The lack of boundaries is one of the biggest issues we face in our overwired world. In fact, there don’t seem to be any boundaries at all any more. We are now available to anyone anywhere 24/7, seven days a week. The line between work and home, between the professional and the personal, has blurred, since we can now be reached anywhere any time. There is no off switch.
But an off switch is exactly what we need in our overwired world. We need boundaries to be productive and fulfilled. Boundaries can help us rewire for wellness. Here are three tips to set boundaries:
1. Establish screen-free time. By screens I mean all those gadgets we use to work, communicate, and play—computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, handheld games, etc. It is important to go screen-free so that you are able to concentrate on the people you are with. Set clear boundaries around the use of these items, like so:
• No gadgets in meetings.
• No gadgets at lunch.
• Go screen-free in the evenings (maybe no screens after 7 p.m.)
• No screens at the dinner table.
• No screens in bed
Set your boundary and make it a rule. Then live by it.
2. Learn to say no. By saying yes to everything that comes across your line of sight, you may be taking on more than you can handle or more than you really need to do. You may pile your plate high, but if you aren’t doing good work or aren’t enjoying the commitment, what’s the point? Instead, set some boundaries and focus on the things that you can do well, that are in your purview, that interest you, and on which you can work productively and purposefully. Ask yourself:
• What can I say no to?
• What can I delegate?
• What isn’t critical and can be moved to a someday or maybe list?
• Do I really have to attend that meeting, volunteer for that assignment, join that committee, or work on that project?
• Do I want to do this?
• What would happen if I said no?
Saying no is freeing. Saying no is a great way to say yes to the things you really want to do.
3. Educate, then manage expectations. It is important to educate your clients, colleagues, friends, and family what your work schedule and availability are. If people think you are available 24/7, they will contact you and expect a response. So make it clear what your schedule and boundaries are. And if you do not want clients and colleagues contacting you after a certain hour or on weekends, don’t respond to inquiries and don’t make yourself available. Use an automatic voicemail or e-mail responder that lets them know when you will get back to them (in the morning or on Monday). You have to set good boundaries, educate, manage expectations, and stick to them.
Setting good boundaries is a terrific way to become more purposeful and more productive. Boundaries will you unwire and then rewire for results.