Today’s topic is an important one: boundaries!
During a Q & A in stories a couple weeks back, questions about boundaries came up more than once. What are my boundaries? Do I have any advice for setting them? What are they? I think it’s something we all constantly struggle with, but boundaries are so important for our mental sanity! Everyone’s boundaries are different, but their importance remains the same.
Boundaries can be difficult to enact anytime — no one wants to let people down or not do a good job. But protecting your time, prioritizing your priorities, and preserving your mental health is essential for avoiding burnout and enjoying life to the fullest!
I like to think of boundaries as self-care. If you don’t enforce your own boundaries, you aren’t able to fill up your own cup, and therefore, you’re not able to show up for anyone else to your full capacity, either. When you enforce boundaries, everyone wins.
The pandemic has added an extra layer of pressure when it comes to boundaries, as now it’s just assumed that you are reachable and available 24/7 in both your professional and personal life. On the flip side, it’s also been nice not feeling overscheduled anymore! (Personally, I think I’m going to miss that when the world starts to open up again.)
I asked what boundaries are most important to you, and got some incredible answers that I thought were very much worth sharing! These might sound simple, but they’ve made huge difference in your daily happiness and ongoing mental health. Feel free to adopt the ones that resonate, and leave the ones you don’t!
Let’s Talk About Life + Work Boundaries: GG Readers’ Thoughts
Words of Wisdom
To kick us off, I love these quotes that some of you shared about boundaries that are always great to keep in mind — especially when feeling pressured or guilty about enforcing your limits.
“Every yes you give is a no to something else, so choose thoughtfully.”
“Lack of preparation on your part doesn’t mean it’s an emergency for me.”
“You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.”
General “Life” boundaries:
Saying no to things.
By far the #1 submitted boundary! No is a complete sentence and you don’t need to send in excuses, justifications, or any other reasoning for choosing not to do something. Just say no!
If it’s toxic, it’s not coming into my life.
Whether it’s a toxic friendship or even a toxic family member relationship, GG readers are standing firm on not allowing it into their orbit.
A free weekend doesn’t mean you have to fill it with plans.
This was another popular submission! Just because you are available to do something — doesn’t mean you have to if you’d rather be doing nothing at all. Some of you make a point to only schedule plans one night per weekend, or not schedule any plans at all! If you’re finding that you don’t have enough downtime–SCHEDULE your downtime.
If you aren’t sure how to turn something down, just be honest! A simple, “thank you so much for thinking of me, I would love to another time, but I really try not to over-pack my weekends and this Saturday we’re just taking some time to unwind!” Or even a simple, “we’re not able to make it, but thank you so much for thinking of us!” is JUST FINE. You don’t need to provide a reason!
Setting timers for social media.
To combat mindless scrolling, many of you have set timers for your social media apps. And some of you only have certain apps on a specific device (i.e. iPad) so you keep social media separate from work/other personal items. Very smart!
Being honest about a lack of emotional bandwidth.
This is a great one! If a friend is calling with a problem, but you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to properly help them deal with it, it’s okay to be honest without guilt.
Not engaging in discussion/gossip about other friends/family members without them present
I think this is such a great one. Say no to petty gossip and drama–it’s SO emotionally draining. It’s perfectly fine to say, “You know I love you, and I’m sorry you’re having this issue with X friend or X family member, but I don’t need to hear about it or get involved. You need to discuss it with her, and not me!” and then change the subject.
Getting rid of unwanted gifts or asking for no gifts
A few of you are working on letting go of the guilt/need to keep unwanted gifts, especially when it comes to your kids’ gifts. If you don’t want something in your home, donate it and move on!
It’s also completely okay to ask for no gifts, and say, “We’re asking for no gifts. We don’t have space and we’re trying to keep things minimal! However, X cause is really near and dear to our hearts, so if you would like to make a donation in our name, that would mean so much to us!” or “We don’t have space for any more gifts, but what would really help is a GrubHub gift card so we don’t have to worry about cooking when we bring the baby home!”
Let’s all normalize voicing what we need and don’t need!
While some of these suggestions may not be possible within your company/position/industry, they are great boundaries to consider:
Let people know how you want to communicate.
The endless ways people can reach us these days is overwhelming — calls, texts, emails, zoom, chats, team apps, and communication channels, etc. If you’re able to, let people know how you prefer to communicate.
Saying something like, “Moving forward, if you can email that to me instead of texting it, that would be great! Texts often get lost in my workflow, but an email to me will always ensure it gets my attention! Thank you so much!”
Never miss a dear one’s special event because you were working.
Yes! Log on later, make the memory now. I think this past year made us realize that making memories with ones we love is everything–I think this is a boundary we should all embrace! Saying, “I’m not able to attend the client dinner next week because it’s my niece’s birthday” does not need any justification. It’s not asking, it’s telling.
Setting strict work days and hours.
This was by far the most submitted work-related boundary. GG readers are committed to working hard at work and letting go free of guilt after hours. As one reader put it: “If work can’t be completed during work hours, it waits until tomorrow.” Just because you CAN be working, doesn’t mean you SHOULD be working!
Not taking on tasks that are not your job description.
This is a great one! Especially if it’s keeping you from getting your tasks done within working hours! (And if you DO have the bandwidth to take on tasks that aren’t in your job description, and you agree to, make sure you’re documenting this accordingly so you can point this out in your next performance review!)
Limiting email notifications.
Another popular submission: putting boundaries on email notifications. Whether it’s not receiving work email on your phone or turning off notifications after a set time each day, email boundaries are huge in separating life from work — especially if you work from home!
Voicing unrealistic timelines.
This can be a tough one depending on your work culture, but it’s crucial when it comes to maintaining healthy work hours and boundaries. If a timeline is unrealistic, make it known! Pushing back the deadline or reprioritizing other deliverables will make it possible for you to do your job to the best of your ability, and ensure everyone is set up for success.
Consider saying something like, “I can definitely make that happen, but it will require pushing something else back. Do you want me to prioritize this over XYZ project, and we can move that to next week? Let me know what you’d prefer and I can get on that ASAP!”
Always take your lunch break.
One I firmly believe in! Whether you work remote or in-person, everyone deserves a lunch break to properly nourish themselves and give your brain some time to decompress. You’d be surprised at how much it affects your productivity in a positive way, too! One GG reader blocks off 12-1 on her work calendar every day to protect that time. Watch a show while you eat lunch, read a book, go for a walk, squeeze in a home workout, whatever! A mid-day break does wonders, so never forget, it’s your right to take one!