This week I took the decision to turn down a well paid training gig overseas. Among other issues with the whole thing, was the fact that it was incredibly short notice – just a matter of days.
The person on the other end of the phone tried their very best to be persuasive and I had to be very firm with them. I offered some alternative dates and let’s hope something comes out of it later this month, we’ll see.
It was a great reminder to me of the importance of setting boundaries and communicating them to other people, self care and also of diary management!
Over-committing myself has been something I’ve been guilty of in the past. I’m learning that in order to be at my best, I need to feel great, buoyant and happy. I need lots of energy. I need better quality sleep so that I wake up feeling refreshed. I need time to feel rested and relaxed. I need space and time to myself. I need to be at home more!
Here are several key messages I want to share with you this week. The focus as I write this is for work commitments, but they could equally apply to your personal life too…
1. It is ok to change your mind every now and then. If you fell down the stairs and broke your leg, you’d be unable to make your diary appointments. The other person would make alternative arrangements, work round it and carry on. If you look at your diary and feel panic and dread, consider what can be moved or postponed? If you’ve got a face to face meeting, can it be virtual instead, to save travelling time and stress? Look for ways to simplify your diary. And if you aren’t willing to do that, do what you need to do to get through it and commit to never putting yourself in that position again.
2. Commit to less in the first place. Examine each invitation to fill a dairy space and ask yourself, how well will this serve me? Is it moving towards or away from my goals? Learn to be robust in gate-keeping your time, focus and attention. Have you outgrown this particular activity?Ask yourself, why am I considering this?
3. Learn to look at the proposed meeting, trip or whatever it is and the proposed timescale, and then look at what’s around those diary dates. What’s coming up afterwards? How does it fit into the big scheme of things? A full week out of the office followed by a busy week upon your return means you’re going to have to be super-organised and prepared. Ensure you schedule in time to do this somewhere. Learning to be more choosy about the projects you get involved in is also a key skill when it comes to raising your profile. You can read more about this in my latest book, Strategies for Being Visible, available on Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes and Noble
4. Understand your priorities and set some boundaries around them. Once you know what your priorities are, it’s much easier to ring-fence them. These boundaries will help to shape how you show up and what you agree to. Boundaries are a way of understanding your own limits and helping others to understand them too. One way to help yourself recognise your boundaries is by paying attention to how you feel.
Are you resentful at agreeing to work late again? There’s a boundary for you, around your own limits on your working time.
Do you feel frustrated for agreeing to get involved in project xxx? There’s a boundary for you, around your working patterns and priorities.
Do you feel upset by the way your views are dismissed or talked over by a colleague? There’s a boundary for you, in how you’d like to be treated by others.
Learning to pay close attention to the feelings that surface in different situations, can give you valuable information about how you’re currently showing up and the impact that’s having on everyone around you – including yourself.
5. Don’t confuse setting boundaries with being confrontational. Some of my clients worry that setting boundaries and then reinforcing them in conversation will cause them to be involved in endless confrontations. This doesn’t have to be the case. Instead of using the term ‘confrontation’, why not try the phrase ‘helpful conversation’? A helpful conversation does what it says on the tin; it helps those around you to ‘get’ you. It helps them to understand how to get the best out of you.
A helpful conversation is a gift for everyone involved.
Sometimes the answer simply has to be no – give yourself the permission to say it.
I’m Susan Ritchie and I help emerging leaders to develop their presence and impact, so they can be seen, heard and take their careers to whatever height they choose. Make a start on your career journey by downloading a free copy of the Communicate with Impact Grid