During these long months of working from home, spending so much time online, blending work life with home life and home schooling, the need for boundaries is more important than ever.  Not just creating and maintaining boundaries with other people.  But also, and perhaps more importantly, honouring the boundaries with yourself that are for your well-being, resilience and resourcefulness.

People are finding these boundaries increasingly challenging.  Perhaps you are an HR manager or team leader who is noticing your colleagues working longer hours, feeling more fatigued and showing signs of diminished resilience.  Or maybe you are recognising these signs within yourself?  The question is, “What can you do about it?”

Knowing is not enough

We all know that we should limit our time sat at the computer and interacting with technology, not consistently start work too early and finish too late, balance work life and home life so that we meet our work responsibilities without feeling like we are neglecting the people at home we cherish and love.  But the truth is, it is all too easy to let these things slide in the face of blurred boundaries because we are working from home.  Even when we were commuting to the office, these boundaries got blurred.  And I’m sure they will continue to be blurred if, or when, we return to working at the office.  Unless we make some conscious, purposeful and consistent choices about where it feels right to draw the line so that we can enjoy consistent well-being physically, mentally and emotionally.

If we know what we should do, why aren’t we doing it?  Simply put, we have developed habits and patterns of behaviour that are ingrained in our minds and bodies.  These habits and patterns drive our behaviour, which is why we fall back into our most frequently practiced habits.  If it has become your habit to consistently check your e-mails, or social media feeds, as soon as you get up and just before you go to bed, that can be a surprisingly challenging habit to break.  Often, telling yourself not to do it is not enough.  You want to go deeper to develop more resolve, commitment and consistency to break that habit.

How can you go deeper?

Getting clear about what you are saying “no” and “yes” to when you try to break these habits is a starting point.  Pick a habit now that you would like to break.  Perhaps it’s working too late.  Maybe it’s agreeing to do too much to the point that you feel overwhelmed and anxious.  Do you always set aside your needs for the benefit of other people’s demands?  Is it hard for you to make requests of others?  I shall use the example from above, of checking e-mails and social media too frequently, to guide you through the process.

Let’s start with what you are saying “no” to?

There is the surface level saying “no” to looking at your feeds so frequently.  What might be beneath that?  Perhaps you are saying “no” to the sense of anxiety that drives you to look so often?  Or to the lack of good quality sleep you get as a result?  Maybe you’re saying “no” to feeling disconnected or isolated from the people around you because you’re checking your phone, tablet or computer so much.  Perhaps you feel trapped or enslaved by technology and you want to say “no” to that?

Over to you.  What are you saying “no” to in your example?  Go as deep as you feel comfortable to go.  You don’t want to upset yourself, but you might find it sobering to realise what you are saying “no” to at a deeper level.

Next, what are you saying “yes” to?

This is the other side of the coin.  I have noticed that it is useful to focus on this as well, so that you have a positive outcome to think about.  When I say “no” to checking e-mails and social media too much, perhaps I am also saying “yes” to having more time.  Or creating an early morning routine that generates a better start to the day?  Alternatively, a late-night routine that is calming and likely to give me better sleep?  Or even time for exercise during the day, conversations with family or friends, a decent lunch break or coffee break.  Perhaps I’m saying “yes” to being better organised and managing my time and energy more effectively?  There are all these possible, positive outcomes to creating boundaries around the topic that challenges you.  Focusing on these things you want to move towards can be as inspiring, often more so, as the things you want to move away from.

Now, it is about consistent action

Perhaps make a list of what you are saying “yes” and “no” to and put it up by where you work or sleep and set aside time to actually read it?  And decide on one or two things you will do daily that honour the boundaries you are creating.  Maybe that entails turning your phone, tablet and computer off and on at certain times.  Or activating settings that limit your phone use.  You could plan to do other things with your time instead that feel nourishing and resourcing like going for a walk, phoning a friend or colleague or having a break without technology.

Exercise Self-Compassion

Set yourself up for success.  Give yourself things to do that you can do.  And that you will do.  Create a habit of success by doing what you set out to do, no matter how small.  Celebrate every achievement.  Build and cultivate a life for yourself that feels right for you over time.  It takes time to build in new habits.  I have found that focusing on what I am saying “no” and “yes” to helps give me the clarity and resolve to consistently move towards what I want for myself.

And when you don’t quite get it right, exercise self-compassion.  Life and maturity are processes of becoming.  Celebrate your successes and be easy on yourself when things are perhaps not ideal.  If you have the habit of giving yourself a hard time for falling short of some self-imposed perfection, this video might be helpful:

Over to You

What boundaries would you like to set?  When you honour these boundaries, what are you saying “yes” and “no” to?  What actions will you take to honour those boundaries and set yourself up for success?  What impact does this have on your life-work balance?  How will this change your relationship with yourself, your children, partner, work colleagues, family and friends?

Pass it on

What will you take away from this article?  What idea did you find most helpful?  Do you know anyone in your network who would benefit?  If so, please pass on the article to them so that it can make a positive difference in their life.  Thank you.

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