One of the keys to achieve work life balance is setting boundaries. I wrote about the other steps to work-life balance here. There are so many wants and needs. Where should you start? Where should you stop?
Shoulds or Coulds
The first step is to forget about the shoulds. There are many ways to live your life and everybody you ask will have an opinion about what is important and what you should or should not do. If you keep it moral and legal, it is up to you; it is your life. Some people push the moral and legal points, but usually there is a heavy cost to illegal activity and going against your morals has its own problems. Keeping it moral and legal leaves you an array of coulds.
Most people in first-world countries have an abundance of options for how to live. Think about the people you know or do a few creative searches on the internet and you will probably find that if you can imagine it, someone is living their life that way.
Let’s take work for example. There are people who advocate the four-hour workweek and people who work 70-plus hours per week. Some people retire from a job after 35 years, other people who start multiple businesses, spending most of their career as the boss and everything in between. There are people who are confined to an office or an assembly line working for someone else and people who work remotely from their homes while wearing pajamas. We could come up with a similar variety for relationships, families, and almost every area of life. Each of these options has its pros and cons, but the choice is yours. Because the options are endless, it’s important to know when to say no.
Set boundaries with your money. How much time you need to work and how much time you need to spend taking care of your stuff correlates to how you spend your money. Develop a budget that includes money for fun and stick to your budget. There are always things to spend money on. If your goal is keeping up with the Joneses, there will always be someone who has something newer and flashier. Ask yourself what is important and what is not.
Set Boundaries with Your Time
There are many things you can do with your time and some of them seem like black holes. For example, there is always something to clean and organize; no one wants to live in a pig sty. Decide when enough is enough or if it is in your budget to hire some help. Even if it is not in the budget, unless you live alone you can delegate some tasks to another person. There is also volunteer work to consider. There are many great causes and volunteering is a good thing, but there are endless things to help with.
Think about what only you can do. Being a parent to your children is the one thing no one else can replace you at. As the old poem says, the cobwebs will always be there but the babes will not always need rocking. What else can only you do? Start with those things and then add the other things based on your priorities. Think about being on a diet. Just because you are offered something yummy to eat, you do not need to exceed your calorie goal. Similarly, just because someone has a request for you, you do not need to accept. Schedule priorities first and then you are free to accept or reject other invitations.
Limits on Emotional Energy
Some relationships add to our lives, other relationships are toxic, and then there are all of those in between. Think about how you feel when you are with someone. Does the relationship support the person you want to be and the life you want to live? Consider that we tend to become like the people we spend the most time with, so spend time with people you want to be like.
Sometimes, relationships falter because communication is unclear. When speaking with couples, the difference between what one person meant and what the other person heard still amazes me. Sometimes people misunderstand what we need and are trying their best to give us what they think we want (which is often influenced by what they want). So if the relationship is important, work on communication.
Some friendships last only for a season and then we go different directions. We may grow apart because of a move, or our interests change, or we no longer have in common what brought us together. We might reconnect with those friends in the future, but it is important to be thankful for the time we had together and not dwell on the loss.
Even though our options are (nearly) infinite, time, money, and emotional energy is not limitless. Our lives are most fulfilling and balanced when we are intentional about how we use our time, money, and emotional energy. Saying no is simple, yet difficult. Explore your own priorities and make a list of things you can start saying no to.
What are your successes at setting boundaries?
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Hi, I’m Tamara the creator of Empowered Single Moms, a single mom, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and the author of Thriving a Single Mom’s Guide to a Happy, Positive Life and Thriving a Single Mom Journal. I have a solo private psychotherapy practice where I treat anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.
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