In today’s episode, learn the top 3 daily work boundaries you can implement immediately to protect your time and energy in order to prevent burnout. Listen to her journey with boundaries (or lack thereof in her younger years), and discover what inspired her to change her boundaries over the years, PLUS the 3 tangible boundaries to help you feel clear and confident every day.
“Boundaries are an act of love for myself.”
“Boundaries are such a long journey for all of us, and they’re also ones that continue to flex and change.”
“The more I am in my own power with my boundaries and the more structure there is in place in my own boundaries, the more connected I feel to other people.”
“There’s no resentment, there’s no guilt, there’s no back and forth with people, and there’s no struggle in our relationships because the parameters of the boundaries are really clear.”
“Boundaries give you back that feeling of being grounded and in your own power.”
Hello and welcome back to the School of Self-Worth. In this mini-episode, we will explore the topic of boundaries, specifically the three work boundaries I set daily to prevent burnout.
Boundaries are one of my favorite topics and I have been on a journey to master them for many years. If you’re wondering how to improve your relationship with boundaries, I have great news! You can join my series ‘Transform Your Relationship with Work Boundaries without the Guilt or Shame’ – starting today. It’s for overworked perfectionists who want to master the critical ingredients to set clear boundaries and do the things they love. It’s totally free!
To grab your seat, head to go.nicoletsong.com. Are you ready to transform your boundaries? Let’s dig in and explore the boundaries I set every single day.
I realized that there are key boundaries that we all need to put in place. Today, I’m going to share with you the 3 daily boundaries that I have found helpful. I want to talk a little bit about my journey with boundaries, or rather, my lack of boundaries. Like many of you, I struggled with boundaries in my younger years, especially when I was a journalist.
Journalism is a job where you are often expected to be available in the evenings. This was before we had social media and email on our phones. My bosses would call me at night to discuss the story going into print the next day. Journalists working for a daily newspaper have constant deadlines, so my earliest work experiences involved being on call all the time.
I needed to be responsive to work right away and my habits back then were to always think about work after work, and to work late frequently. One of my earliest teachings was that at the newspapers I worked at, which were unionized, I was capped at 40 hours a week and paid overtime. To get paid overtime, I had to ask my editor for approval.
One of my saving graces back then was that I trained myself to never work more than 40 hours per week, even in a deadline-driven environment. If I worked more than 40 hours, I would pause and think about what I really needed to do. I would talk to my editors about it and then get paid for it. In certain ways, I was fortunate to have this foundation of never working more than 40 hours a week, at a young working age.
Even after I left journalism, I had the habit of not working more than 40 hours per week ingrained in me. At the same time, journalism required me to work weekends and evenings, frequently. There were limitations on holidays and only a certain number of people could be off during the week, before or after Christmas. I had to ask for time off early. I always struggled with balancing work and play. On one hand, I didn’t overwork by working more than 40 hours per week. On the other hand, I overworked by working weekends and nights, when night shifts needed to be covered. Some reporters worked night shifts every night.
During that time, I didn’t have any understanding of boundaries. I didn’t understand that you could have them. I didn’t understand the idea of getting off at a certain time every single day because journalism was so unpredictable and really, at that time, because my self-worth was so deeply tied and so entrenched with my identity as a journalist, I didn’t actually even care or try to remove myself from work or have any boundaries with work. Then, when I got into yoga, it actually got worse in certain ways because yoga teachers are really beholden to the schedule of the studios that they’re teaching at.
I found during that time I really struggled with even having time off. Like the first year that I was teaching yoga full time, I think I had Tuesday off because the best times to teach yoga were on the weekends. That’s when you had the biggest classes and then most people would show up. It was during that era when I really started to get clear on being exhausted.
At a certain time, if I would teach more than three classes per day, I had to actually experience that exhaustion consistently, before I started to set in boundaries around what time I worked. The longer I taught yoga, the more boundaries I actually started to set. Also, as I got into relationships with those people who had pretty traditional work schedules of Monday to Friday, I started to get really clear that I actually didn’t want to work on weekends, and for the longest time the only class I took was Saturday at 8 am – I taught that class for three years, and then I finally gave up that class only a couple of years ago.
I share all of this because boundaries are such a long journey for all of us, and they are also one’s that continue to flex into change, and now I’m in a position with my own business where I can set my own hours.
Even for those of you who are listening, you’re like, “Oh she owns her own business, like she can set her own hours”. I promise you there are still a lot of demands on my time and what people want from me, and I have found that the stronger and clearer I have gotten, the more I have really started to understand that boundaries are an act of love for myself. They are also an act of love for my clients and for the people in my life. My family. My friends.
The more I am in my own power with my boundaries, and the more structure there is in place in my own boundaries, the more connected I feel to other people. There’s no resentment. There’s no guilt. There’s no back and forth with people, there’s no struggle in our relationships because the parameters of the boundaries are really clear.
For example, with my clients, I don’t talk to them on the weekends, and I also don’t talk to them at night. They know that about me and they know they have access to me at other times, but during those times, they don’t. When we have a structure in place and there are more boundaries around it, the easier it is actually. You know when you have access to them. You know where you are.
I remember when I was in Italy, they are so clear on their boundaries with food – like lunch was around 11:00 to 1:30. And then they closed. They were closed from like 2 to 5 and then they would open again when they were ready for dinner. I remember during that time you didn’t really have any recourse if you missed the lunch hour. You just were hungry until dinner time, and you just dealt with it, and I feel like that’s true for a lot of us, around boundaries.
Most of you who are listening, live in the United States, where everything is open all of the time. We have phones. We have access all the time, technically. It can be very easy to feel like we have to constantly give, give, give… and then what happens is, this turns into working all the time – responding constantly.
Nervous systems get so shot from this constant response time, and then what happens is you work all the time, and it totally leads to burnout. No matter if you love your job. So these are 3 boundaries that I’ve put into place to really get myself centered and clear. They’re really important to me. I maintain them every single day and they’re not going to be what you expect because they’re not really around saying ‘no’, (lots of the things you might hear around boundaries). These are ones that I set which are really supportive so that I can feel really clear about boundaries every single day. Some of them are more on the energetic side. Those I find are actually the most important ones for people to feel powerful and whole so that they can then speak out the boundaries they need into the world.
All right. Are you ready for this? Are you excited for it? Here we go, I’m going to dig in:
THE FIRST BOUNDARY I have is with OVERWORK. I have a really strong boundary with overwork. I do not overwork, and anybody who works with me knows this, “You can set a boundary with Nicole because she’s so clear on hers.” But it really takes us having a greater sense of the whole to be able to set a boundary with overwork. For example, my current boundaries around the time that I work came actually about a year or so ago, when I actually quit coffee, I quit caffeine, and when I quit it was at a time when I was doing part of a cleanse and I was like, “All right here I go. I’m just going to see how this goes.”
What quitting coffee taught me is that I was, in fact, pretty tired. I actually needed more sleep than I thought, and so when I was looking at the timing of my life and my energy, I thought okay, I want to go to bed by 10 to get a full eight hours of sleep. I had to go backward. What time do you want to be eating dinner? Well, I actually want to eat dinner around 6:30 or 7:00. Okay, how will you be cooking dinner and eating dinner at 6:30 or 7:00 and still get your movement in? Well, I had to get to yoga or the gym by 4:30. Oh well, you have to be done with work by 4:00. I already have built into my day, a 90-minute to 2-hour break, every day. It’s something that really works for me. I need it for eating food in a leisurely way, walking my dog, and resetting my brain. So already I was pushing myself down to afternoons where I would only work a couple of hours, and then work about 4 hours in the morning.
For me, an average day is about 5.5 to 6 hours. Once I backtracked and determined the kind of day I wanted, I realized what it would take. If I needed more support or had to restructure the way I worked or set different boundaries with my clients, that’s what was called for. The biggest boundary I have every day is that I am done by 4 PM so that I can do the things that serve me the most: movement practice, making dinner, being with my husband, and settling myself in. If you don’t have a boundary with overwork, that would be the first place to look.
Additionally, my work email is not on my phone. I do not work in the evening or open my computer at night. My boundary with work is strong in the evening; evenings are for me. Weekends are the same; they are for me.
THE SECOND BOUNDARY that I have to prevent burnout is DEFINING MYSELF AND MY SELF-WORTH with my job. This means that I have a boundary between who I am and my work. I am passionate about my work and love supporting high-achieving career women in fulfilling their purpose. Running my own business is the most gratifying job I have ever had.
However, I have a strong boundary between who Nicole the human is, and my job. My job does not define who I am; it is something that I do and love. Who I am and my purpose is multi-layered and multifaceted. It includes my partnership with my husband, my friends, family, communities, and all the things that I do.
I am defined by more than just my job. My life includes the studios where I practice yoga, the gym where I work out, and all the different pieces of my life. But even all of these pieces don’t define me. Who I am, Nicole is whole and travels with me everywhere I go. My identity is not dependent on anything that I do or what other people say about me. I am crystal clear on who I am.
When I maintain clarity on who I am, I can have a boundary with being defined by anything external. This includes work, family, emotions, or anything going on with other people or circumstances. I maintain this boundary very strongly and sometimes have to check myself. If I start outsourcing my self-worth to my job based on the outcome of something at work, I have to put this boundary back in place. This is important because overworking, people-pleasing, and perfectionism can result from not maintaining this boundary.
Many people struggle with their boundaries because our culture teaches us that our self-worth is defined by what we do and external things happening in our life. It is important to do the work to maintain our self-worth, independent of these external factors. This is the focus of the “Transform Your Relationship with Work” boundary series and my course “Your Clear Calling.” Understanding who we are allows us to have strong boundaries.
THE THIRD BOUNDARY that I set for myself to prevent burnout is having A BOUNDARY WITH BAD DAYS. Everyone has bad days sometimes, including myself. There are many things that can bring stress into our lives, such as unsettling emails, negative news at work, stress in relationships, or vacation plans falling through.
During the pandemic and afterward, many people have felt overwhelmed by information and everything going on in their lives. It’s important to have a boundary with bad days to prevent burnout. All of these things can be the cause for us to have a bad day.
It’s normal to have days when we just want to come home, grab our favorite snack, and watch Netflix all night. It’s okay to have a “Cheetos and Netflix” day, but it’s important to have a boundary with it. If we do this every night, it can become a problem. We need to take care of ourselves and not let bad news or stress lead us to have a “Cheetos and Netflix” day, every day. Having a boundary with bad days is essential. Allow yourself to have a “Cheetos and Netflix” day when things don’t go as expected, such as not getting a promotion or praise from your boss. But it’s important to put an end to it and move on.
After a “Cheetos and Netflix” day, it’s important to take care of yourself the next day. Do things that support you, such as taking a walk, getting a nourishing meal or healthy takeout, and going to bed early. Have a boundary with your “Cheetos and Netflix” day and pick yourself back up.
Start by identifying which boundaries you can bring in for yourself, such as the boundary with overwork, self-worth being tied to work, or having a bad day. Get clear and firm with yourself and don’t allow these things to take over. Setting these types of boundaries will help you feel more rested, give you space and time to do things you love, and help you feel grounded and in your own power.
Having boundaries can make you more effective, productive, alive, and energized. It’s important to have a balanced and full life rather than being dedicated to just one thing. Try bringing in one of these boundaries today and chip away at it. If you want more support, join the “Transform Your Relationship with Work” boundary series, where we go through the main mistakes successful women make when it comes to work boundaries. You’ll learn the critical ingredients for overworked perfectionists to put boundaries in place and have time and space for the things you want to do. Your life can be about more than just work.
Make sure to grab a seat in the series at nicoletsong.com/boundaries
I’ll see you inside!