Setting Boundaries for Better Time Management

Do you take on more than you can handle? More than anyone could handle?

As Jim Loehr, co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute says, “Boundary setting is really a huge part of time management.” In order to be effective, you need to set limits and be realistic about how much time there is in a day.

Before you say “yes” to a new opportunity or commitment, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does it fit my core values or goals?

  2. What will I lose by saying yes or no to this request?

  3. How will this fit in my schedule?

If Yes, Then No
If the opportunity is intriguing to you, consider whether you need to drop a different activity in order to make time. Remember the adage, “If you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else.” Even if your schedule isn’t already overflowing, taking on a new commitment means you’ll have less time to rest and recharge.

As Dr. David Nowell, a clinical neuropsychologist has written, “Recognizing boundaries means placing a priority on your own sleep, your own nutrition, your own spiritual practices, and your own physical exercise. If a new relationship or commitment or obligation will cut into one of these basic important functions, you might need to say no, as painful as that is.”

In this sense, setting boundaries means preserving time in your schedule to exercise and prepare healthy foods. Think about your energy patterns and be realistic about how much downtime you need, too.

Managing Expectations
Boundary setting goes beyond saying “yes” or “no” to new commitments. It also means managing expectations around your commitments. Be clear about deadlines and scope. In a traditional business sense, scope refers to the size of a project, including deliverables and tasks. But you can think about scope in terms of personal commitments too.

If you agree to coach a sports team or mentor a student club, for example, set parameters around how much time you can give. When those parameters have been met, you can reign in club activities or lean on other volunteers without guilt.

Of course, you’ll need to manage your own expectations as well. If your daily to-do list has 15 hours’ worth of work, you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. Schedule less than you have time to accomplish each day. That gives you wiggle room to respond to emergencies and unexpected requests.

Boundaries are an essential time management tool. Boundaries separate those with productive energy from those who are regretfully overloaded.

Book 15Be for a Boundary Setting workshop. Choose from in-person, live virtual, and recorded formats, customized for your audience.