Create Healthy Boundaries
Today your task in the 31 Days To A Less Stressful Life Challenge is to think about how to create healthy boundaries. Boundaries are really important for managing stress. They can be between:
- Work and not-work
- One task and the next task
- Work and home
- You and everyone else
- You and your worries
Why Are Boundaries Important?
Boundaries are helpful because they send a signal to other people about a choice you've made. Maybe you need to work on a month-end report? Perhaps you've got some detailed analysis that has to be finalised?
Whatever it is that you're focusing on, if you don't define some form of boundary people won't hesitate to interrupt you. Closing your door creates a boundary, particularly if it's usually open. When it's shut you're signalling that something has changed.
You can also use boundaries to help to reinforce self-discipline. If you have trouble switching off from work when you get home, you could try using a different laptop or tablet when you're at home. If you maintain this device separation you'll avoid the temptation to just take a peek at your work emails.
Let’s take a quick look at the five kinds of boundaries in turn.
1. Work and Not-Work
For people who work at home, creating a healthy boundary between times when you're doing work and then other times when you're relaxing away from work is particularly important. Having a clear boundary between when you are working and not working is a demarkation you want to be very clear about. It’s very easy to keep working when you don’t have to leave the office to go home.
Here are three simple steps you can take which signal to yourself and others around you whether you’re working or not working.
- Only work in a specific location. This could be at a desk or in a room. Be disciplined about this so that you keep the space-boundary clear.
- Set times when you will ‘clock-on’ and ‘clock-off’. Say them out loud so you hear them as well as other people. Set an alarm to remind you to stop.
- Use a different browser for work and non-work. Do the same for your email and calendar accounts. That way you won’t be lured in when you’re supposed to be off-duty.
2. One Task and the Next Task
I’ll talk some more about avoiding multitasking later in this series. Separating tasks into batches helps to maintain a clear boundary between different kinds of tasks so you don’t keep flipping your attention from one thing to another. Task switching repeatedly is not a good strategy. It'll wear you out and you're more likely to make mistakes.
For example, you could try defining certain times when you will clear your emails. Try to stick to these times and avoid dipping in and out repeatedly. I do this twice each day — on arrival and last thing before I leave.
3. Work And Home
A lot of what I've already said about the separation between working and not working applies to the boundary between work and home.
A good practice is to finish your day at work by recording the tasks you haven't finished. Turn these into a list and they'll be there were waiting for you tomorrow morning when you get back to work. This avoids you taking these issues home and also prevents them from whizzing around in your head when you should be relaxing.
4. You and Everyone Else
Sometimes it is important to create a boundary between you and everyone else. This might be because you're concentrating hard and don't want to be interrupted, for example.
In situations where you want to build focus, it is useful to create a firm boundary between you and others around you. You can close the office door if you have one or if you're in an open-plan area you can wear headphones. You're signalling to everyone else that you're concentrating which will deter people from interrupting you unnecessarily.
5. You and Your Worries
This is an important boundary to maintain. If you're worried then it's important to get the worries out of your head. A good way of doing this is simply to write them down on a piece of paper.
Many people find that this helps to externalize the anxiety. The boundary you are looking for is a separation between a time when you will think about planning solutions for your anxieties and the rest of your day.
The challenge today is to review the different ways it could be beneficial for you to create a boundary. Choose one of the categories I've mentioned and identify a boundary that you can set.
Which New Boundary Did You Set?
Which boundary did you choose? Come back to the blog and let us know.