Set Boundaries for Your Success

| | Personal Leadership

Set Boundaries for Your SuccessIn a recent article on Halogen Software’s Talent Space Blog, Sean Conrad asks the question: “Is Working Less the Secret to Employee Productivity?”

His question triggered my thinking about the power of setting boundaries to improve performance and fuel our success.

While it may seem counter-intuitive at first to think that setting limits has anything to do with success, the bottom line is that success does not come from trying to do it all or be all things to be all people.  We all must make choices on how, where, when and with whom we will invest our time and energy if we want to make progress towards our goals and make the room necessary to realize our dreams.

The pressure in recent years to be available and “on” 24/7 has trampled the boundaries between work and life for so many people.  While a 9-5, Monday through Friday, workweek may seem artificial and out-dated, the alternative of having no boundaries at all has consequences.  It’s a myth that more availability and more hours worked equals greater productivity.

But don’t expect someone to come up with a one-size-fits-all alternative to 9-5 anytime soon.  It’s up to each of us to negotiate our personal situation where we work and with the people who are counting on us to deliver results.

Ultimately, productivity is an inner game. You have to know what works for you, and be willing to set the boundaries and instill the practices you need to optimize your energy, your focus, and your creativity.

Although I have been self-employed since 1999, it took many years for me to learn how to set boundaries that sustain my effectiveness and productivity.   Here are the three things to consider in setting your own boundaries for success.

1.  Discover Your Own Success Patterns

Fill in the blank:  I do my best work when ________.

Next, design a way to recreate the conditions for you to consistently do your best work as often as possible.

Here’s a personal example.  I do my best work when I immerse myself in a project over at least a full day or a few days.  Setting a specific time to start and end work each day doesn’t work for me, and the intensity of my workload tends to naturally ebb and flow.  So when I have a big project I will often negotiate with my family so that I can “beat to my own drum” for a few days.  That way I can continue on when I hit those moments of flow.  The bonus for my family is when I do stop working, they actually have my full attention.

2.  Recognize When You Need A Break

This requires that you stop, breath and tune in with your mind and body a few times a day.  For a while I used a timer that would ding every two hours to remind me to get present to my physical body.  Adrenaline can masquerade as energy and can deplete you if you aren’t mindful.

The other part of this is to recognize what kind of break you need.  Often I just need to take a walk.  Sometimes I need a nap, especially when inspiration struck from 2-4am.

3.  Plan for the Time YOU Need to Recharge

Long ago I worked with someone who could not understand why I seemed to need so much “space.” She could not understand why after working 2-3 intense, 15-hour days with clients, I would not rush to catch up on e-mail or get to work on the next big thing.  Instead, I would take a day or two to recharge.  Sometimes I did nothing.  Sometimes I did work.  Whatever I did choose to do was based on my energy, because the point was to recharge.  For a while I thought it was a sign of weakness that she and others could seem to work so many more hours than I could.  Fortunately I finally realized that all that really mattered was whether I was delivering on my commitments and the quality of what I delivered.

The point is to look ahead and plan for the time YOU need to recharge your battery and fuel your spirit.  Forget about the expectations of others.  It’s up to you to do what you need to do to be your most effective and productive self.

Have you set boundaries to support your success?  Do you face any challenges when it comes to setting boundaries and sticking to them?

photo credit: SidPix


Enter A Comment

Mike Henry Sr.   |   08 January 2014   |   Reply

Nice post and great reminders. I was challenged by your example in #1 above. My immediate thought is that I do my best work early in the morning. I thought about it as a “time of day” question. Interesting how our paradigms constrain our answers. Got me thinking. Thanks!

Susan Mazza   |   12 January 2014   |   Reply

Great catch Mike – boundaries can take many forms!

Sean Conrad   |   09 January 2014   |   Reply

Hi Susan,

Great article and thanks for the shout-out on my post about employee productivity. I think you’re right about setting boundaries. Success isn’t going to taste so sweet if you’re burnt out by the time you achieve your goals.

Does this mean you get a pass for not pushing yourself to achieve them? Of course not. But it does mean you need to set limits on when and how you will achieve them. I think being aware of the environment/scenarios in which you are most productive is key.

For me, I do my best work when I have a deadline. I do best when I set milestones and need to work hard in short, focused bursts to meet them.

I’m a hard-core extrovert and I love to “think out loud” and “kick things around” verbally with somebody else, so I’ve discovered that I do my best work when I team up with somebody who is a bit more of an introvert and prefers planning, documentation, and keeping organized. We can each leverage are strengths and together be more productive than we could be individually.

Susan Mazza   |   13 January 2014   |   Reply

Thanks for sharing some great examples of boundaries Sean. Also, glad you raised the point that setting boundaries is not an excuse. Sometimes we will need to push ourselves to achieve a goal. On the flip side we must be mindful of not letting our boundaries be trampled by circumstances, especially if we are letting other people drive us in violating the boundaries we set to optimize our effectiveness and make our lives work. It can be a delicate balance, especially when you are tying to put in place a new boundary. I think the most important point is that boundaries aren’t rigid walls to be erected and defended at all costs.

Carl   |   12 January 2014   |   Reply

Excellent post Susan, and similar to Mike’s comment – I also went to ‘time of day’ 🙂
I think what resonated most for me was the personal responsibility we have to take charge of the environment of our lives.

Best regards,

Susan Mazza   |   13 January 2014   |   Reply

Exactly Carl, it’s all about as you put it “taking charge of the environment of our lives”.