March 29, 2021 4 min read

It happens to the best of us where suddenly all those yes’s pile up to an impossible mountain. Setting work boundaries might seem like another peak to climb, but the result ensures that your performance continues to rise, rather than fall. You need to look out for yourself because after all, no one else will. Especially during these times of constant connectivity, maintaining your work-life balance should be at the top of your priority list. By establishing your professional boundaries and learning how to advocate for yourself at work, you’ll manage your stress and succeed every day on your terms.

Defining Work Boundaries

Just like speeding, you may not realize how fast you’ve been moving until you take a look at your professional speedometer. Or maybe you’re on the other side of the coin where you’re feeling the signs of burnout and don’t know how to slow down. Regardless, taking stock of where work boundaries are needed requires attention and plain honesty about your workload.

Young man sitting at messy desk.

For instance, does it seem that you have too many tasks and not enough time? Are you overcommitting too much and need to have a reality check of what’s realistic? Or is it that you find yourself checking your inbox even after hours? Although the root of all these is stress, the work boundary involved will be different depending on the circumstances.

These types of questions will help you pin down what’s working, what isn’t and who is involved. It could be a matter of just you and your internal team, or it could involve multiple departments. Being able to communicate exactly what is causing your stress will be effective at getting the ball rolling. Yes, it can be intimidating. After all, the reason why you said yes to so many asks is because of your incredible work ethic. By advocating for yourself, it shows you take your career seriously. Redefine the conversation by explaining what you’re involved in and how that fits into the bigger picture of your everyday responsibilities.

Walk the Walk of Professional Boundaries

Making others aware of your professional boundaries is just the first step. The next one is all about maintaining them which is easier said than done. It could seem that your work habits are so ingrained that it’ll be hard to set new ones. As we all know, habits take practice and figuring out which ones work best for you will take some trial and error.

Here are a few examples of healthy work boundaries you can put into play:

  • Make an end-of-the-day list. Think of it as your daily task list of top priorities you want to get done that day. Keep it short and sweet. Now’s not the time to list every little thing you need to get done. That would overwhelm anyone. This is just the birds-eye view of your day. You can either go traditional with a dedicated notebook or go digital with an app that’s second nature. Either way, the satisfaction you’ll get of seeing those big-ticket items checked off will be the same.
  • Change up your routine. When do you feel the most productive? Do you have a second wind in the afternoon or are you a morning busy bee? If you know when you’re at your best, that’s the time you should use to tackle the big items.
  • Use time blocking. Ever spent the whole afternoon just answering emails and realize you haven’t even made a dent on actionable items? Blocking time off for certain mundane tasks compliments the time blocks dedicated to getting projects done.
  • Discuss your priorities with your leader. Take the initiative on quick check-ins with your leader to share your priorities and keep you both on the same page. Plus, now your leader has insight into whether your plate is full before piling on more. Young woman staring at phone as she walks.
  • Airplane mode on. If you’re guilty of sending out one last email, then airplane mode might be the best way to keep you focused on the task at hand or disconnect from work after hours. Giving yourself this time to recharge has nothing to do with your cell phone, and everything to do with your mental well-being.
  • Enjoy some time off. Yes, taking time off just for you without the work guilt is a work boundary practice. Discard those notions that make you believe time off equals laziness. You’ve earned it and should permit yourself to enjoy the moment.

Keep the Eye on the Prize: Benefits of Work Boundaries

Young woman smiling at desk wit laptop open.

If you’re thinking of just sending one more email, give yourself a moment to pause and consider what’s at stake. Yes, it’ll be one less thing to do on your list for tomorrow, but how does that affect you in the here and now? There are benefits of work boundaries that you need to keep top of mind any time you feel the temptation to take a look at your inbox.

Communication is key they say, and by setting your work boundaries you’re practicing better communication skills with your peers. They’ll respect your willingness to put yourself out there. Plus, there are fewer chances of any misunderstandings because you’ll all know what’s going on with each. Expectations will be set and everyone, including you, will be succeeding.

Another potential bonus? Improvement of processes and structure. You might not be the first person who’s noticed the way things are running could be better. So, don’t be shy in stepping up and making suggestions. Your intentions of becoming more efficient will be crystal clear.

Plus, you’ll have time to do things outside of work because you’re more than a job, a title and stress. You have interests and hobbies that you need to continue to cultivate and flourish. After all is said and done, you’ll notice your mood is better, your productivity is improved and your peace of mind is restored. All thanks to advocating for yourself in your career.

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