How I set boundaries that ensure I am as productive as I can be

  • How many of us introduce boundaries to ensure we can be as productive as we can be?

    We set boundaries for our children so that they learn what they are allowed to do, and when their behaviour goes beyond what is considered acceptable.  But how many of us set boundaries for ourselves?

    Boundaries, or guidelines that you put in place, help

    1. Prevent professional time encroaching too much on personal time.
    2. Ensure I can do my best work
    3. Serve my clients to the best of my ability
    4. Protect my physical and my mental health
    5. Remain rested yet motivated and energised

    Boundaries for our clients let them know where we draw the line, in terms of what we are prepared to do on their behalf.  For instance, would we be prepared to work into the evening to resolve a minor crisis?  Probably yes.  But would we be prepared to work until 3 am on a project which could easily wait until the following day?  Probably not.

    These are obvious examples but, sometimes, the line is not so clear, and setting boundaries can help clarify things for all concerned, whilst protecting our own energy and creativity levels so that we can work to the best of our ability for the most amount of time.

    How I organise my life so I can deliver my best for my clients.

    No calls or meetings on a Friday or a Monday – I reserve these days for work activities that will drive my business forward, such as attending professional development training courses, writing blogs or newsletters and updating my social media.

    Walk every day – A 40-minute walk at lunchtime is a wonderful reset between the morning and the afternoon. Having a dog provides both the reminder and the motivation I need. I come back refreshed and rejuvenated.

    Work around the family – I am up at 6.30 am, checking the news and social media. I see my daughter off to school, then check emails before starting the day’s work. I finish or do light admin from 4:30 pm when she returns from school. I avoid scheduling calls before 9 am or after 4:30 pm unless there is a specific reason, thus preserving family time in the evenings and time for exercise.

    Schedule time for family and/or household-related chores: I often underestimate how long it takes to book a tradesman, renegotiate a utility bill, or simply keep on top of the household chores. My daughter comes home from school early on Fridays and we will often do the weekly shopping later that afternoon. This leaves me clear on a Saturday morning for quiet writing time if I need it, whilst the rest of the household sleeps in.

    Check email three times a day:  I check emails first thing, at lunchtime and then at 4:30 pm. I have read that some people don’t check their emails at all until 4 pm, leaving the morning and afternoon completely clear of distractions.  This is certainly worth trying, but there is a balance here between protecting my deep work time and good customer service?

    Work at my desk in my home office: I find it hard to work in different areas of the house. My workspace is set up exactly as I like it. When I step into my office, I go into work mode and vice versa when I leave. Once I close the office door, it’s family time.

    What I am doing differently this year

    Gain ultimate control over my inbox: I will experiment with checking emails twice per day, at lunchtime and again at 4:30 pm. This will give me more undistracted time in the mornings for deep work. I will diary in 30 minutes each week for inbox management and allocate time to read the email newsletters I subscribe to, rather than quickly speed-reading them in-between jobs.

    Be more selective regarding meetings with people who ‘just want to pick my brain’. Whilst I am, by nature, happy to help—saying ‘yes’ to one person who just wants to chat can quickly snowball. Then, before I know it, I have lost an entire morning or afternoon, without having progressed any client work or done anything to build my business.

    No more unpaid projects. 25% of my work is delivered pro-bono, or at a substantially reduced rate. This enables me to give back by sharing my skills and experience, whilst working with some truly inspiring individuals and organisations. I am delighted to have some exciting projects to look forward to in 2022.  But I must stick to the 25%.

    Write more for me every day: Writing is the keyword for my business this year. I write plenty for my clients most days, but rarely for myself. This year I am doing more writing for me, providing advice for my readers and subscribers to my weekly newsletter. This is where I share the value of PR and the importance of building a personal brand and reputation. Sign up here if you would like to receive this weekly dose of tips and inspiration into your inbox.

    Learn new skills to better serve my clients

    For the last two years, I have set myself big personal development goals. In 2020, I attained a Diploma in Change Management and Communication, then in 2021, I was awarded Chartership status by the CIPR following a gruelling day of interviews with leading industry peers. To maintain this, I need to undertake an annual cycle of CPD training. To provide focus and structure to my training, each January I give myself an ‘appraisal’ assessing my skills and experience using the Global Capabilities Framework and create an annual training plan for myself.

    So, let’s pause for a moment and celebrate our boundaries

    Establishing boundaries helps keep me focused. It provides a structure and balance that counters overwhelm and helps me to be as productive as I can be. Working through my to-do list, achieving great results which surprise and delight my clients (and me) is always a powerful motivator.

    What boundaries do you have?


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