By Kia Jarmon of MEPR Agency for 12th & Broad
A few years ago I worked with a government organization on their annual conference. The keynote speaker challenged the audience to remove the ‘B’ word from their vocabulary. She went on to explain that balance—the ‘B’ word she was referencing—has created unfair limits on how women, in particular, view each other. Your age, stage, or position in life will create a different set of priorities for you. And your peer could and many times will have a much different set of priorities. For example, a woman with no children who works in a traditional 9-5 position would not understand my priorities and vice versa. And while I do agree with the speaker that we must not impose our beliefs of balance onto someone else, I do believe we need to adopt another ‘B’ word, boundaries.
Recently, I worked with a company’s leadership academy cohort on identifying their passion while creating their personal brand. One of the six questions that I ask to help participants understand their passion point was, “what should you eliminate from your life?” Asking the question in this way was different for the participants but it made them create boundaries. This question speaks to how we have to remove certain people, circumstances, and things to get to the center of why we are placed on earth. It is my belief that the removal process allows us to remove the stuff that gets in the way of our calling.
While it seems simple to think of boundaries only on a case-by-case basis, I have found it to be most beneficial to outline what doesn’t work for me early on so that I am not flustered when situations present themselves.
Setting a standard for how you like to life, work, and play is a natural part of the brand building process at least it is when you go through an intentional process. Because if you recall, the brand is the sum of all experiences that people have with you that creates the way they think of you. Creating boundaries for areas like no phone calls after 8pm or how many meetings you have a week seem par for the course; but what about tardiness to meetings, financial collections, and working on weekends?
There are a dozen or more things to consider when setting your boundaries, but here is where I would start.
I have always believed you have to show people how to treat you and what means the most to you, whether it is your time, your brain, or your creative skills.
And just as much as you set boundaries for your work, you should have some for your home.
As an example, I have a rule that no matter how many people know my address you can not just pop in. It may seem like a silly notion but you would be surprised about how often it has happened.
So when you set a boundary you also have to set a rule so that you (and those you are showing how to engage with you) will adhere. I suggest that you make a list of the things that bother, annoy, or disturb you. Then assign a rule that matches that boundary. For an example, if you pop up at my house, I will not answer the door. You have to call (or text) first. And yes, you could be standing on my front porch having a conversation with me, but that’s the rule.
As a new mother I have a rule on how many after hours or weekend events I can attend. My desire is to be home with my son as much as possible when I am not working so this boundary serves me well. So when a social event or optional opportunity pops up I may turn it down if it doesn’t make sense for me at the time. However, I will say if you are reading this and considering me for a gig, let me manage my own schedule (wink). I have been passed over because people want to manage my mommy time. I can handle that on my own. (and at some point I will write an article about that topic)
I am very protective of my work. I adopted a productive, not busy mantra a few years ago that requires me to make the most of my time and eliminate areas of inefficiency.
Here are a few boundaries and rules I have adopted to keep with my mantra.
Introductory meetings happen over the phone or via Skype. This has a few exceptions but by and large the “can we meet for coffee” or “I would like to learn more about you” meetings need to happen over the phone. It allows us to respect each others time and get some of the awkwardness out of the way. I have found many times that those who don’t want to meet in this way may not understand how to respect my time. And quite honestly when I offer this as a solution—to speak over the phone—sometimes there isn’t a reply, which leads me to wonder if I am being ‘sold’ on something versus relationship building.
I very rarely schedule a meeting and conduct the meeting in the same week. Instead I schedule a week or two in the future. My schedule is usually at capacity during the week of so I usually can’t squeak in any more meetings. This rule also ensures that I spend enough time in the office to manage the client work, which keeps me in business.
I schedule everything—every call, every meeting, and every assignment. This allows me to stay on task and be the most efficient. Additionally, it shows others that I am very intentional with my work and will give the same respect to others. The beauty of this process is that when something sneaks in from a client or potential opportunity—and it always does—that I can make some adjustments to my to-do list.
What I have found is that technology allows people, outside of your team or family, to break your boundaries. But that’s ok, that’s what the rule is for. It is there to help you and others know how to best manage life and work. And of course there can be exceptions. Just remember, your home or career may not be balanced but you can for dang sure have boundaries.
Cheers to setting boundaries (and sticking to them)!