make that “something else” your sanity.

Get comfortable saying “no”

“No, thank you” is a complete sentence. But “That’s not something I can do ” or a similar sentiment works, too. The point is, you don’t have to go on about the reasons you’re declining the offer. Busy people have to make choices and this is one of them.

Insist on punctuality

Late people aren’t busy, they’re inconsiderate. Decide how long you’re willing to wait on a chronically late person and then move on with your day. No need for anger or frustration to build when you respect your own boundaries. Waiting for The Straggler before you start the meeting is disrespectful to those who always show up on time and a waste of money, too.

Wait only if you wish

If someone routinely attends to other business or intrusions when they’re supposed to be focusing on the reason you’re meeting, you decide what’s OK with you and where to draw the line.

Next Steps

When you’re setting boundaries at work take some time to think about where yours are. Then get comfortable with the language you’ll use to share them with your team and what you’ll say when a boundary is being breached. Practice in advance makes that more comfortable.  Ideally you’ll communicate your boundaries before it becomes an issue. Or in some cases, after the first time it becomes an issue – so it doesn’t happen a second time.

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