As is often the case with the How To Guide, I share ideas and tips as a result of what I need or have learned. So here we are today with boundaries!
There are multiple types of boundaries – intellectual, sexual, personal, work and today I want to focus on personal and work because those two things rarely separate out for micro business owners like us!
Sometimes boundaries are perceived as a strict set of work or personal rules that you might insist that the outer world obeys on your behalf. However, they are much more like quiet but firm internal lines over which you decide not to cross while communicating them clearly with this you need to. It doesn’t alter the fact thought, that for many of us they are super tricky to even ask for.
Why are boundaries important to us and our work as micro business owners?
Firstly, we need to take great care of ourselves in order that we can do the good work for our customers. Whatever that looks like in your business, it’s vital that you’re able to keep going – physically, mentally, emotionally.
Secondly, it’s important that we’re able to find good quality time to focus, get creative or simply ‘see’ into our futures.
Thirdly, we might also need to consider the blurred lines between home and work. A difficult dance but something that is vital to give us the balance we so craved when we decided to become a micro owner. If you’re a people pleaser type, boundaries pose a real problem both personally and in business, because you will be driven by a desire to put others before yourself. This can leave you exhausted, overwhelmed, too addicted to ‘busy’ and not able to prioritise what are the most important tasks in your life.
I have a life long dance with boundary setting, I have got better at it in so many things but still have times when the boundaries blur and I find myself overly tired, under achieving and frustrated that I’m not finding the time for innovative or creative projects (post grad assignments still not done!).
Here are some things I've learned along the way that I hope will help you both check how your boundaries are and how you might like to improve them a little:
How are your boundaries? Do you ever feel that you're not managing to prioritise those things that you really want to achieve. This could be personally - yoga, a daily walk, time to have a bath etc or perhaps work wise - setting up that new blog, creating an automated email marketing system? Any of these things could be a sign that re looking at your boundaries might be beneficial.
Start small. It's not necessary to suddenly sit everyone down in your life and read them a long list of new rules - far too scary and likely to be quickly forgotten! Maybe start with quietly noticing what the blocks are that are stopping you from feeling more organised, more calm, happier, more creative, more rested and more you. Start by simply noticing the times when you feel grumpy, frustrated, disappointed or stressed and consider how that situation could have been helped with some more support, more time for you, a longer walk to clear your head etc. What lines in the sand could you have drawn to make these situations a little better?
Curate your time. This is a game changer for me. I now try to curate lots of different areas of my life. I may sit in bed when I wake up and curate my day for example. A little note about what my priorities are for that day and more importantly, what I need to prioritise to get those things done. If I have some writing to do for example, I know that I will need some quiet time first (slow brain!) so I might decide to walk first, or take a longer shower or quietly tidy something up while I ponder. This space that's created may only be 5 minutes but it stops me rushing into the day or the week or the month, headlong without considering everything I need to get where I want to go.
Learn to delegate. This one is very hard but clearly so necessary. Both personally and in our micro worlds, even understanding which part of our lives we can delegate can be difficult, never mind actually asking someone to do it. So let's start with what you can delegate. Think about the things that are maybe easy but time consuming first. It could be packing, website updating, cooking the evening meal or the dog walk. Then...really important...consider which of those tasks fill you up with energy and which ones drain. Delegate the drainers. If you love to dog walk then keep that task but if someone else can cook a meal then great. Work wise, also consider those jobs that aren't your forte. Bookkeeping is something I can do but I make mistakes and it takes me forever. I am a talker, writer, coach etc, so I try to save my energy for this things first.
Practice asking and saying no. So here we are with some ideas about what blocks up our days and what frustrated us. We know what we want to set a little boundary around but then to actually make that happen??!! There are two principles that might help you here. Firstly, always start with 'I' rather than 'you'. For example 'I would like you to cook the meal this evening to give me an additional hour in the studio this week' rather than, 'I need more time so you're going to have to do tea'. Try to explain why too. 'I am feeling a little overwhelmed and need some help this week to help me reach my deadlines', rather than, 'You're not doing enough and I don't have enough time'. The second principle is saying 'no' AND without an explanation. If you don't have time for a meeting, you can't offer a mates rate price or you need to prioritise sleep over drinks with friends, then a simple 'no thank you, maybe next time' is fine. No excuses, no multiple sorrys, just no. Over time this will help those around you know you have boundaries over which they can't trample and will respect.
Make compromise your friend. I can feel the perfectionists out there recoiling from this one but stick with me. Perfectionism is almost an attack on boundaries and certainly does nothing to improve the lives of perfectionists. Always striving for perfect or to be in control tells us that there's an internal conflict we can explore. Our loved ones, our customers and our peers will never notice if things aren't just so. In fact, there is s strong argument that your relationships with these people will be improved by being vulnerable enough to compromise. So if someone else is helping you out or asking for some additional time in the day to work means a meal is cooked by a lesser cook than you, then practice deep breathing and focus on what you have gained rather than what you have lost.
Remember that those around you feel better, more secure and less anxious if your boundaries are clear. Well thought out boundaries will make you business better and will serve your customers better too. Consistency is key and it takes practice but actually, it makes you and everyone around feel better. So...what will your new boundary setting unearth for you?