Is Your Lack of Boundaries Damaging Your Time Management?

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When we think of good time management, we instantly think of skills like staying organised, meeting deadlines, banishing procrastination and whizzing through our tasks with ninja like focus. But there is another side to time management that hardly gets a mention, but it’s absolutely critical because it damages your time management if you don’t implement it.

We are talking about setting boundaries for better time management. As Jim Loehr, co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute says, “Boundary setting is really a huge part of time management.” In order to be effective, you need to set limits and be realistic about how much time there is in a day because 24 hours a day is a lot, but it goes quickly if you are not careful.

Consequences of Failing to Set Boundaries

When we fail to create boundaries, we often suffer consequences like:

  • Never having enough time for us as we always say yes to others first.
  • Our time is constantly eaten into, as people demand things from us at all times throughout the day, all day, every day.
  • We find it hard to switch off because there is always something more we could be doing.
  • Guilt creeps in when we try to rest and relax because there is a whole list of things we think we ‘should’ be doing for others.

Is this resonating with you? Do you recognise the above? In this blog we are going to explore how to set boundaries in a positive and healthy way.

Tips & tools to set boundaries

Learn to Say ‘No’

Manage Expectations

Learn to Curb Interruptions

Look After Your Health

Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach Gratitude To-Do List Boundaries Productivity Time Management Me Time Guilt Free
Boundary setting includes managing expectations around your work and personal commitments.

Learning to Say ‘No’

Boundaries are also about maintaining and managing your wellbeing and energy. You have to stop giving all of your precious energy and time away to others before yourself, because this will do you no favour in the long term. I love the quote from Paulo Coelle, ‘when you say “yes” to others, make sure you not saying “no” to yourself’.

Setting boundaries isn’t about being difficult, selfish or never doing a favour for others. It is just making sure you’re not detrimentally affecting yourself or your time management in a bid to give to others or not being able to say no. It is about knowing when and being brave enough to say ’NO’.

This is one of the most important and simplest time management techniques there is, but also the one we don’t use enough. As I explain in my blog, The Best Time Management Tool: Just Say No, people with poor time management skills tend to over extend themselves and accept projects that they don’t have the time to complete properly, which in turn leaves them overwhelmed. This is often because they don’t have a proper sense of the time they have available or how much time they need to allocate to the tasks they already have on the go. However, often it is also because they have not learnt when to say the magic word ’NO’.

Managing Expectations

Boundary setting goes beyond saying “yes” or “no” to new tasks and projects. It also means managing expectations around your work and personal commitments.

If you agree to help out a friend, for example, set parameters around how much time you can give. When those parameters have been met, you can politely explain that you have given as much as you promised and step beck without guilt.

Learn to Curb Interruptions

Distractions at work and at home take up more time than we think. You might be surprised to learn that it takes an average of about 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine. Professor Mark’s research revealed that people who were constantly interrupted experienced a higher workload, higher frustration, more time pressure, and more stress.

In other words, taking 30 seconds to check Twitter or speed read a the latest email that has ‘pinged’ on your screen is not just 30 seconds wasted. It’s also the 25 minutes of recovering your concentration on top of that ‘quick’ 30 seconds of your valuable time that has been thrown away.

Plus, all these distractions not only hurt productivity, they have negative emotional effects too. “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.” Mark wrote in the New York Times, an idea based on her comprehensive study of email use, productivity, and stress.

The solution? Always set aside uninterrupted blocks of time for focusing. Use the Pomodoro technique of time management to break down your time into 25-minute work intervals. Then make it clear to friends, family or work mates when you do or do not want to be interrupted.

I am aware that preventing interruptions is even more difficult when working at home, so here is a tip I shared in my book, How To Work From Home: Whilst Staying Productive, Healthy and Sane. Use a system to indicate if you are ‘in the zone’ and can’t be interrupted, such as closing your office door, putting a sign up or indicating ‘work mode’ with your clothes. I consider it is even harder if you have kids, so try this – hang coloured paper on your office door to indicate your availability, a bit like a traffic light system as this is easily identifiable, with the red light for when you cannot be disturbed and the green light when it’s OK to come in. Yellow light means to check first. Kids, no matter what age, understand the message and enjoy playing along.

If you are interested in how to work from home whilst staying productive, healthy and sane, then you need to buy the book!

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Always set aside uninterrupted blocks of time for focusing.

Look After Your Health

Neglecting your health will reduce your productivity and has negative impact on your time management. Like I always say, you cannot pour from an empty cup. We can only give away what we have.

Protect your energy and wellbeing to make sure you are filled up first before giving anything away. What this looks like is depending on you, but things that worked well for me and my 1-2-1 clients include exercise, walks in the nature, meditation, getting enough rest, enjoying hobbies, reading. It is not selfish to put yourself first – in fact it is selfish to do not, because then you will have less to give in the long run.

As I explain in my recent blog Why Looking After Your Health Improves Your Productivity, neglecting your health and personal energy mismanagement are one of the ‘Four Thieves’ that can hold you up and rob you of your productivity. Trust me – I have been there. My scrimping on sleep (albeit unknowingly) and not eating properly left me with burnout!

Harsh reality alert, being busy is NOT an excuse. In fact if you’re busy it is even more important to look after your health and wellbeing. I have noticed talking to clients and while networking, that busy people, especially business owners and entrepreneurs, think they can save time by skimping on sleep, skipping meals, not taking breaks and not doing any exercise. You can’t! Getting sufficient quality sleep, eating properly, taking regular breaks and maintaining regular exercise are an essential part of setting your boundaries. It is also an investment in yourself, so that you are able to improve your time management and increase your productivity in a healthy way.

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You can't pour from an empty cup - Protect your health and well being!

Would You Like More Support With Your Time & Energy Management?

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This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.

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This blog is published  by Alice Dartnell Limited solely for educational and entertainment purposes. The author and publisher are not offering it as legal, accounting, health care or other professional services advice. While best efforts have been used in preparing this blog, the author and publisher make no representations or warranties of any kind and assume no liabilities of any kind with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents. Neither the author nor the publisher shall be held liable or responsible to any person or entity with respect to any loss or incidental or consequential damages caused, or alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by the information contained herein. Every person and company are different, and the advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. Alice Dartnell or Alice Dartnell Limited is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised in this blog. You should seek the services of a competent professional as appropriate. You are responsible for your own choices, actions, and results. Always consult your own General Practitioner if you’re in any way concerned about your health.