How to set workplace boundaries

 

Setting workplace boundaries sounds like a big dream for many. You can work at it and finally master it to make life so much better!

I have gotten really good at workplace boundaries over the past few years. I was really quite bad at this before. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do, but rather I had to do it for my own sanity!

First things first

When it came to setting boundaries, I had to get really clear about why I needed them in the first place. This really wasn’t a hard task for me to do. But it’s an essential one if you are thinking about setting some workplace boundaries yourself. Figure out your why – is it because you are looking to protect time for family togetherness? Do you need to make it to activities for your children? Do you want to fit in some self-care like meditation or exercise time? Do you have other side projects that bring you joy that you want to make time for? Do you not want to be working all the damn time to leave some white space in your day-to-day schedule so you can seize fun opportunities or attend to important things without having to feel stuck with work? Your clarity on your ‘why’ doesn’t need to be shared with your employer. I recommend you do this so that you can hold yourself accountable for remembering why you wanted the boundary in the first place, what it’s so important for you to have.

Repeat after me, “Showing up for myself and my needs is NOT selfish, it’s necessary.

Get really okay with putting yourself first – get support if you need it

Ooh, girl, this is a tough one if you are not used to a “me-first” mentality. Repeat after me, “Showing up for myself and my needs is NOT selfish; it’s necessary.”

How many times have you put yourself last? Let me guess – pretty much always. Me too, before I began to rock boundary setting. I put everyone around me first, including my workplace. I had to show I could handle it all. But I couldn’t, maybe in small doses, but overall, no way. I learned this lesson by completing burning out. And trust me, if you can avoid the big burn out please do so because it’s not a fun place. If this means you seek a coach or therapist to help you get okay with healthy boundaries – do it! I did a lot of work with my coach and therapist on personal boundary setting. I don’t think I could have really done it without their support, guidance, and accountability. 

Give up the notion that everyone needs to agree with you or like your choices.

I wouldn’t say I like the idea of someone not liking me or judging the choices I make. But you know what I hate even more than that? Being a slave to my workplace, having no control over how I want to spend my time, not being at the wheel of who my time gets spent with, and just doing what others won’t because I’m too scared or worried about how they will feel or react. I have to focus on how I feel and what I need, or personally, I’ll be filled with anxiety, depression, and sadness. Building and setting boundaries is a key antidote for me to achieving an anxiety-free and happy life. I’ve learned that a healthy boundary setting requires being okay with making the choice that works for me, even if someone else doesn’t like it. Whatever you can do to get out of your head, stop the insanity and drama of upsetting others if you ask for what you want and need. You’re going to find sometimes they don’t say a thing, and you learn you did all that worrying for nothing. I told my boss it was important for me to be there for my daughter after school, so I told her I needed to start work earlier to wrap up around 4 pm each day. I was a little nervous asking for what I needed, but I did, and she didn’t bat an eye at it. 

Organizing and prioritizing

Organizing and prioritizing are two friends I have to have along with me on my journey of setting good workplace boundaries. These skills keep me knowing what needs to get done, when, by whom, and when there are just too many things on the plate, how to prioritize where my time and energy go first. I use a few tactics every day to keep me organized and prioritized to keep the healthy boundaries I want and need. First, I schedule in time for what I need in my calendar first, then fill in the rest. This is not usually something I do every day, and rather it’s something I try to sit for longer periods of time, so it just appears on my calendar every day. I have learned that if I don’t do this, then every single day will get sucked away with work, and I’ve got hardly a minute to breathe, go to the bathroom, and eat something. 

Organizing and prioritizing are two friends I have to have along with me on my journey of setting good workplace boundaries.

So, for me, I must stop and eat lunch for 30 minutes during my day. I have 30 minutes blocked on my calendar where I literally make lunch really fast, sit somewhere other than my desk and eat. I might still be thinking about work, but I step away and get a quick change of scenery. Also, I usually eat lunch as my first meal of the day, so I’m feeling hungry enough for my body to be giving me that nudge to eat something. Yes, of course, there are times I have to be at a meeting, so I eat and work, but no longer is this the norm for me. Second, I need to know what is important every day. I have an overall work plan (basic Excel spreadsheet) that stays open on my laptop all day long. I organize it by category, and then I list every task with who the owner is, when it’s due, and its completion status. Sounds like a lot? Nope. It’s so easy to set up, stick a quick filter on it and you can easily sort and look at all the to-dos by category or by the due date for that week, month, etc. It’s a one-stop-shop for organizing.  At the end of most days, I take a look at it, make notes of anything that has transpired in the meetings, emails, conversations I have had, enter new items, adjust dates or next steps, and most my favorite…marking the finished items complete. Oh, it feels so good! It helps my brain relax, and I can keep focused that things are moving along even when it’s been an absolutely bat-shit crazy day.

At the start of most days, I again look at it and set my main priorities for what I’m doing for the day. If I work through those, then I add more. Easy as that. And last, I am vigilant about blocking out my bookends in my calendar. I work from 7 am to 4 pm. I religiously leave the desk at8 am and 345pm to get to the bus stop to drop off and greet my daughter. But my calendar is blocked before 7 am and after 4 pm as though I’m not available. The truth is, I’m not, and I don’t want to be because of the boundaries I need for myself. So, I just let the world at work know you can’t tap me then because I’m not available. Very rarely do I get a meeting at those times. When I do, it’s usually something pretty important that I can’t wait, so I flex, and I attend because, hey, I’m still committed to doing a great job. But I don’t worry about it because with the good boundaries I’ve put up.  

Workplace boundaries help create

 the happiness you want; trust me, you can do it!

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Julie Brendich
Julie is the owner of Harmony & Success Personal Coaching, LLC. She’s a long-time leadership development expert having spent over 20 years working in multiple industries, helping leaders become more effective and successful. She works with clients on the wisdom of the “Midlife Awakening” and how it can be the catalyst for massive, positive life transformation in not just their careers but also in their most precious relationships, self-care, and spirituality. She holds advanced degrees in psychology and is credentialed as a Master Spirit Life Coach and Certified Professional Coach through the International Coaching Federation. A midwestern native from the suburbs of Chicago, Julie approaches the coaching process with her clients in a down-to-earth way where each client can be their true selves. It is her life’s purpose and biggest joy to help midlife women achieve their goals.
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