“Every little NO protects your big YES.” – some amazingly smart woman. (I wish I could remember who I first heard say this so I could credit her!).
“I’m so busy doing things for other people, I don’t accomplish MY goals.” – a client “Syndi”.
“I don’t know how to say no, without offending the other person.” – overheard in line at the grocery store.
How much time do you spend working on someone else’s agenda – instead of your own?
You want to focus on completing the tasks that help you best accomplish your goals, however, “something” happens. That “something” is usually in the form of a person asking for your help.
One way to set yourself up for success is to set boundaries. YOU decide when you are going to veer off your chosen path, and when you are going to stick to your plan. Accomplishing your goals is about managing your day-to-day choices.
But, beware, as soon as you set boundaries, something will push against them! Let’s take a peek into the lives of two of my clients as I drive this point home. (AND . . . notice how they use A.W.E. to overcome these challenges! For more information on A.W.E – visit previous posts available for you here!)
“Rosey” is a well respected and in-demand professional speaker and trainer. She likes to do two presentations each month. She can be booked from 4 weeks – 14 months in advance. Often, a friend will ask her to speak for free to a local group – and her calendar will be clear. So, she will say “yes.” Then, a couple months down the road, she will get the opportunity to speak in front of her target audience at her full speaking fee – and often these two presentations will be back-to-back. This was leading to a schedule that was much more hectic than she liked.
Once Rosey realized this was happening (AWARENESS), she created a checklist (WORK). This checklist outlined the characteristics she was looking for in a paid presentation, as well as what needed to be included if she decided to waive her speaking fee. She looked at location, whether in person or webinar, content, audience demographics, etc. Now that she had a clear checklist to evaluate requests, she was once again in control of her schedule – and her ability to reach her goals.
AND THEN – a day after she completed her checklist – she was invited to speak for an HUGE international organization. This opportunity did not fit ANY of her criteria for participation . . . not with her ideal clients, not her preferred content, etc. But it was an amazing opportunity to speak on an international stage in front of some very important and influential people.
Now what? (Are you feeling Rosey’s pain? She finally sets a firm boundary, then 24 hours later, this boundary is tested!!) After the two of us laughed at the irony, we took a step back and evaluated. Does she want to change her checklist? (EVALUATION) Does she want to add a special evaluation for “really big opportunities”? How does she want to figure out what to do next? Whether or not she decided to accept this gig isn’t the point – it’s how she decided to make her decision that is important: she took a moment to decide! (By the way – she added a criteria to her checklist – “Is it good enough to be asked – do I need to actually accept?” – to cover these situations.)
“Ariel” is a coach, innovator, and facilitator who has decided to base her practice in her home. She was finding it more and more and more difficult to keep “work hours”. Sometimes she would work on her business for 14 – 16 hours a day. Other times, she would work for 2 – 3 hours. She was neglecting her self-care. She could find herself embroiled in minutia instead of working on big picture business tasks. Overall, she realized if she wanted to bring her business to the next level, and have a life, she needed some structure. (AWARENESS)
So, Ariel created a schedule (WORK). She blocked out time for health and wellness activities, paperwork, big vision planning, client work, etc., etc. She created dedicated work hours and decided ahead of time what types of activities she could be more flexible in scheduling. In the first week on her new schedule, she was successful, productive, and relieved. The stress of “I should do this” was removed.
Then, came the challenge. Day 6 of the schedule, a friend called to say she was stopping by for 15 minutes to drop off some business papers and update Ariel on a recent meeting. 3 hours later, the friend left. Ariel was devastated. How could she have allowed someone else to derail her schedule? (AWARENESS) (Are you feeling her pain? Haven’t we all experienced something like this?!)
After commiserating together – we buckled down to create a strategy for how to overcome this obstacle. Ariel decided on a multi-pronged approach (WORK). First, she purchased (and wore!) a watch to remind herself to be true to HER time. Secondly, we revisited her list of which activities she would change her schedule for, and decided whether or not to add this friend’s visits to the list. Then, she decided to set expectations (i.e. boundaries) up front. “I’d love it if you would stop by! I have an appointment with my time coach at 2:30.” (Yes – you can use an appointment with me as a strategy also!) This strategy allowed Ariel to stay proactive with her schedule and set boundaries she could honor. At the end of the week, Ariel is going to look back and determine how well she upheld her boundaries – and if she wants to continue to adapt her multi-pronged approach. (EVALUATION)
It is possible to work on your own agenda and still meet the appropriate needs of others. The two “B’s” are the key: Boundaries and Balance.
So, now it’s YOUR turn! Share your experience with working your own agenda and setting boundaries. Comment below – your response might just help someone in a similar situation!
And if you find yourself feeling stuck like my two clients above did, a little coaching can help you work through the issue and find your own boundaries.