Running an interior design firm, you have numerous demands made on you day in and day out. That creates a lot of pressure and can lead to stress, anxiety and burnout. You can’t make the world go away, but you can keep it at bay by setting boundaries. Giving yourself permission to take care of yourself will keep you and your business running in top form.
One of the most effective and productive ways to establish boundaries is to set limits for yourself first. This can take many forms.
- You might set aside a certain time during the day or week to devote to uninterrupted work—no meetings, no calls, no emails or texts.
- You can decide to only respond to communications during a particular time of day. For example, mornings or late afternoons.
- You can commit to blocking out time each week for self-care, such as exercise and time spent with family and friends.
- Similarly, set aside time blocks for creativity and relaxation, such as meditation, journaling, sketching, or free writing.
Besides setting limits to your interactions with others, you may need to set some limits to safeguard yourself against your own behavior. For instance, you may need to set limits on your work hours if you’re a workaholic. You may need to set limits on your expenditures if you have trouble staying within budget. Or you may need to set time aside each day to unplug if you have too much screen time.
Of course, limits only work if you and others respect them. Once you’ve decided what limits you want to set, you have to stick to them. In addition, you need to have a conversation with others to inform them of your decision and to make clear they are to respect those limits. Those include your employees, your clients, vendors and service people, and family and friends. Explain why you need to set these limits. Help them to understand that by giving yourself time to tend to your needs you will be better able to support them as a boss, colleague, professional, friend, spouse or parent.
“No-ing” is power
Anyone who’s been around a toddler for any length of time knows that “no” is one of their favorite words. As adults, though, we often feel that saying “no” is impolite or unsociable, perhaps even a sign of weakness. There are times, however, when saying “no” is exactly the right thing to do.
Saying “no” often isn’t easy:
- You may hesitate to say no to a potential client even though you feel they are not a good fit or will be difficult to deal with.
- You may be tempted to interrupt your individual work time to deal with a problem that has just arisen in the firm.
- You may feel guilty about turning down an invitation from a friend or family member that conflicts with your self-care routine.
In nearly all these cases, nothing bad is going to happen by saying no. You’re better off not taking on a toxic client. The crisis will keep until you are free to deal with it. You can make other arrangements with your family or friends. You are not being selfish by saying no, just practical. Don’t be lured into a false sense of urgency or shame. Be firm and explain why you’re choosing to adhere to the boundaries you have set. Over time you will find it is quite liberating.
Establishing boundaries is one thing, maintaining them is another. Your employees, friends and family may be accepting, or at least tolerant, at first. Over time, though, they are likely to start pushing back or trying to subvert your boundaries. Quite possibly they will want to set limits of their own. These are challenges but manageable ones. Be open and fair. Respect their needs as well. Talk with them to find a solution that is amenable. Don’t negotiate away your limits. Explore ways to work with them or around them.
With so many demands upon you, it’s easy to get thrown off your stride. At times, there are going to be actual emergencies or disruptions that require your attention. People get sick or have life changes. Projects rarely go according to plan. Expect the unexpected. Make contingency plans for how you’ll get back on track when your boundaries get stretched.
Everybody has a bad day now and then. Stuff happens. Keep in mind that your boundaries can be flexible and still be effective. Balance a really bad day or bad week with a day off for a mental health break. Take the long view and maintain your perspective.
Setting boundaries is not about being self-centered, it’s about recognizing that, no matter how talented or hard-working you are, there are limits to what your mind and body are capable of handling at any one time. Over time, you will find that you actually will have more energy, more focus, and can be more productive. In turn, your business and your relationships will prosper.