If you want to improve the way you manage your time, start setting clear boundaries
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind—simply ticking off the tasks on your to-do list, doing without thinking, running without stopping, looking without seeing.
It’s easy to plan every minute of your day, boosting your energy with exercise, improving your focus with caffeine and strengthening your motivation with inspirational quotes.
But it’s also easy to lose focus on your goals, needs and values when you get swamped with work and race against the clock.
That’s why the first step in efficient time management is to set your boundaries and learn to protect them.
Why do you need to set boundaries?
Stress, anxiety, burnout, wasted time, financial burdens—these are all very common consequences of acting without clear boundaries. A lack of healthy boundaries in relations with your family, customers or colleagues can have a negative impact on your life.
To stay sane and to be able to do what truly matters to you, you’ll need to reject anything that doesn’t serve your goals, values and priorities. You’ll need to define your boundaries and learn to protect them.
How to set your boundaries?
Your boundaries start, where your goals, values and priorities end. If you want to make the best use of your time, avoid feeling burnout or overwhelmed, you need to focus on what matters to YOU.
For example, before you decide to invest your time and energy into any activity, first double check if that task is aligned with your goals and priorities. If it isn’t, simply decline it. Say no firmly, without any apologies. No one ever died from hearing or saying a firm “no” (of course, excluding the highly improbable mafia-like scenarios).
When you say no to a new project or meeting, you’re rejecting an idea, not a person. It’s an important distinction to make. Maybe this approach will help you find more courage to start communicating your boundaries more often.
How to protect your boundaries?
If it’s a business-related request, you can decline the offer politely or explain that you don’t have capacity to work on the new proposal right now. You can also refer the client to someone else who’d be more willing to take on the project.
Another good strategy is to inform your customers and business partners how much time you can allocate for their requests. For example, if someone asks you for an urgent video conference, you can tell them you have maximum fifteen minutes for the call. This approach will help you stay focused on the key points, without wasting time on issues that could be discussed at a later point or via e-mail.
Apply the same approach in your personal life. For example, if your child’s school asks you to get involved in an upcoming event by baking cakes, but such actions clearly don’t align with your priorities, simply say no or find an alternative solution that will help you protect your boundaries. You could instead support the event by bringing healthy goodies purchased at the local shop.
Sometimes finding healthy comprises is all you need to reject serious time and energy killers.
Setting clear boundaries is not an ultimate act of selfishness. You don’t have to feel guilty when you say no to protect your time. Guarding your boundaries and rejecting some requests simply means that you value your resources and protect what truly matters to you—whether it’s time for your family, your business or yourself.
Over to you
How are you protecting your boundaries to avoid wasting time and feeling burnout?
P.S. I share more tips on establishing the right approach to your time in my free e-book “How to make the best use of your time”.
And if you’re looking for advice on how to better manage your time when you juggle work with motherhood, have a look at my book “You’ve got this: How to continue your freelance career when you become a mother”.