I’ve always been what I call an “over-responsibility” person. I used to feel that I had to make other people happy, had to meet their needs, no matter what. Regardless of what it might cost me.
When I first started my coaching practice, I did anything for any client – I charged ridiculously low rates, and I would meet them anytime, anywhere. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but in the beginning, I charged just $15 for a 45-minute session. I agreed to sessions at 6:30 AM. I did 11:00 PM sessions. I traveled to clients an hour each way, and still only charged $15 for the session – no charge for my travel time. As you can guess, that did not work! Not only was I under-earning, but I also had no time for marketing to grow my business, or for taking care of myself. I was stressed, exhausted, and often annoyed at my clients. But it wasn’t their fault I felt this way. The fault was mine – because I wasn’t setting any boundaries.
I’m sure many of you can see yourselves in my story. So, so, so many entrepreneurs, artists, and leaders have trouble with boundaries around time. Typical problems include:
- Not enough time to work because you have guilt around childcare
- Giving away too much time by constantly emailing clients
- Excusing a client who cancels frequently (wasting your time)
- Doing the work of others who are doing things incorrectly or not on time
- Working overtime consistently because you fear telling your boss that the workload is too heavy
Once you realize that you’re dishonoring your time and dishonoring yourself, it’s time to sit down and get really clear on what you need. I have formulated a series of exercises that will enable you to establish a schedule that allows you time and freedom to accomplish your business and personal goals, and a series of healthy boundaries to serve as a framework for your success. With these boundaries, you can stop feeling overwhelmed, taken advantage of, or scared. You can stop worrying that you’re over-worked and start stepping into time and energy well-spent.
How you spend your time is how you live your life.
In this first section of How to Honor & Protect Your Time, let’s look at scheduling and prioritizing, because setting boundaries for yourself begins with time management.
First, get clear on the top two or three things you don’t have enough time for because of unhealthy boundaries. Is it marketing? Is it self-care? Is it time to write?
What are you losing out on because you’re not honoring your time?
Create Your Ideal Schedule
Creating an ideal schedule is KEY to setting time boundaries for yourself. The more clear you are on your schedule, on what you’d like to be doing at what moments, the easier it will be to honor your time, your energy, and what’s important to you.
To create your ideal schedule:
1) Draw a grid with a column for each day of the week, and a row for each hour of the day.
2) Assign work time and personal time.
3)Get more specific: Identify what you need to do and when you need to do it. Start with Monday – Friday, or Tuesday – Saturday, or whatever works for you. Include each thing you would be doing each day throughout the week, and at what time. Block out time with clients, marketing time, travel time, shopping for supplies time, yoga time, family time. Include team meetings, networking events, even dentist appointments. When you can see that on your schedule, you’ve begun to create boundaries for yourself. The more you get clear on your schedule, the less scattered you are, and the more you are able to open time for yourself.
Determine Necessary Tasks
The next tool you need is to be able to get clear on what tasks you do that are worth your while. This is so important to being able to honor your time because it allows you to really prioritize what is most important and stick to it.
For this, make a running list of every single thing you do for one week – start today. Once you’ve followed yourself and your activities for a week, the next step is to categorize your activities this way:
- Category 1 – essential tasks you currently don’t lose time on because the boundaries are good
- Category 2 – essential tasks you want to keep but could use a better system or could streamline
- Category 3 – non-essential tasks to either eliminate or to save for another time
- Category 4 – tasks to delegate, which are essential but which you can give to someone else
Be honest with yourself. You’ll see some important things as you mark your tasks in this way. You might see that you need an intern or a team member. Or maybe there are things you’re spending time on that aren’t benefiting you. When you compare your actual schedule with your ideal schedule, you can apply the task categories to bring the actual schedule closer to your ideal.
Look for How to Honor & Protect Your Time, Part 2 next week, in which we’ll examine specific tactics and conversations to have for boundary-setting around time!