How To Set Boundaries Like a Boss
create structure in your life by your own design
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had more than your fair share of over-commitments and resulting failures to set clear boundaries to guard and conserve your time and energy. A friend approaches me all excited and asks if I want to run a half-marathon with her and I’m like, ‘heck yes! Friends! Fun!’ later to have the reality set in- I have to train for this thing??
Or your boss asks you to work on a special project- it’s an honor to be asked, and you say yes because you think that’s what your boss wants to hear (you’re such a stellar employee), and because you think you probably should jump on every opportunity that comes your way. As the deadline approaches you find yourself thinking, what the hell did I get myself into? And how to do I get out?!
Our lives are shaped by boundaries. If you aren’t setting them, no one will do it for you, and you will find yourself overcommitting over and over. And over. And over….
Here are my favorite ways to set boundaries so I don’t over-commit. Because let’s face it, we can’t be and do everything, and with the right tools, attitudes, and language, we can set boundaries and establish respect, for others AND for ourselves.
Decide Ahead of Time
Do you already know someone is going to ask you to do something you don’t want to commit to? If you make your decision ahead of time and practice saying no in your head before the situation happens, you will be much better equipped to handle the situation with grace and eloquence.
Now, we can’t see every situation coming, so it can help to spend some time deciding what priority to focus on on any given day. Not only will this make your days more focused and efficient (because you’ll have a clear goal), it will give you a filter to send your incoming demands and opportunities through- does this event/demand/chore fit into my goals for today or not? If not, and you’ve already decided what your day will be like, greet it with a loving ‘nope!’ and let it pass you by.
Here’s a big one. Someone important to you approaches you and asks you to join them for happy hour after work. You’re tired as a dog, but don’t want to seem disinterested so before you know it you word-vomit, ‘yeah! Sounds great!’
If you’re a people-pleaser, you’ll always want to say yes. To cure this knee-jerk habit it’s helpful to practice some new language. Here are my favorites so I have time to clear my head and really decide:
That sounds awesome! Let me check my calendar and get back to you.
Thank you for thinking of me, I’m actually going to … ______ (go home and crash, politely decline, take a rain check for now).
Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not going to do that.
Setting boundaries doesn’t have to feel overly defensive or standoffish; each of these statements, said with a smile, is actually quite pleasant and (usually) well-received!
Find a Boundary Buddy
Most things are figure-outable (to quote my mentor Marie Forleo)- especially with a buddy.
Find a strong friend, or even your partner/spouse to run things by when you’re not sure you want to commit. Be sure to tell this person your goals, including not over-committing… often hashing things out verbally can really help you decipher exactly what you want, and having an impartial ear doesn’t hurt either.
Take a Breath
Remember the word-vomit we talked about a little earlier? It’s a real thing. My favorite way to avoid this is to pause before answering, and take one, deep breath. While this may seem uncomfortable, the other person will often times keep talking, or give you an out when you pause. Also, it gets your mind out of reaction-mode and into a more pro-active space. It’s nice to have a moment to think!!
Face Your FOMO
You know you’ve got it: FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. Of course you want to be there for all the greatest things all the time. But, thinking that you’ll be missing out by declining can get you stuck into a cycle of over-commitment and disappointment. This is a boundary for YOU. Decide what’s important to you, and do it whole-heartedly! But you don’t have to do everything. I’m giving you permission to say no ;).
If you find yourself over-committing, it’s okay, this can be a hard habit to break. Pretty soon, with a little practice, self-awareness, and the right support system you’ll be setting boundaries like a boss!
What are some of your strategies for setting boundaries? What is one thing you are going to try to say ‘no’ (or, I’m going to check my calendar ;)) to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below.
For more reading on setting boundaries, check out Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
And for one of my favorite living-life-awesomely blogs, check out Eric Barker over at Barking Up The Wrong Tree.