How do you feel about your life right at this very moment? Do you enjoy it? Are you fulfilling your passion? Do you look forward to each day and wake with excitement? If so, this post about setting boundaries that protect your energy might not teach you anything new. If no, this post is going to be a game-changer.
So what exactly does is mean to set boundaries
that protect your energy?
To me it means making agreements with yourself that keep you fulfilled, full of energy, and balanced in all areas of your life. Basically, it’s doing or not doing things to keep yourself happy.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, every human body has an energy highway through which all energy flows. This flow of energy affects how we feel, how we think, and also affects our overall health. When there are no energy blockages, life is good and we can have a nearly perfect day. Energy blockers like stress, trauma, and poor diet, cause our overall physical and mental health to suffer.
Setting boundaries is the key to maintaining your energy’s balance. Your energy is also your spirit or your liveliness and when you take on too much, you become overwhelmed. Overwhelm (just like stress) is a huge energy drain. When your energy is drained your outlook on life suffers. When your outlook on life suffers so does everything else.
I was totally zapped and drained of energy for months.
When I first started my business I was stoked at the thought of achieving the time and financial freedom. No doubt helping people was high on my list of reasons but mainly more money and more time with my family were my motivations. I knew that hard work was going to be essential for my success. But what I didn’t know was that I’d be spending so much time focused on my clients and my business, that I could hardly be present for my family and friends.
There were plenty of days where I wondered if it was really worth it. Plenty of days where I wanted to give up. And plenty of days where I didn’t even want to get out of bed. One day, during a conversation with a friend, she asked me “what would happen if you just didn’t think about your work, your clients, or anything business related for a whole day?”. My head almost exploded… I remember thinking that a full day off wasn’t even an option. What if I lost a client? What if I didn’t respond to an email and missed out on a sale? What if my team needed me? Talk about rabbit holes.
Yes, hard work is certainly a part of the gig, but I was thinking about business so much that I had no attention left to focus on the truly important things…like family. This was a hard thing to admit to myself. But once I did, everything changed. It all boiled down to the following question I asked myself. If my story sounds familiar, I invite you to ask yourself this powerful question too.
Which will you regret more: losing a few clients or losing time with family that you can never get back?
Of course, I decided that I needed that time with my family. I decided to immediately take 3 days off and disconnect from everything so I could figure out how to bring back a proper work/life balance. Below I share the 8 steps I took to implementing some boundaries that help protect your energy. In fact, whenever I find myself slipping, I go back and rework these steps.
Step One: Decide what you really want
Get comfy and close your eyes for a moment. Think of your perfect world. If money was no object, where would you live? What kind of work would you do? What do your weekends look like? Do you travel for work? What activities does your family enjoy? What type of clothes or colors do you wear in this perfect world? Are you living in a house or condo? Do you have pets? What kind of car do you drive?
You want your answers to be things that make you happy, really happy. Maybe you take some European vacations in this perfect world. Maybe you dream of being a New York Times Bestseller. Maybe you’re driving an expensive sports car. Or maybe you’re dreaming of sunsets on the beach while your kids splash in the waves. There are no right or wrong answers here. What I love so much about focused daydreaming, is it helps you realize what is most important to you.
Once you are able to decide what you want and need to be truly happy, it’s time to take action. One of my favorite ways to to get focused on making my dreams a reality is to make a vision board. Your vision board should answer the following questions:
Click here to get my planner + workbook to guide you as you create your vision board.
Step Two: Be honest about what you don’t want
I think knowing what you don’t want out of life is as important as knowing what you DON’T want. Creating balance is all about being honest with yourself and taking on clients, projects, or tasks that will bring you joy, not bring about stress and anger. Think of the yin and yang idea from Chinese philosophy. They are often thought of as two competing forces when in actuality they work together in a complementary way to create balance. Consider the vision board in Step 1 as your yin; now you need to explore what you don’t want, or your yang.
Think about your life in general and take a specific inventory of how you are spending your time on a monthly basis. Do you work long hours? Are you spending time writing that book you wanted? Do you even like what you are doing at work? How much time off did you take? Do you workout regularly? Do you spend time on things you enjoy?
Once you have thought about how you are spending your time and what is actually bringing you joy – you can get real about what changes you need to make.
After you have identified what you want and what you don’t want from your life– it’s time to create a plan to bring them into balance with each other. Click here to get my planner + workbook which includes worksheet to help you identify things you don’t want and a plan of action for getting rid of them.
Step Three: Setting boundaries to protect your energy means setting them with yourself first
One of the best and easiest ways to set boundaries in your life is to start with scheduling your day. Take note: this is not just for work; this applies to your personal time, too!
For example, if you set your work hours as 9am-5pm Monday through Friday shut down your computer at 5:01pm and start to decompress. No answering emails after dinner. No working on your book until midnight. Enjoy your dinner; enjoy your family or friends; enjoy a hobby. Turn off your work brain so you don’t suffer from burnout.
Tip: I know ideas can come to us at times where we have other things going on. Times where it’s not exactly convenient to drop what we are doing and switch focuses. For example, when you get an awesome idea while preparing dinner- keep a notebook handy or type notes into your phone. Then plan to review those notes tomorrow during business hours.
If you are like be and not able to keep standard business hours due to family obligations – No worries. You can use the time block philosophy. (I swear by time-blocking and rather than explain it here, you should check out this article by Lauryn Evarts of The Skinny Confidential.) Basically, it’s when you schedule certain tasks during certain hours of the day. For instance, when I work early in the morning while the kids are still sleeping, I use that time for writing or catching up on emails. Then I save my quiet time while the kids are at school for client calls.
Click here to get my planner + workbook to get instant access to the Design Your Dream Day worksheet.
Step Four: Create agreements and stick to them
Now that you have your own boundaries set in terms of how to spend your time, creating agreements will make it official and easy to implement. When I did this, I chose to dedicate a few pages in my journal to writing my agreements down. I believe there is something magical about writing out our intentions, goals, and agreements.
When you are making agreements with yourself, you want to think about everything we’ve talked about so far. Think about what you want, what you don’t want, and what your dream day looks like. I remember the first thing I wrote down was “I agree to take 3 out of 4 weekends off each month. I commit to communicating this to my clients and sharing it with my family to help keep me accountable.”
By the way, sharing your agreements with a good friend or loved one is a great way to support you in accountability.
In my planner + workbook, I’ve included a worksheet to help you make agreements, plan your next steps, and identify what tools you’ll need to stick to them. Click here to get your planner + workbook .
Step Five: Identify your time wasters and make a plan to eliminate them
Distractions are a part of life no matter who you are but if your goal is to work fewer hours, then it’s time to identify your distractions and time wasters. Tracking how you spend your time each day is a great way to discover your distractions and time wasters.
Social media seems to be a big one among most people I talk to. It can get really tricky when you need to be active daily on social media for your work. But as with most things, there are things you can do to make the time you spend on social media more efficient. I set a 15 minute timer every four hours and that is my social media time. Above, I mentioned time-blocking and one of the biggest helps to my time-blocking is this little cube timer I got off of Amazon, click here to check it out.
I’ve included a worksheet to help you track your day in the planner + workbook. Click here to get instant access.
Step Six: Review your finances regularly
One of the biggest energy zappers is finances. It’s true we need money, but we don’t have to let it have some much control over our mindset. When you sit down to review your finances I recommend reviewing in the following chunks: Income, Living Expenses, Travel & Entertainment, and Savings. It helps to use the handy dandy worksheet I’ve included in the planner + workbook. Get yours here for free.
It’s important to have a really good understanding of the money we bring in and what’s going out. Money stuff isn’t the funnest stuff to think about but when you have a good handle on it, it doesn’t make you mentally exhausted. You will make better decisions about savings and making big purchases. That dream vacation is that much more possible when your relationship with money is doing well.
Step Seven: Be OK with saying No.
“No” is a word we learn at a very early age. By our teen years we are masters at saying No (especially to our parents lol!) Somewhere along the way we turn into adults and all of a sudden we’re people pleasers who lose track of our personal boundaries and can’t say no for fear of disappointing someone or being reprimanded.
In the corporate world, it’s harder to say no because your paycheck depends on you performing certain tasks. But if you have your own business, not every client is a good fit and not every project is one you’ll love. Give yourself permission to say NO to those clients and projects that don’t light you up.
In our personal lives, saying no is just as important as it is in our professional lives. Not every party you are invited to is one you should attended. Some plans just don’t fit in with us taking action towards our goals. And sometimes we just need to say no so that we can spend time alone, decompressing.
How many times have we volunteered for something only to dread it? Even with family members we have a tendency to not want to disappoint so we agree to do things, rearrange our schedules, and then complain when it’s not as exciting or fun as we expected. You are allowed to say no and you don’t have to give an explanation. Enforce those boundaries in your business and personal lives and people will learn to respect those boundaries.
A great exercise for getting comfortable saying no is to list out past moments where you wished you would have said no. You want to list each one out and then also brainstorm ideas for how to prepare yourself to say no if they arise again. I’ve created a template for you, and you can get it by downloading my planner + workbook.
Step Eight: Journal your findings
Journaling is a fantastic way to document your hopes and dreams so you can create tangible goals for your business but it’s also a great way to document daily what processes work or don’t work, which products sell or don’t sell, and so on. Whatever you track and analyze is that much easier to improve.
Make it a habit to write out your thoughts and feelings regarding your day every day. Include your energy levels, what you did well, and what needs work. If you notice a pattern of low energy levels, for example, try shifting activities to a time when you feel more energized. Be proud of the things that go well; pat yourself on the back and review if there’s a way to create a process for this task so you improve the chances of it going well again.
Analyze what needs help in your life and brainstorm ways to improve those tasks. This journal will be a fluid and ever-changing document to track those changes that work and those that don’t.
Journaling will also help you stick to your boundaries. If, for example, you say yes to something you actually wanted to decline, make note of how you’re feeling about this decision and how to better enforce that particular boundary in the future. Notice if there’s a pattern to when or how frequently you break a boundary; maybe that boundary needs to shift or change. Your journal notes will help you determine this.
Journaling helps you gain clarity about your work and your passions, and, ultimately, your life. It’s one thing to say you’re passionate about your work and go through the motions to be successful at it but when you write the truth in your journal, you may find your passions lie elsewhere. And that’s alright! Explore these old journal entries, reflect on how you’ve grown as a person, and take that knowledge with you into the future.
Dream big! Nothing is impossible.
I’ve created a journal template that I use and also use with my clients. If journaling is new to you, this will make it nice and easy for you to get started. If you’ve been journaling for a while, this will be a fresh perspective and might give you some new ideas. Either way, I think you should check it out.
Creating boundaries that protect your energy is a practice that I believe is vital to self-care. I hope these steps have been as helpful to you as they have been for me (and my clients!). I’d really love to know your thoughts so please let me know in the comments below.
Lots of love,
ps. Do you have tips for setting boundaries that protect your energy that weren’t on this list? I wanna hear about them so share in the comments below. Thanks, love!