If you say “yes" to most things that come your way, you may be a nice person, but you're probably not a very happy one. Establishing good boundaries is a big challenge for many people. And it is an essential time management skill for creating a successful professional life.
Here are a couple of key tools for establishing healthy and effective boundaries:
- Set specific periods of every day when you take calls and answer email. Don't become a slave to email, the phone or IM.
- Learn how to say “no¨ in a socially acceptable way. Use a neutral tone of voice, not overly excited or defensive and not in a depressed, eeyore-like way.
For example, if you're asked to serve on another board or committee, you might say something like this: “I love what your organization does, but I've made a commitment to spend more time with my kids, so I can't take on anything more right now. But thanks for asking. ¨
- Get your boss to set up regular meeting times with you to discuss important issues. Waiting around for answers you need about a project is a time termite - an activity that eats up your time and your life.
Here's a golden time management tip nugget: We teach people how to treat us. If you are constantly interrupted by email or instant messaging, for example, if you always respond immediately, you are training the senders that you will always be available, instantly. In some situations that can be handy, but most of the time, it is just a huge time termite that you must learn to control or it will eat you alive.
This is the same with the infamous “open door" policy. While it is excellent management to be available to your staff and/or co-workers on a regular basis, it is insane to be available 8 hours a day (or 10 hours, or, God forbid, “24/7" one of the worst concepts ever created). Teach and train your staff (and your boss, if you have one!) when you are unavailable for visits or interruptions (barring true emergencies) for critical project time.
Question: If you jump every time someone calls, emails, IMs, pops their head in your door or otherwise initiates contact with you, what does that make you? Answer: a jumping bean. Not a human being. So which are you?
Consider this article to be an official coach permission slip to erect strong, healthy boundaries - a good, solid fence. As Robert Frost said, Good fences make good neighbors. If it makes it easier to blame your change of behavior on someone else, just tell them your coach (that would be me) told you that you had to do it! Remember, good boundaries will help you take back your life.
Copyright 2005 Anne Alexander
Ready to be a power professional? Get business coach Anne Alexander's free 8 part e-course “Maximize Your Professional Success, " at http://www.authentic-alternatives.com/maximizenow.htm . Warning! For real people only. No fakers, please.