When you first start a business you get so caught up in starting that you forget to set boundaries. I didn’t set boundaries in the first 2 years of my business and let’s just say I seriously learnt my lesson and I’ll talk more about this later in the episode.
Note: Season 2 is all about giving back this season. If you want to hear more about why I’m doing this go listen to episode 13.
But to start, setting boundaries in your business is good for you, your family and friends and of course your clients and customers.
Ok, so your email hours might match your office hours and that’s completely fine but it might mean you only check your email once to three times a day during those hours.
So, ok, let do an example. Say your office hours are 8-3 and you’re only checking your emails twice a day. You could pick two times during the day you’ll check your emails add then to your calendar and you know every day at those times you can check your emails or you could check your emails after you’ve done your first task of the day which might be your biggest task and the second time might be after you come back from lunch. I really don’t recommend checking your email at the end of your day because you’re going to either then get stuck answering emails for a while or you’ll be thinking about replying to those emails for the rest of the evening. You can also just answer emails on certain days of the week like Tuesdays and Thursdays and set up an automated response to a new email to say something like ‘Hey! Thank you so much for reaching out! I’m trying to spend less time in my inbox and more time serving my wonderful clients and community. So, unless you’re a client, you’ll probably
hear back from me on Tuesday or Thursday.’ You could also then include some sort of FAQ that leads them to some blog posts that might help them out and you can also let them know if you’re taking new clients or not too if you have that sort of business.
If you have a business that means you get a lot of emails and you just hate
trying to reply to them you could always outsource your emails to a VA Virtual Assistant who specialises in customer service. But setting your office hours creates a boundary line so anyone who sends you an email knows you’ll only respond during those hours. This is usually something you’d put in your website footer or on your contact page. This can also include days if you only work set days in your business. But setting these days and hours helps define when you’ll be available. That’s not to say that you won’t be working outside of those hours if you want too.
Going back to our example of our office hours being 8-3 maybe you actually work 8-4 or you’ll come back to work for an hour or two in the evenings once your kids are in bed. These are just your contactable hours and setting them as I said helps to keep boundary lines.
If you decide to reply to email outside of your office hours then I would highly recommend using boomerang for Gmail which let’s schedule your emails so you can schedule your email to your clients during your actual working hours. Remember working longer doesn’t necessarily mean working better!
Additional tip: you’ve set these hours so if you get clients or friends and family who keep trying to creep in or out of these lines it’s up to you to enforce your hours. If you’re working 8-3 but clients keep contacting you at 4 expecting a response politely reply the next working day with this is outside of your working hours and you’ll get back in touch the next business day. With family and friends, it can be much harder when they see what you do as ‘being on holiday every day’. Politely enforce your hours on them too. Say ‘I’ll get back to you on my lunch break, I’ll reply when I finish work at 3’ etc, etc. But if you don’t respect and enforce your working hours no-one else is either.
Bonus tip: Don’t give clients your mobile number! Just don’t. If you or your
clients want to connect more than use slack or voxer to connect with them
So here’s my personal horror story with not setting good boundaries during
my first two years of business. I never set office or email hours during those
two years and I would just always be in my inbox which was awful and I
thought that to give good service every time I got a new email I had to reply
quickly and efficiently. I had no boundaries. I would reply to emails even at
8pm when they came into my inbox and yes I had a client that would email all hours of the day and I would respond nearly all of the time. I was rubbish at enforcing my boundaries even with taking time off so even though I had emailed all my clients for the two weeks off at Christmas here I still ended up breaking my own boundaries. I was off and had turned my emails off on Christmas Eve but then I got well I got several text messages from a client who’s website had disappeared and needed me to help her fix it asap, on Christmas fucking eve guys when I was meant to be off and I felt so awful for her that even though I wasn’t her website person and yes she actually had a website person but that person was smarter than I was and hadn’t given her their mobile number and who obviously was enjoying their Christmas Eve wasn’t helping her. Thankfully it just turned out the client hadn’t set up automatic payments for their hosting and was an easy fix but I learnt a massive lesson or so I thought but that’s another story for another time.
old school – checking your emails before bed.
better balance – banish your phone from the bedroom or delete the email app from your phone!
old school – pretending your workload is fine.
better balance – admitting you’re struggling and either crossing some things off your to-do list and/or asking for help!
old school – constantly feeling burnt out.
better balance – putting somethings on hold, cancelling what you can and prioritising YOU.
old school – working the standard 9-5 hours.
better balance – working the hours you want to work. Isn’t that the reason you started working from home anyway?
Drawing a line isn’t easy but it has to be done. Creating our boundaries helps us to know when we can switch off. We all need to switch off to protect our mental and physical health so work out your boundaries and stick to them. I’ve really found practising mindfulness to be a really good way of switching off. You only need to do it for a few minutes and apps such as calm and insight timer are really helpful
Tim Ferriss who wrote The 4-Hour Work Week says that’s ‘to get to the big things done, we have to learn the art of letting bad things happen’. in other words, if you ignore that email or small task it won’t be the end of the world.
Protect your private time people!
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