Women find themselves pulled in many directions. People are constantly asking things of you and you are asking things of yourself. Even when you create a to-do list and use a planner you find yourself pushed to do more, to add more to your already busy day. A phone call from your mom. A neighbor’s request to let their dog out. Your spouse’s text asking you to run an errand. Your child’s panicked plea to drop off their uniform, lunch, instrument, or whatever they forgot today. A friend’s invitation to lunch, dinner, an event. A co-worker’s appeal for extra assistance.
These are all kind things to do and you may want to do them, but should you? Are you putting others ahead of yourself and is that okay? When will you work on the things that are important to you if you do these things? Should you say yes or no and how do you know?
You need to draw boundaries. That’s the answer you’ll hear when you pose these questions. And it makes sense. We need to take care of ourselves as well as others and we need to say no to some things or nothing on our own list will get done.
So yes, boundaries are important. But how do you do create them? How do you decide what’s okay and what’s not? Do you need to constantly be thinking, “Is this over the line?”
Women tell me they are tired and the idea of creating and holding boundaries sounds exhausting. But what if you didn’t have to make random proclamations about what you will and will not make time for? What if you knew whether you would say yes to a request or invitation without a lot of thinking?
Natural boundaries allow that. When you know what your priorities are and how they play out in your life you know when to say yes.
When you know your priorities and what they look like in your life then you begin to discover natural boundaries. Let’s say family is your number 1 priority and one of the ways that plays out in your life is Sunday dinner at Mom’s house. Then you know the answer to an invitation to a Sunday matinee is no. Family is your number 1 priority and Sunday family dinner is one of the top ways this plays out. So, you don’t have to spend time dithering and feeling guilty. When a friend extends the invitation you can thank them and tell them it sounds lovely but you have a family commitment. No fuss, no muss, no questioning or dithering. The knowledge that you are taking care of a high priority even lets the guilt slide away.
These are natural boundaries, boundaries that occur when you know your priorities and what they entail.
So the question is, “What are your highest priorities and how do they play out in your life?”
Take a little time and really examine your highest priorities. Write down the way they play out in your life; the tasks you do, the events you attend, the various ways you spend your time caring for or enjoying this priority in your life. Then use that list to guide your decisions. Let those priorities create natural boundaries. Allow yourself to focus your time and energy on these areas of your life and to do it in the ways you outlined. Allow yourself to say no to things that don’t align with your priorities and yes to things that do. (If you struggle with saying no, check out my lesson on The Art & Science of Saying No.)
As you move through this process your natural boundaries will form. Allow yourself to respect them and watch the stress melt away.