A recent study by Franklin Covey shows that we spend 40 percent of our time on unimportant activities. What if you could eliminate some of them and have more time for things that increase your happiness and fulfillment each day? Boundaries enable you to do just that. Boundaries are limits we set around how we spend our time and what we allow in our lives. Here are five power tools for your boundary toolkit.
- Know what’s important to you. People lacking purpose and vision are more likely to say yes to everything and get distracted by shiny objects. It’s easier to say “no” when you have a greater “yes.” Take time to decide what’s important to you. What do you want to achieve? How do you want to allocate your time?
- Practice the power of pause. As choices are presented to you throughout the day, practice the skill of pausing to discern your best option before responding. Pausing allows the executive function of our pre-frontal cortex to engage. It makes the difference between reacting impulsively and responding rationally. It enables you to put in place or enforce an appropriate boundary.
- Just say no. We’re not required to accept every invitation that comes along. Recognize the situations that don’t nourish you or move you towards your goals. Then take responsibility by saying “no” to them. Come up with phrases that you’re comfortable using (e.g., “Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t right now,” or, “What a nice invitation, but I’m spread too thin to accept it”). No need to explain yourself. A simple, polite “no” will save you hours of teeth-gnashing later on.
- Make counteroffers. When someone makes a request and you’d like to help them in some way, rather than a simple “yes” or “no”, offer a variation. Change something about the request that would make it work for you. With the next few requests that come your way, practice using this tool by coming up with a counteroffer.
- Fend off energy vampires. Be they coworkers, friends or family, no one is entitled to sip your lifeblood by foisting their negativity on you. Be prepared to set a boundary to fend them off. Gossips at the water cooler? Don’t join in. Instead say, “I feel a lot better when I focus on people’s positive traits.” Moody spouse or sibling who refuses to say what’s wrong? Tell them, “If you’re unhappy about something, I’ll listen. Otherwise, I’m going to do something else.” Then go do it. Don’t let being “nice” stop you. The other person isn’t being nice, and they may very well benefit from your boundary.
As you become skilled with these boundary power tools, remarkable things will happen. You’ll have more time and energy for your high-value activities. People will have more respect for you. More importantly, you’ll have a new level of respect for yourself.
Lisa Dunsky is a life coach who helps busy professionals make the most of their time and energy. Learn more about her work at www.getting-sorted.com.