Picture the scene.
You’re running your own business. Mistress of your own destiny. You have a beautiful desk space, drink coffee with friends, have time to keep a clean house, meal plan, prep and cook healthy meals every week and indulge in your love of reading. Not only that but you have beautiful social media selfies of yourself drinking more coffee.
Except…[sound of a car screeching to a halt]… It’s actually not like that at all, is it!?
Perhaps you’re on your laptop every hour of the day and night (and at weekends) hustling to get more clients, your house isn’t any tidier than it was in your 9 to 5 job, you lurch from meal to meal cooking whatever is in the fridge because instead of having MORE time to go grocery shopping, you actually have LESS time. How is that even possible? And forget all about those “perfect hair blowing in the wind” freedom selfies. Lady, it ain’t happening.
Be honest. This wasn’t what you signed up for, was it?
You’re overwhelmed, burnt out and exhausted and you resent your business. You might be wondering if you’re even cut out for this entrepreneur so-called lifestyle! A lot of it will come down to not set yourself boundaries in your business. It can be all too easy to fall out of a routine when you work for yourself, and it’s VERY easy when you’re first starting out, or your confidence is low, to get into the habit of over-delivering, not valuing your time and feeling like you’re on call 24/7. It’s also a KILLER for productivity and profitability.
Making boundaries is about honoring yourself and your needs, and healthy boundaries are a sign of self-respect. Starting to saying “no” to certain things will actually free up time, energy and brain space so that you can start saying “yes” more often to the things that you really want to do. Ready? Let’s start.
1. Be clear about where your personal/work boundaries are
For example, don’t aimlessly scroll social media on work time and try to keep personal calls to a minimum. And in the same vein, don’t send out work emails at 10pm. I promise you – in 99% of cases, it can wait until the next day. Decide what time you will close down your computer and switch off your work phone and stick to it. Be kind to yourself. Your family and friends will thank you (and you’ll thank yourself!)
Whilst we’re talking social media by the way – unfollow/delete/unfriend any social media account or Facebook group that makes you feel less than 100% inspired or educated. You don’t need that kind of a waste of time in your life, I promise you. You’ll feel liberated by doing this.
2. Clients will wait because they want YOU
I know – you’re worried that if you don’t get back to them straight away that they will find someone else. But the fact is, if they are ready to buy from you at 7pm at night, they will STILL be ready to buy from you at 9am the next day. Similarly, if you have clients who are used to hearing from you throughout the weekend, you may need to let them know that you have set new rules for yourself and that means no weekend contact. Remember – you don’t have to justify why you make the decisions that you make in your business, but sharing a little background information can help your client understand your situation.
3. Give yourself permission to say no
This might be to a client who keeps rescheduling, a marketer who keeps contacting you to buy their product or a customer who always wants a bit more (for free). It’s ok to be assertive although you may be afraid at first that others might perceive you as mean or rude. But affirming your boundaries means that you value yourself, your business, your needs, and your feelings. It doesn’t mean that you are unkind, it only means that you are being fair and honest with them while maintaining your space, peace, and self-respect.
4. Take a proper break
If you love your business as much as I love mine it can be hard to switch off! But taking time away from your business is vital to keep your energy and creativity in full swing. Just like you, my to-do list seems never-ending, but I make sure I take a proper break to walk my dog and have some time away from my computer. I especially make sure I do this if I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. It feels counterintuitive but time away from work, whether an hour or a day, gives my mind some time to settle and process all of the ideas and information I’ve got going on. When I get back to my desk I’m refreshed, clear on my priorities and ready to go.
I start work at 7am and I’m strict in finishing work no later than 3pm so I can pick my daughter up from childcare. I may finish off a few things in the evening and tend to some international clients but that’s all. I spend Mondays writing content and setting things up for the week. I keep the majority of my client calls to Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday and I take most Fridays off. That works for me at the moment but it’s a flexible schedule and I’m ready for it to change over time.
It’s hard but not impossible
Setting boundaries takes courage, practice and support. It’s ok to start small and build up over time but you do need to be consistent. Of course, there are always exceptions, even when you have very clear and defined boundaries. For a long-term client, you may decide to be a little more lenient with your availability and turnaround time occasionally. When this happens, the key is to acknowledge to yourself and to your client that it is a one-time exception to avoid letting future expectations overrun you.
When you set boundaries, you stop giving yourself away so much. It means you only give what you want so you can afford to be generous to more people over a longer period of time.
So let me ask you – what can you do to put yourself first today?
Georgina Bowden is a Coach and Business Mentor whose passion is to help brilliant women entrepreneurs and small business owners get over their overwhelm, and wave goodbye to procrastination so they can have a profitable, stress-free business.