Ready for the big finish? Want to prepare yourself for the fall out that setting boundaries and reclaiming your personal power will likely cause?
Then you will enjoy my story - and lesson learned. In fact, here's lesson #3:
#3: People are going to dislike you for setting boundaries. Do it anyway.
A few weeks ago, I followed a time management suggestion in Tim Ferris’s awesome book, “The 4-Hour Work Week,” and put an auto-responder on my personal e-mail account to set expectations on when I can respond to things. You see, I get a lot of e-mail each day, and I often have people get quite upset with me if I cannot get a response to them until later in the day or (“Oh the humanity!”) the next morning. Worrying about this causes me to stop what I am doing just about every hour to check e-mails and respond, breaking my concentration for whatever project I am working on at the moment, often totally derailing my focus.
In reading this fantastic book, I realized that I had allowed this to get totally out of control and needed to set new expectations on how I was handling my time. So, copying Mr. Ferris’s autoresponder almost to the letter, I set up mine. Here it is:
Due to an extremely high workload and immense amounts of e-mail, I am only checking my e-mails once a day at 4:00 pm EST.
If you have an urgent issue that cannot wait until 4:00 pm, please contact me via phone at XXX-XXX-XXXX. You’re welcome to call me whenever to say hello.
Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more without losing my mind in the bargain.
I hope all is wonderful in your world today -
As you can see, I offer people the option to contact me right away if there is a need so pressing that it cannot wait until I check my personal account at 4pm each day.
Cue the ominous music; this is where it gets ugly.
Unfortunately, I set something wrong on my Mac mail and managed to send this autoresponder - often several times - to anyone who had ever e-mailed my personal account. I quickly realized my error, and sent out a very nice apology explaining what I was doing and why I was doing it.
And the shock, awe, and truly unbelievable started.
Several people called me in a panic wondering what I was doing and letting me know that the stupid autoresponder had gone out a zillion times. Another person called me, totally freaking out, because “What would my business contacts think?” and telling me “You cannot do this with your business contacts - sometimes people need to get a hold of you right away.”
I did mention that this was ONLY my personal account, right? And, do I really need to be at the beck and call of people 24 hours a day? Does anyone?
It gets worse.
Then, a person (who shall remain nameless) decided take my autoresponder and send it out to a whole list of people, some of whom are business contacts (and would not have seen this autoresponder) with the subject line, “Would you do work with someone who sent you this?” In the e-mail, this person decided to totally fabricate my intent, saying that I sent this to all my business contacts (I didn’t send it to one), that I was just trying to make myself look important (I could seriously care less about being “important”), and that I was even blocking my family from communicating with me more than once a day (I wouldn’t even dream of doing such a thing).
In response to that e-mail, a couple of people called me names that I have never even thought about another human being, and certainly don't deserve. They had clearly been told that I had done and said things that I had never (and would not ever) do or say. These were, in fact, people that I thought liked me and who I had always treated with kindness.
Wow. This was the reaction from me just trying to set a healthy boundary on my personal e-mail account - hysteria and slander. Unbelievable.
Be forewarned - if people have become accustomed to using you as a human doormat for a long time, they will be very angry when they no longer have anywhere to wipe their feet. They may lash out. They may try to make you feel bad. People who are jealous that you accomplish the things that they either can’t or won’t make the effort to do might even cite this as an example of you being a horrible, manipulative, self-centered person.
If you are not legitimately hurting someone, ignore them. I was not legitimately hurting anyone by saying that I would only check e-mails once a day and giving my cell phone for emergencies that could not wait. Seriously, I am not the President of the freaking United States (thank God); generally speaking, no one in my friends and family list really have anything that urgent to discuss, and if they do, they can call me - I’ve given them my personal cell number.
Set your personal boundaries, be damned the consequences. It is okay for you to take care of yourself and not be a doormat. It is okay for you to say “no.”
You do have a right to make the choice to set forth the way that people are and are not allowed to treat you. It is really okay for you to release people from your life that drag you down, hurt you, or treat you in ways that are not the way you choose to be treated - and I don’t care who they are or how they might be related to you. You define who has the honor of being in your life and who gets the backside of the door.
While we are at it, you do have the right to make yourself and your needs a priority, even if your priorities are not things that others consider important; they are important to YOU, so they are important.
Take a moment to write down how you want to be treated. What relationships violate these qualities? Limit your time with those people or eliminate them from your life altogether.
Then, write down your priorities. What’s really important to you? Who is really important to you? How much time do you get to work on things that are important to you? How much time do you get to spend with those that matter to you?
If, like me, you realize that the amount of time that you are spending on other people’s priorities and problems is way more than the amount of time you spend on the experiences and people that refresh, renew, and revitalize you, then it’s time to clearly define your boundaries and start cutting dead weight from your life.
Start by setting appointments in your calendar for the things that matter to you. Block out time to be with your spouse or partner. Block out time to do yoga. Block out time to work on that novel. Block out time for whatever is important to you; but seriously, schedule it in - if you don’t something or someone else will come along and will take that time.
Refuse to compromise this sacred time to other people’s priorities.
And, when someone tries to get you to give in to their demands, remember that “no” is a complete sentence. Keep repeating it.
Sure, they might have a fit, but at the end of the day, you get to have a life that is healthier, happier, and fulfilling to you.
And you know what? That might just be the best goal of all.
Have you ever felt pulled apart at the seams? What worked for you to rectify the situation? Have you had negative responses to setting healthy boundaries? I’d love to know your stories and tips for success!