We often associate this concept with what we can’t do, with limitations, but we fail to realize that boundaries are in fact a powerful tool that helps many things in society work properly. All of the activities – both personal and professional – we engage in during a normal day are framed within social, economic and cultural boundaries.
But we do not feel constrained by them when, for example, we wait in line before entering a movie theater, instead of going in as a disorganized crowd, elbowing each other to get a better seat. The cultural, implicit boundary here provides a better experience and helps things go smoothly.
If we think about our work-life, establishing boundaries is useful in more than one way. For example, when you need to focus on a particular task, you probably use some of the tools we discussed before – a digital timer, your to-do lists, etc. – to limit your focus and your time to that activity only. But, how can you apply boundaries to increase your productivity and, at the same time, gain freedom?
Over the last years, I have met people who have seen their work-hours increase gradually over time. If you are reading this article, you probably feel that you have too much to do, and not enough time to do it. A lot of people find themselves in the same circumstances, and they try to cope by starting work earlier, and leaving the office later.
Here are 4 things to consider as you create stronger boundaries (at work AND in life):
For the next 5 working days, make a conscious decision when you are going to start working – or arrive at your office -, and when you are going to stop, or leave the office. Then shorten your workday by a few minutes each day until you feel more comfortable. If you stick to it, you will notice that you will become a little bit more productive. Why? Because you are now conscious of the time restraints, and you will learn to choose your activities more wisely, focus more, and work smarter. I have shared with you some tools and strategies – such as the MITs, organizing your tasks into verbs and nouns, learning how to use some devices for assistance – which you can use to improve how you manage your limited resources: time, energy and focus.
Remember, when you set a boundary around your workday, you are encouraging yourself and others to value your time and to find ways to get your MITs done more efficiently