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6 Steps to Establishing Career Boundaries

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

When we all started to work from home, it seemed like a breath of fresh air. You could have work meetings in one hour and take a nap within the next. But after a few months, we quickly realized the lines between work and life were quickly blurred. With smartphones at our fingertips, applications like Slack and Gmail make us radically accessible, conference calls can happen at any time of the day, and laptops make it easier than ever to work on the weekends.

It’s no surprise, then, how stress begins piling up. Things happen at work that leaves us feeling frustrated and burnt out.

We find ourselves balancing clients who cancel at the last minute, working extended hours, and juggling others’ expectations that we are always available.

If you feel resentful, guilty, or angry about things that happen at work, chances are you have overcommitted yourself.

The key to overcoming that resentment and achieving work-life balance is learning to set healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are lines we set about our expectations, availability, and energy. Because boundaries protect our energy and focus, they allow us to be more productive in the workplace.

And they do not have to be hard, aggressive rules. Boundaries simply prevent us from overcommitting and make our lives easier.

We might think that setting boundaries push others away from us. However, setting boundaries can actually help us have better relationships with others in the workplace.

Use these tips to set boundaries in your career:

1. Explore what you need. Identify where you feel guilt, resentment, or anger around work.

  • Maybe you feel anger towards a coworker who does not do their part

  • You might feel guilty because you’re not spending enough quality time with your family or partner.

  • Figure out what makes you feel resentment or guilt. Then figure out what you need instead.

2. Create structure around what feels right for you. After you understand what you need, create a structure to help you achieve your desired outcome.

  • Set firm expectations about the type of work you expect from your team.

  • Take necessary breaks such as lunches and paid time off.

  • Whether you work from home or in an office, set up a structure (like closing the door or working with headphones on) where you can work undisturbed.

3. Start small by setting boundaries in low-risk situations. If you have gone your entire life living up to everyone else’s expectations and demands, setting boundaries can feel uncomfortable. Start by choosing an easy area, like hours you will check emails, to set a boundary.

4. Be consistent with your boundaries. Be as firm as possible with your new boundaries.

  • Do you have days of the week you want to be free from work?

  • You get to decide where you allow exceptions.

  • If you schedule a vacation for yourself, stick to it.

5. Delegate. What responsibility can you pass on to others? Delegating can help you free up time or address those areas around work where you feel resentful.

6. Learn to say no. You might have trouble saying “no” to things because you feel obliged to appear dependable. Be in tune with how a “yes” might lead to resentment. Here are a few ways to say “no”:

  • “Thank you, but this doesn’t work with my schedule. Here’s my availability later this week.”

  • “I can’t commit to this right now, but let’s circle back to this in a few weeks.”

  • “That sounds like a great idea, but I don’t have the availability for this project. I recommend asking (colleague) about his/her availability!”

Setting boundaries will look different for everyone. You might find that as you evolve into a different season of life or your career, your needs change. As your needs change, the boundaries you have around your career will change too.

Overall, setting boundaries in your career can help reenergize you and the relationship you have with your career.

If you need any support establishing career boundaries for your career, schedule a consultation with us to create a work-life strategy.

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