How to Set Boundaries That Balance Your Life
As a full time working, small business-owning mother to twin toddlers and a teenager, I’m often asked about how I achieve balance in my life. To be honest, many days I don’t. I crash and burn like the best of them and find myself collapsing into bed exhausted and terrified by the mountain of work that is still left undone purely because there aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ll also admit to being that mom that gets sucked into the computer vortex of work and turns around what feels like 2 seconds later to see my kids are still in their pajamas at 12:00PM. Although we all need a good pajama day sometimes, achieving balance that makes everyone happy in your family is all about you. As the blogger, small business owner, mother, friend, the list goes on and on…balance in your life starts with boundaries. And the only person that can set and keep them is you. So, where do you start?
How to Set Boundaries That Balance Your Life
Claim the life that you want
The first step is reminding yourself what you want your life to look like. Whatever that picture in your head looks like, write it down and commit to creating that. I suspect that most of us want hugely successful blogs with awesome and constantly available content while having loads of free time to play with our families. I also suspect that most of us have realized that blogging is some darn hard work and our stash of free time is rapidly depleting. Blogging, work, small business ownership…all of these things can get away from you and before you know it your life no longer feels like your own. When you’ve hit that spot, it’s time to sit back and remind yourself what you want your life to look like and identify what obstacles are barring you from that goal.
Commit to better time management
Once you’ve identified what you want your life to look like and what obstacles are in your way, the next step is to commit to appropriate time management. Whether this means setting working days (or non-working days), communicating business hours to your client base (this is especially important in today’s real-time social media market) or identifying appropriate tools to automate and streamline your workflow (there are bazillions of awesome apps out there!), find the path towards better management of your day and delegate some portion of your workload. The best way to bring this all together is to pick a calendar that works for you (online, good old-fashioned wall calendar, planner, you pick!) and keep it close to you heart. Schedule out every part of your day and then commit to sticking to it. This means scheduling in family time, break time and business-closed time as well. Committing your schedule to paper in this way creates the boundary that tells your internal clock it’s time to move on to the next activity. If a calendar feels like too much to you, start small with a timer. Sit down at the computer and set a timer for 30 minutes and when that timer goes off, it’s time to step away and take the kids to the park.
Learn how and when to say, "No."
The biggest piece to the boundaries puzzle? Learn how and when to say “No.” If you’re a super OCD, workaholic, overachiever like me (I’m insane! Seriously!), you struggle with the desire to be everything to everybody all of the time. Unfortunately, this type of overzealous drive usually ends up in you being everything to the wrong people, while everybody you actually care about is left in the dust. When a new opportunity comes your way, ask yourself “How does this opportunity benefit my family? Will it allow me to take a step closer to the life that I want or will it take me a step back from the life that I want?” The answer to those questions will very easily tell you what your answer should be. Once you know it, the challenge becomes the delivery. Nobody likes to say “No.” But I can guarantee you that everyone likes to hear “I really appreciate your thinking of me and I’m humbled by your generous offer. I’d love to jump onboard with your idea, but you deserve my full attention and effort because I value you and your hard work. My plate is just too full right now and I can’t take on another project, much as I might want to. Thank you so much for asking! I do hope to have the opportunity to work with you in the future.”
Re-evaluate and reset your course
Maybe right now you’re already in over your head and wondering what to do. Your most precious asset, your time, is being commandeered by rapidly approaching deadlines, incessant meetings or just general bad attitude from exhaustion or anxiety. And if that time is being taken by force via those things in your life that you probably should have said “No” to, that means someone on the other side is missing you. Maybe even you’re missing you. In that case, it’s time to re-evaluate and reset your course. Adjust your sails and get back on the path to your life and your family. You may need to identify some projects that need to go, and this truly is the hardest part. You might find annoyance and frustration on the receiving end of your decision to step away and refocus your energies in the right places. That’s ok. It might hurt in the short term, but I bet you’ll find the relief to be quickly soothing, especially when you find yourself spending more of your days with those you love most.
Developing the right boundaries for yourself is an ongoing, constantly evolving process. It’s something you should come back to time and time again. If you make checking in with your boundaries and vision for life a priority that garners your regular attention, you’ll find yourself making headway in achieving balance between work and home. You can’t do it all, but you can do those projects, jobs, tasks that are a right fit for you AND your family to the best of your ability. Focus your energy and your goals and you’ll see life fall into place, one minute at a time.
How do you set boundaries in your life and find the balance you need?
Welcome to the chaos! I’m Katy, the writing Mama behind Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy’s Survival Guide. In between juggling twin toddler boys, a rowdy preteen stepdaughter, a handful of fish, a newly acquired snail and a self-entitled bull dog with my husband of almost 10 years, I work full time in sales and also run an engagement, wedding and boudoir photography business in Virginia Beach, VA.
When I’m not elbows-deep in kiddo crazy, you can find me behind the camera, teaching others basic photography skills or managing The Studio Hampton Roads. Yup, I’m one busy gal!
Call me crazy, but life is good. I’m not sure how I manage to keep it all together, but I’ve got a good feeling that my obsessive compulsive disorder and raging perfectionism probably keep me running at the speed of light, however precariously.