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Setting Boundaries

Author: James Barton

Published May 2020

I have never been very good at setting boundaries. I remember when my first child was born, I was in the office at 6am the next day as there was an important report that only I could do (or so I thought). To be fair, I could visit the hospital anyway, so I wasn’t really missing anything (again, so I thought).


My point is this; I would say yes to pretty much anything as it related to work.


I am sure there is a doctorate that could be written on my behaviour and why I love to work but that’s not really what I wanted to talk about.

As I have matured…

Rather, as I have matured, I have realised just how important it is to set boundaries, both with colleagues and customers.


Now, I personally don’t believe in ‘work/life’ balance as I see work as life, so work and life are fundamentally intertwined, but you do need to be able to shut down.


Right now, with one thing and another, more people are working from home, and I genuinely believe this shift to remote working will last well beyond this pandemic. What I am also seeing in myself and in others is a trend to be always on, 24/7.


It seems that the time we would have spent commuting we are now working. The time we would have spent getting ready – we are working. Even the time where we might have gone out in the evening; working.


This is BRILLIANT for productivity on the surface as people who are working are now working more hours and getting more things done.


But beyond the surface – the appearance of productivity – are we really getting more done?

Set your boundaries…

I have noticed that if I am not conscious about how and when I work, I will work 7 days a week with no down time. When that happens, I notice that I lose my motivation, my creativity and my focus. In essence, I lose my mojo.


Like the infamous story of the golden goose, I need to be very mindful looking after the person that can actually make a difference in all this… me! You need to do the same.


So, I have started to set boundaries. I am sure many of you already do this, but here are some practices I try to stick to:


  1. Have a start and finish time and stick to it
  2. Turn off your computer or shut the laptop when you are done, just like you would when you were in the office
  3. Read/watch something during the virtual commute time
  4. Get out for a walk at either the beginning or end of the day
  5. Make sure you colleagues are aware of your boundaries – when you are available and when you finish
  6. Don’t feel guilt for not answering an email or picking up the phone if someone else does not respect those boundaries
  7. Have a weekend! Take the time out and don’t be tempted to do more just because you can


The latter point is for me the most important. I have decided that I can do some work over the weekend (as I said I love to work) but I will only work in the mornings and will not do anything after about 11:00am.  


I have to do this as I know from experience, I am less effective if I don’t recharge.

In conclusion…

But me knowing it is not enough; we have to make sure we let others know. It can be a hard habit to break but if we don’t, I am sure you will hear the phrase “Why not? It’s not like you are going out right now.”


Sound familiar?


Set yourself some boundaries.

Mentor Group, together with Pete Cohen, offer an integrated set of Mental Fitness programs which are designed not just to educate and inform, but to instil a desire for improvement and growth in you and every member of your team..