How to set healthy boundaries
Why boundaries are your best friend in business – and where they come in handy
As the passionate, talented and incredible small business women that I’m sure you are, it can seem very natural to pour your whole heart, soul, time and energy into your business. After all, you’ve chosen this path to success and you want to give it your best shot.
But no matter whether you’re setting out to build an empire, or just create a comfortable lifestyle for your family, it’s important to set – and more importantly – honour, a few key boundaries in your business and personal life.
These boundaries will allow you to make decisions more easily, support your wellbeing, enjoy your work and allow you to keep up momentum without burning out.
Remember, YOU are your most valuable business asset, so you need to look after yourself.
1. Clarify your strategy
Being crystal clear on WHY you do what you do, WHO you wish to serve and WHAT you offer will help you decide which projects to take on, where you can best apply your skills and knowledge, and how you can be paid what you’re worth – ideally on time! Early on in your business you may take on clients or projects that are less than ideal, but that is part of the learning process. It’s how you’ll work out exactly where those boundaries lie. But over time, you need to let some of those less-than-ideal “opportunities” go. Trust your gut – if an opportunity doesn’t feel right, say NO with dignity and perhaps refer it someone who might be a better fit.
2. Systemise the sticky stuff
There will always be parts of business that make you feel uncomfortable. It can be really easy to relax your boundaries here, rather than facing up to the emotions that arise… things like chasing late payments, following up proposals, having “difficult” conversations, or even scheduling your social media. For these, systems are your friend! Develop a process that you can follow, then document it, communicate them clearly through T&Cs, project briefs, policy documents or Position Descriptions, and consider automation where appropriate.
3. Honour your value
If you run a service business, your personality, skills, time and energy are your most valuable assets. You’re more likely to attract clients who truly value your uniqueness – and are easier to work with – if you charge appropriately for your level of experience and professionalism, and with whom they can build a collaborative relationship over time, rather than trying to compete with crowd-sourcing rates, or discounting to make the sale. From my experience a client (or potential client) who is niggling over price is usually trouble!
4. Manage your energy as well as your time
There is loads of productivity advice out there – and plenty of apps to keep you on track, but it is actually your energy, not your time that is your most scarce resource. So make sure you make the most of it!
Know when you are at your most productive and use this time for your most important or “energy-intensive” projects. Turn off email notifications, block social media if you must, and send your phone to VoiceMail. Save these for when you’re need a break… Also, ensure you build enough “white space” into your calendar; a gap between appointments, a strategy day, or an occasional lunch out with a trusted friend. These will help replenish your energy and ensure you have time to think, connect and allow ideas to form to take your business forward.
1. Delineate work and home life
There is no need to be always “ON” in your business, but the line can be easily blurred – especially if you work from home. So it’s important to set some clear boundaries that ensure that you and your family know when you’re in “work” mode and when you’re not. It’s OK to be flexible with your work hours, but ensure that your focus is where it should be at that time – at least pop your phone away when you’re meant to be fully present with your kids, partner or friends. Set up a separate workspace (preferably with a door), or if this is not possible, put your work stuff away in a box at the end of your working day. Other ways you may like to delineate are “commuting” by going for a short walk before starting work, or changing in and out of your work clothes.
2. Take care of YOU
As women, we often spend all our time and energy looking after others, but unless you look after yourself properly, this is a recipe for burnout. Treat yourself as if you are your most important business asset (which you are!), and make sure you prioritise YOUR health and wellbeing first. Healthy food, exercise, sleep, connections… these all matter. Remember, no YOU, NO business!
3. Choose your battles/projects/causes
One of the best things about running a business is the flexibility it gives you to fit other things into your life. Many of these will bring you JOY – volunteering in the community, having a hobby, getting the shopping done without the queues… However, there can be the tendency to overcommit and stretch yourself, often to the detriment of your business. So be selective and only say YES to those things that truly light you up. If you’re passionate about the school reading program, get involved. Love making costumes for Book Week – great. You don’t have to do ALL the things – remember, you have a business to run!
Boundaries are an essential part of our lives, yet they can feel difficult to put in place and maintain. However if you start small and develop positive habits that support them, they will allow you to grow a sustainable, enjoyable and profitable business AND create a life you love.
This article was originally published on the She Will Shine blog.
It’s been quite a journey to arrive here… and yet this is probably where I’ve always been heading. Sharing my experience, skills and knowledge to help reimagine work, life and leadership, and bring greater humanity and community into our working lives.
With over 25 years’ experience as a marketing professional – many in my own business – combined with a life-long curiosity and passion for positive psychology, leadership development and personal growth, I have explored ways we can achieve a more “wholehearted” version of success based on four principles – Purpose, Prosperity, Connection and Joy.
Using these as a foundation, I believe we can reshape our world into one that is more sustainable, loving, kind and connected.
Are you ready to join me?