Maybe you don’t even know you’re supposed to have business boundaries. After all, when you run your own small business you’re not supposed to say no, right? You’re supposed to simply serve your tribe and grow your business at whatever cost.
That’s how it feels – your inner voice of fear serves as your guide – telling you that you’ve got to pay your rent, your assistant, your schooling and oh yeah, you’d like to receive a paycheck. So, what do you do? You say yes to everything. You tell yourself you can juggle it all and for a while it works – until it doesn’t, and you crack.
Overstepping your boundaries is costly.
Let me share from personal experience, when you step over your boundaries – or worse yet, fail to even define them – you will burn out. You’ll also start to deliver an inferior product or service because at some point the reason you went into business for yourself becomes a distant memory. You get mired down in the day-to-day and meeting deadlines and ultimately, everything you used to love about your business becomes a chore.
I personally got to a point that I felt angry all the time. The pressure of meeting the deadlines had me working from 7 in the morning until 10 at night. If my family needed something, it felt like a burden – couldn’t they see that I was building something so I could provide more for them?
And although I could hear the insanity, I didn’t easily see that my life was out of balance.
Although I’m a life coach and probably should have been aware of what the problem was, it wasn’t immediately obvious because I was in so deep. Exhausted, I finally turned to a fellow coach to work through it and discovered that my real problem wasn’t that I needed to be cloned (although I would love that) – the real problem was that I needed to set some boundaries.
Business boundaries – if you haven’t set them – are the parameters you set that keep you on track and balanced in your life.
So many of us cross our business boundaries without even being aware that we’re doing it. We work on weekends when we promised ourselves we wouldn’t. We take on projects that are outside the scope of what we say we do. We don’t read our own contracts and forget to ask for what we’re due. It all adds up. So, what do you do? How do you ensure that you protect your business boundaries instead of going nuts and feeling overwhelmed?
I’ve compiled some simple steps that you can take to help you establish – or re-establish proper business boundaries so your business can thrive.
(1) MEET YOUR BOUNDARIES: WRITE THEM OUT
For starters, you have to know what your boundaries are. If you haven’t taken the time to think about this, spend 30 minutes today writing out what are some of your absolutes. What is a no-go in your business? Things like “discounting under pressure”, working on weekends, reviewing contracts with customers or even answering emails on weekends.
Even if you are new to this business thing, take the time to brainstorm. Ask others who you know that are in similar businesses, what are their key business boundaries. When you get clear on what is a go or a no-go, put it down on paper. The act of writing out your boundaries helps you reinforce what is important for you and your business.
(2) KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL
This may sound simple, but even a post-it note on your bathroom mirror with the word “Boundaries” written on it goes a long way to helping you reinforce what’s important to you. This small gesture is the perfect reminder to start each day on the right track.
If you want to take this step even further, create a vision board to give you the daily reminder of where you want to be- so you stick to the boundaries that will get you there.
(3) CREATE A STRUCTURE
Your structure can be determined by defining your vision and goals. Knowing exactly what you are working towards will give you an idea of how to create a structure to honor your boundaries. Do you have a favorite part of your business? Creating a structure might even mean narrowing down your focus. Maybe you need a structure that is tailored to grow that part and allow you to leave the rest behind.
Your structure should include a schedule, like working 9 to 5 Monday-Friday. I get it, if you’re running your own business, it’s easy to fall into a pattern where you do work almost every day – but don’t. Create a schedule that fits your businesses needs as well as your personal needs. Giving yourself time to meet with clients, time to work on projects, and time to relax or spend time with family.
If you don’t define a structure for your business you will find yourself drowning in your work, with no reason to take a breath until you are completely overwhelmed.
(4) DO A WEEKLY CHECK-IN
Where did you violate your boundaries? Where did you see victories? What new boundaries did you notice that you need to honor? Go back to your list and check off your victories and make note of the boundaries you violated. Add the new ones you need to honor and keep them in mind, so you can search for a solution. Doing a weekly check-in will keep you accountable and give you the motivation to stick with your boundaries.
(5) NO IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE.
If you’ve ever met me, you know this is one of my favorite sayings. No, you don’t have to offer an explanation. No, you don’t have to have a reason. No. Two little letters that can be so hard to say, but the more you learn to honor saying no to the things that weigh you down, the more you’ll be able to say YES to the things you want to do with your business and in life
We’ve all been there, you say yes to something and it totally backfires. You thought you could handle it, but you just don’t have the time or mental capacity to see it all the way through. Learning to say no will minimize the strain on your business and life.
Remember, just because you are capable of completing the jobs you take on, doesn’t mean you should do it. The strain of taking on too much will ruin your passion for what you do if you don’t have clear boundaries. Don’t let yourself violate those boundaries, hold yourself accountable and don’t let other people you push you outside.
(6) LEARN YOUR LESSONS
If you notice you keep violating your boundaries, what’s behind it. Is it fear? Doubt? What is driving you to repeatedly step over yourself. Do you think that it’s selfish? We all have little drivers in our head that have us repeating bad habits and patterns. All too often, when we recognize our patterns we just beat ourselves up. But, believe it or not, that’s not going to change anything.
You have to take the time to learn the lessons. If, for example, you know you have a tendency to over give, write out your process and stick to it. If you tend to have a hard time sticking to a schedule – don’t call yourself names – put in structures that will help you do better (not perfect) next time. It’s all about taking the time to learn the lesson so you can make the changes you need.
Ok, so now that you know how to get started, I’d love to hear how this impacts your business and your life. Share in the comments or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Need additional support? We offer business coaching to help people get clear and out of their own way. Take advantage with our no-strings, 30 minutes free consultation. Click here – we want to help you learn to step up in a bigger way.