[Watch the training video below.]
Why Should You Build Boundaries
To many people, building boundaries is a foreign thing. We are taught to be open and welcoming. We are taught to say ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes.’ And I teach those ones as well. But if we are to perform more and produce more, we need to learn how to say ‘No’ along with saying ‘Yes.’ We need to learn to build boundaries.
Here are three reasons why:
1. You and I have limits.
Look at the day itself, there are only 24 hours. In it, you have to sleep, eat, work and do a lot of things. If you have 8 hours to do your work, can you do work that is meant for 12 hours? No, that would entail overtime. You have to choose what you do and what you do should further what you are meant to do.
2. You and I need to focus on our life’s work (not just busy work).
Are you doing your life’s work or just busy work?
“A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide with me the property our father left us.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Friend, who gave me the right to judge or to divide the property between you two?’ And he went on to say to them all… (Luke 12:13-14)’ Look at what he did. He said ‘No’ without batting an eyelash.
Someone asked him to do something. But he declined. He said ‘No’ and continued to teach the crowd. He said ‘No’ so he can do what he has to do.
Remember that every time we say ‘Yes’ to something, we are saying ‘No’ to another thing. And every time we say ‘No to something, we can say ‘Yes’ to another thing. The question is, “To which things are you saying ‘No’ to? To which things are you saying ‘Yes’ to?”
I hope you are saying ‘Yes’ to the right things so you can focus on your life’s work.
For us to focus on our life’s work, the work that we are meant to do, we have to say ‘No’ to other things which other people are meant to do.
3. You and I must lessen unnecessary stress.
Every time we say ‘Yes’ to something, we are saying, “Yes, I will put my time, effort, and resources to it. I will also bear the stress that comes with it.”
You see, stress is part of life. But there are necessary stress and unnecessary stress. There is too much stress in life already that is using up your energy. You better choose to deal with the stress that are necessary.
When you are doing unnecessary work, you are dealing with unnecessary stress.
These are just some of the reasons why you need to build your boundaries. And when you build your boundaries, you will be able to build up your performance. Because you will be able to focus your time, effort and resources to the work that you are meant to do. You will stay away from the distractions of mere busy work and you will do your life’s work.
Warning on Building Boundaries
- It will be difficult at first.
If you are not used to setting boundaries, note that it will be difficult at first. After all, most things are difficult at first. It will require you to change your mindset and manners. It will require you to change your attitude and actions.
- Some people may get hurt in the short run.
Setting boundaries will require you to say ‘No’ to some people. And because when we request someone to do something, we are looking forward to a positive response. We want them to say ‘Yes.’ Thus, when we say ‘No,’ expect that some (sometimes, many) people may get hurt in the short run. But after some time, they will realize that you said ‘No’ for a good reason – not just for yourself but for them as well.
What are Boundaries
Let us clarify what boundaries are –
- Boundaries are parameters to what you will say YES to and NO to.
Boundaries are a part of our compass. It is a manifestation of our values. It helps us in our decision making. It sets when we are going to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’
- Boundaries are not walls that block but a pathway that guides.
Do not confuse setting boundaries with setting blockages or walls that will put away people and opportunities. It is actually the opposite. Rather than looking at it as a wall, look at it as a pathway that guides you where you need to go. It gives you direction to where you can pour your effort to, to where you can do more of your life’s work, to where you can serve more people.
How to Build Boundaries
Now that we understand why we need to set boundaries and how we should view boundaries, let us look at some action items we can do to build boundaries in our daily life.
1. Learn to say NO. And saying NO is OK.
“Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’…” (Mt 5:37) One of the things we can learn from this short verse that it is right to say ‘No’ as it is right to say ‘Yes’ to the right things. So stop feeling guilty when you say ‘No.’ Let me repeat, it is OK to say ‘No.’
Here are some of things we have to say ‘No’ to:
- Say NO to projects or tasks with unreasonable deadline/s.
With your experience or someone else’s, you can tell if a deadline is reasonable or not. When you are being asked to do something within a deadline that you think is unreasonable – that means, you have to stretch and sacrifice (your time, your job, your health, your relationship) unreasonably – say ‘No’ to it. This requires saying ‘No’ period.
Sometimes, you can say ‘No’ and ‘Negotiate’. What you can do is to ask and clarify the deadline. Is it really needed at that deadline stated. Sometimes, people just don’t know their real deadlines. When you help them clarify, they might see the real picture and adjust accordingly. Sometimes, when they say “I need it now.” and you ask them, “Can I give it to you tomorrow (or next Monday)?” They will say ‘Sure.’ This way, you helped them realize that the real deadline was not today but next Monday. Also, you will be able to adjust and still fulfill their request.
But if in the process of assessing if it is possible to move the deadline and they still say that the deadline is today, maybe it is a ‘green light’ to say ‘No.’ After all, you might not be able to deliver. This way, they can also look for someone else to do it, if necessary.
- Say NO to doing other people’s jobs.
Let people do their job. Do not do their jobs for them if they are capable of doing it themselves. While Galatians 6:2 says, “Help carry one another’s burdens…”, the succeeding verse at Galatians 6:5 says, “For each of you have to carry your own load.”
This means, we have to discern what is a heavy burden as against a simple load. Their job is their load and they have to do it. If they are hard up with life’s problems due to unforeseen events, this may be a burden; and yes, we are called to help carry one another’s burden. But again, not someone else’s load that he must carry by himself.
At work, I say that you be open to accepting other tasks even it is outside your job description. You even have to raise your initiative to do more. But do not confuse initiative with boundaryless. Anything unreasonable is unreasonable – and that has to receive a ‘No.’
If your boss or co-worker is requesting you, let them know the trade-off. And let them choose. You tell them courteously, “If I have to finish Project B today, we have to move the deadline for Project A which I am working on right now as it is due on Friday. But if you wish, since I am almost done with Project A, let me finish it first before working on Project B by Friday. You will have Project B done next Monday. Which one would you like me to finish first?” (Again, this is when it become unreasonable. Of course, if a little overtime – once in a while – can accommodate the job, then maybe it is OK to say ‘Yes.’ But if it becomes repetitive, that is a different story.)
In this way, you will be more productive at work. You will also not sacrifice unnecessary resources of you and your company. This will also give the message that you know and value your work. And that you want your boss and your company to succeed.
2. Stop helping when you are not helping.
Yes, this will be difficult but this is a practice of tough love. You love them and you want to help them in the way they are not expecting you to. But with this, you will help them grow for the better.
Here are some instances:
- Do not lend money to people who constantly overspends (especially on luxuries). Give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and be responsible to take charge of their finances.
- Do not work overtime just to help people who are habitually late. Let them suffer the consequence of their action. That coming on time is a must to finishing work on time.
- Do not answer questions which answers can be found by themselves (without the need of your personal perspective). There are people who disturbs you and ask questions whose answers can be easily found on Google or in the manual.
Of course, it is different when it requires you to give your opinion on something. If they are asking for a ready information, teach them to search for it on their own. If they ask for your perspective, then give it.
3. Do not start the day with others’ agenda.
Start the day with your agenda. Start with God. Pray and plan. What are the things that you need to do?
Do not start with your email and start responding to the requests of other people. You will realize that your day is done having completed none of your agenda.
Stop starting your day opening your email, Facebook, or Instagram. Schedule it later in the day or after finishing the goals you have set for yourself that day.
4. Act with INTENTION. You will be treated as you behave.
How you act teach other people how they treat you. If you are saying ‘No’ verbally but your body language and actions say otherwise, they won’t take your ‘No’ seriously.
If you say you need to work on Project A, then work on Project A. If you say you need to go to Meeting A, then do not go to Meeting B. If you say you are working now, then schedule your chit-chat with Chatty Cathy later during the break.
5. Set UNINTERRUPTED TIME when you need to.
When you are working on a project and cannot afford to be interrupted for the entire morning, tell your team or your office mates. If you have a door, maybe you can close the door and put a sign on it. ‘Open-door policies’ can be misinterpreted at times. Having such policy does not mean you will never close your door (literally and figuratively) when you need to.
When you are scheduled to do a task at a particular time, you may have to close your email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Skype. Open it at the appointed time when you are ready to respond to those. Sometimes, you also have to switch off your phones as part of setting your boundaries on particular times and places.
These are just some of the practical tips that you can do to build boundaries. But when applied at work and in life, it will yield the desired results. It will build up your performance and you will produce more and may even help you get promoted.
Weed Out the Roots
One last thing, let me give you these essential fundamental truths and guidelines as you go and build boundaries.
- Forgive yourself of your mistakes (including not setting boundaries) or in failing in your past commitments. Learn from them and move on. Stop trying to fill-in your previous lack by sacrificing your present life.
- Stop trying to please people. Please God. Love yourself.
- “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” [Prv 4:23 ]
Building your boundaries will not block opportunities. Building your boundaries will build up your performance. It builds up your life.
Become a better you,