Years ago, I worked with a freelancer who set the most perfect ground rules at the beginning of our relationship: Don’t call – instead, email me, I prefer email. If you email after this time, I won’t respond until that time. And we won’t discuss work on the weekends – the list of “rules” went on and on.
This was profoundly liberating because it gave us both clarity on how to conduct ourselves so our work relationship actually WORKED. I wasn’t frustrated when she didn’t respond to an email in the evening, and she got to enjoy her weekends. I was free to focus on multiple businesses and raising my two kids and enjoy a busy life.
I might be flexible with myself and work crazy hours so I can be at my kids’ baseball game – but it’s not fair of me to expect that of others. And it’s going to damage my relationships if I do have those kinds of expectations.
In the time we’re living in, people feel compelled to be online 24/7 – so we all need boundaries. You need room to escape to nature and be unavailable. You need the option to be off of email, and clients need to know they can or CANNOT expect from you after 7pm – the same way your kids need to know that they can’t watch TV until they finish their homework.
When you set up structures and “boundaries,” you get to create a roadmap of rules, expectations, and standards, which prevents chaos – for adults, and for kids. Face it, “playing it by ear” sounds cool, but it often doesn’t work very well.
Think about your life for a moment.
Where do you let yourself get away with vagueness about your boundaries, such that things are not clear or a little too flexible?
Where do you find yourself annoyed that someone doesn’t seem to respect your time or space?
It could be at home, with clients, with friends or neighbors – anywhere you don’t have clear ground rules. (Hint: you might find yourself repeatedly irritated in this area – that’s a clue that you need better boundaries!)
Your best shot at having integrity and ease in those relationships and areas of your life will be from having healthy, beautiful boundaries. Organize yourself around those, and suddenly things just WORK.
Structures, ironically, create so much freedom – we just have to set them up. This practice lets you live a full life – and be fully present for all the things that you want to do.