Setting Your Boundaries (so your business doesn’t suck the life out of you!)

Jun 20, 2013

An excerpt from Chapter 5 of The Entrepreneur’s Trap

I don’t watch Dr. Phil these days, but I used to… and one thing I remember him saying over and over again is:

You teach people how to treat you.

This applies in our business lives as much as it does in our personal lives.

I find that many entrepreneurs allow themselves to be treated poorly in business – by their clients, by their team, and by their colleagues. And it sets them up for a business that sucks the life out of them over time.

How do you know if your boundaries are weak? If you ever find yourself saying or thinking things like:

  • “I can’t believe so-and-so asked me to do this… I hate doing this kind of stuff.”
  • “I’ve got so much work to do already and my clients keep giving me more.”
  • “I told this person that I wouldn’t be around today, but they emailed me anyway!”
  • “I don’t want to work on the weekends, but I feel like I have to in order to get it all done.”
  • “My client keeps calling me throughout the day. I’m so tired of them calling all the time, but they won’t stop!”
  • “Why won’t my team leave me alone? They keep bugging me all day and I can’t get anything else done.”
  • “I know I shouldn’t do this, but I can’t say no or they’ll be mad at me.”

This is a huge part of what leads people to The Entrepreneurial Trap – and ultimately to being overwhelmed, burned-out, and resentful. All of these issues can be solved by one simple thing:

Boundaries.

A boundary is simply a rule or guideline about what is acceptable in your relationships with others and what you will allow (or not!) in the way people behave with you. In other words, it’s teaching people how to treat you.

There are two steps to this process:

  • Set ‘em.
  • Enforce ‘em.

Let’s dive into the first part shall we?

It’s time to DECIDE what your boundaries are (and yes, that word is capitalized for a reason).

This might seem obvious, but if you don’t know how you want people to treat you, they will not treat you the way you want! In other words, you need to first decide what is acceptable to you in the way that you work and communicate with people in your business.

We already talked about one of the biggest boundaries in the last chapter – time. Specifically your non-working hours and taking back your weekends. This is by far the most important boundary to set.

There are many more, and I’ve created the following list to help you decide what your boundaries are regarding your business:

  • What is the best way for someone to get a hold of you? (Or your team?)
    Phone? Email? Facebook? Twitter DM (direct message)? Skype? Instant Message? Text? What are the acceptable ways for people to communicate with you?
  • What will you do (or not do) in your work? 
    This goes back to your YES! List. What are you willing to do or not do when it comes to your work? You need to be crystal clear on this or you will find yourself doing things that you either hate doing, don’t know how to do or don’t do well.
  • How much advance notice do you require from your clients?
    If you are in a service-based business you will want to be clear on what kind of notice you require from a client in order to fulfill an obligation.
  • What is your turn-around time?
    Going hand-in-hand with the previous point is your turn-around time. How long will it actually take you to do the work?
  • How to handle emergencies or last minute requests?
    All this being said, there are times when you need to be OK with breaking your boundaries for a legitimate crisis. But you need to be crystal clear about what is a crisis and what is not.
  • Eliminate distractions in your day.
    Our loved ones can be a HUGE source of distraction if we let them be. Let the people around you – especially those who live in your home – know when they can and cannot disturb you.

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