Time Boundaries: What Are They? And How Can They Benefit You?
Updated: Jun 3, 2021
In our third #WellnessWednesday series on boundaries, we are discussing our relationship to time. We've unpacked the importance of boundaries as well as strategized the most effective ways to exert boundaries with others. Today, we will investigate Time Boundaries.
I've spoken with several colleagues about their relationship to time and heard similar laments; They have back-to-back Zoom meetings from 8am to 8pm with no room in their schedules for their personal needs. Over and over, I've heard, "I don't have time to workout, I don't have time to rest, I don't have time drink a glass of water." I know that I'm guilty of neglecting my needs from time to time too.
Now more than ever we need to prioritize making time for our needs. Today I'd like to stress the importance of setting time boundaries and give you some tools for healthy time management.
Have you ever noticed that when you overwhelm your schedule with projects, you rarely do your best work? Time management goes out the window and it feels as though your schedule controls you rather than the other way around.
When we lack boundaries with our time, we can grow resentful of our friends, colleagues and of our work. I've noticed a pervasive and unhealthy association with boundaries and selfishness. When in fact, taking care of yourself will only allow you to better take care of others. Let's face it, you can't be your best self when you're tired, distracted, overwhelmed, or some combination of the three.
In order to reclaim our schedules and our lives, I believe we need to maintain our focus on bettering ourselves. This is the key to thriving as opposed to just surviving each day.
To help you get started, I've come up with a three step process of setting and maintaining healthy time boundaries.
Step 1: Make a List of Your Needs
This first step is all about identifying what time we need during the day to be successful. Once we know this, we can work backwards and create a schedule that serves our needs in addition to our responsibilities.
Think about what you helps you to feel good during the day. I know that I need eight hours of sleep to function at my best. Those eight hours are a non-negotiable time boundary for me. What makes you feel good? Do you need 30 minutes in the morning to run a 5K? What about food? You may carve out space in your schedule to eat lunch, but do you factor in meal prep time? These are the kinds of questions that will improve your time management and give you greater control over your schedule.
Step 2: Have a Conversation
Once you understand what your weekly schedule looks like (including your non-negotiable needs), express these boundaries to the people in your life. Whether this conversation occurs with your co-worker, your roommate or your partner, communicating your time boundaries creates a strong foundation for any relationship. By letting the people in your life know your needs, you have given them the opportunity to consciously respect your boundaries.
These conversations can be as simple as informing your boss that you cannot receive work calls before 9am because you have to walk your dog. If there is an emergency or an important work meeting occurs before 9am, perhaps you can ask someone in your household to help you.
I know some of you might say that walking your dog isn't as important as your work. I would argue that the two are of equal importance. If you don't walk your dog, they will get antsy and make a mess. Instead of finishing your work, you spend more time cleaning up the mess than you would walking your dog for 20 minutes in the morning. Time boundaries serve more than just you.
Step 3: Hold Yourself Accountable
In order to maintain healthy boundaries with other people, you must hold yourself accountable to your needs. If you've set aside time for yourself to enjoy your lunch, resist the urge to work through your break.
I hear people say, "I just need a day off." Take it and unplug. If you've already had conversations about your boundaries with your peers, they will not question your lack of response to emails on your day off.
When thinking about your boundaries, try to recognize that it is your personal responsibility to show up for yourself.
Prioritize Your Boundaries
I recently spoke with a partner from a big accounting firm. She said she knows that in order for her team to be successful she has to honor her boundaries. This can mean that when she takes a vacation, she actually turns her computer off. She told me she realized that by respecting her own boundaries, she gives her employees unspoken permission to honor their needs too.
This anecdote is the crux of the value of prioritizing time boundaries. Boundaries aren't selfish. In fact, they help us be selfless. By showing up for yourself, you will lead your day with a greater peace of mind while better supporting the important people in your life.