One Key Math Rule to Help You Keep Your Boundaries

RAFT Team, August 8, 2022

Boundaries. We know what they mean, but often have a difficult time defining exactly what they are. In part because boundaries are not always rigid rules we enforce and in part because they can change depending on where we are and who we’re with. At work, you may be more private and require more physical space around you than when you’re with friends or family. The difficulty of enforcing them can vary depending on the situation.

Here are five different types of boundaries:

  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Emotional
  • Sexual
  • Financial

Why is it important to keep your boundaries?

You don’t create boundaries just to make yourself feel more comfortable with the world around you. Boundaries are the way you take care of yourself. A healthy boundaries can keep you more resilient, more compassionate, and reduce the chance of burnout.

Consider all the ways life and people may infringe on your boundaries and leave you uncomfortable or tired. Without healthy boundaries, you’ll probably get walked on and taken advantage of. 

Here are some healthy work boundaries to consider:

  • Physical Boundaries: enforcing handshakes instead of hugs, refusing meetings after hours, enforcing physical cues to minimize interruptions (headphones, closed door, etc.)
  • Mental Boundaries: not checking work emails on weekends, using "do not disturb" for deep work time, taking time off when you’re sick or need a mental health day, saying no to tasks outside your job description, delegating tasks

If you don’t learn to say no, you may quickly find yourself overwhelmed, frustrated, and feeling stuck. Before you know it, you’ll have a mile high stack of responsibility that’s virtually impossible to slog through. You’ll be pressured to work nights and weekends to keep up, which means your time with friends and family shrinks, as does your personal self-care time. The anxiety will probably keep you up at night. You become locked in an endless cycle that leads straight to burnout. It's misery!

What’s the solution to help you keep your boundaries? Math.

When your plate is full but you’re carrying the load well and feeling healthy and satisfied in your job and in life, you’re operating at 100%. 

But then someone needs one more thing. You wave your hand with a “Pshaw” and say it’s not a big deal. You can get it done in an evening or two. But remember, this one task requires energy output that is more than you can reasonably sustain with your current load. 

Here’s the easy math equation to keep you balanced: When you’re working at a sustainable rate but need to add something to your plate, even temporarily, you must take something off your plate. It looks something like this: 1+1-1=100%

Taking something off your responsibility list means one of 3 choices:

  • Remove it
  • Save it until later
  • Delegate it

It may mean letting your boss know you can take care of a task, but it will mean the previous task completion will now be delayed. It may mean asking a partner or friend to run your kids to their soccer game while you work. You may need to cancel the dinner plans you had in order to complete the new task. Or it may simply mean saying no, you don’t have the capacity to take on something new.

Whatever boundaries you choose, it’s important to communicate them throughout the process. If necessary, reinforce your boundaries. If people at work continually disrespect your boundaries and there isn’t effort to accommodate your needs, it’s time for a frank conversation with your boss or coworkers. Let them know how you feel and see what can be done to re-establish a healthy workplace environment for everyone.

Remember, your boundaries are in place to help you function at your best, and to contribute your best to the work at hand. 

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