Summer Trip 2015 Rockies 049Six years ago I emceed a monthly open mic, a monthly morning networking writing group and book club. I also led a weekly women’s networking referral group. I had client work due on a Thursday, the same day as the morning networking group, and had to tell the client I couldn’t finish her work. It was at that point I knew I had weak boundaries and needed to do something about it.

I eventually gave up everything except the book club and refocused on giving myself and my business time to breathe. Why was I overloading myself so much? It was a deadly combination of fear, ambition and insecurity. I didn’t want to miss out on anything and I believed that if folks didn’t see me out and about they would forget about me. I also believed that I only had a certain time to make things happen for my business and if I didn’t “strike while the iron was hot” I’d forego opportunity.

This thinking is scarcity thinking and it was perpetuated by my parents when they would tell me I needed to get married before I was thirty because if I waited no one would want me (it happens I got married at twenty-nine). They also told me not to spend too much time with friends/boyfriends or they would get to know the real me and they would leave. These were both painful messages and stories that I could rewrite. But it did take time to rewrite them to build better boundaries.

I should also mention here that I grew up in a dysfunctional family that didn’t give me a strong emotional foundation. Because of that, I’m still working to let go of my co-dependencies which include saying “yes” to too many things and not telling “no” to people because I was afraid of the reaction I’d get—you see, in my family, if I said “no” to my mom, she would slap me. If I asked my dad a question he would usually say it was stupid. It’s hard to change patterns.

Here are six areas to help you set better boundaries:

Networking:

Yes, networking is important so folks don’t think you’ve dropped out of circulation, but try not to have a networking event going on every day. Middle of the day events do take a lot of time in terms of getting ready for them, and driving there and back. Ask yourself if you can afford not to work on your project for a three hour block. If you can’t, either don’t make the event or see if you sacrifice some time (or sleep—not really recommended) elsewhere.

Clear Time for You:

Designate a day for only getting your own work (no client work) done—it doesn’t have to be a weekday if that’s easier for you, but on this day, you should try to keep out-of-the-office meetings to a minimum so you have concentrated time to write/work without distractions. This is when you show love back to yourself by writing, playing music, meditating, exercising and reading!

 

Deadlines:

Are you overscheduling your deadlines in order to make more money or to please clients? It may work for now, but eventually too tight deadlines will blow up in your face because you crammed and delivered sloppy work to your client. Trust me. I’ve been there. Now, I say “no” to potential clients if they want a great deal of work done in a tight amount of space—even if the money is good, which it usually isn’t.

Set Reasonable Business Hours:

With all of our technology, it’s very easy to answer texts, emails, phone calls (less of them now) at all hours and on weekends. I do answer emails during the day on weekends, but I don’t make or take phone calls. For new clients I also don’t answer emails or take calls after 7 p.m. on weekdays. I don’t want to set up a pattern that I’m always available.

No Free Edits:

As an editor and workshop leader, I’m careful not to give my value away for free, except to a select bunch of designated institutions a few times a year. If someone wants me to read over their work, I share that I have a reading/consultation fee—time is money and I value myself. It wasn’t always this way, but it’s this way now! I’m also more careful about oversharing with clients—I can get very carried away sometimes sharing my personal crap that doesn’t belong in a client meeting and I’m still working on this—that’s why blogging’s so important—ha, ha!

Social Media/Email Time Out:

I keep my phone on “silent” at all times and it’s not just because my iPhone got rebooted and all of my ringtones were lost. Silence cuts down my on distraction time—did you know it takes about 20 minutes to get back to where you were after a distraction? I also have my computer volume on “mute” as well. I do check email a lot, as well as Facebook, and I know I do this when I’m bored and avoiding work. I’m working on this…I’m working on this…

 

Remember if you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired, angry, frustrated or not as productive as usual, limit your outside activity and adjust accordingly. Think about building better boundaries! Pay attention to the signals and remember is okay to say, “no” and protect your time! As entrepreneurs, time is our most precious commodity.

Your Turn:

What other tips can you offer that have helped you build better boundaries? Please share in the comments!