How to put yourself first and create important boundaries

What is the first thing you do when you’re planning your time or scheduling your work? I wonder if, like me, you are in the habit of putting others before yourself? Being governed and driven by the priorities of others without first being clear what your own priority is? Or, again like me, you are a hyper-achiever and must achieve perfection, no matter what.

Have you considered a different approach? How would it be if you allowed yourself to schedule in the things that are important to you first? Put them on your calendar and hold them as sacred. What would that look like for you? What would it feel like to be able to put yourself first, before anyone else and create boundaries around the time and space that are important to you?

The good news is that this is entirely possible and you can start doing it today.

Scheduling ‘me time’

One of my constant struggles, when I worked in a corporate role, was finding balance. A friend made a suggestion to me last year that I now try to stick to. I do fall off the waggon occasionally but generally speaking, I try to make this work for me. When we were talking about my struggles with managing my time and work-life balance she simply said to me “have you tried scheduling time for yourself first before you commit to anything else”?

“I have to admit to looking at her like she had horns coming out of her head.”

For me, this was such unknown territory and something that I would not have previously even considered. My immediate reaction was that I couldn’t possibly do that. I have to admit to looking at her like she had horns coming out of her head.  Talking this through with her, however, I realised I was getting in my own way.  I knew it was possible with effort and a focus on what was really important to me.  I could do this. And, I could go a step further by creating boundaries to protect the time for myself that was so important to me.

Creating ‘immovable boundaries’

Those of you reading this who have children will be very familiar with having clear boundaries in your schedule that typically revolve around dropping them off, picking them up and spending time with them before they go to bed. My step-son is almost 22 and I’ve never been in a position where I’ve had that ‘immovable boundary’ in my calendar.  My boundaries were much softer. If my husband and I didn’t eat dinner at 7 pm, or if one of us hadn’t been to Tesco there was always a way around it. A takeaway at 9 pm was always a back-up option, albeit not a particularly healthy or palatable one. If I didn’t go out and get some fresh air at lunch time I could try again tomorrow. As for exercise, well there was always another day for that …..

Being committed

The other thing that I’ve come to realise is that if you want something badly, or if there is an ‘immovable boundary’ in your calendar, it’s amazing how time just seems to suddenly open up and become available. When I committed to doing the Moon Walk a couple of years ago, literally from a standing start, I knew there was no way I’d be able to do it without committing to and making time for the training plan. This involved hours of walking over a 4 or 5-month period and I knew that it was necessary if I had any hope of completing the 26-mile walk.

I committed to and stuck to the plan because it was important to me that I completed the walk. It wasn’t important that I clocked up the fastest time, just that I was able to complete it and I knew that doing that would give me a great sense of achievement. The thing is, I stuck to the training plan, whilst continuing to do the job that I thought gave me no work-life balance. I was able to find the balance. It was possible. By planning my schedule around my training plan I was able to do it. It often meant putting other things off or, can you imagine, saying ‘no’, but I completed the Moon Walk and managed my job at the same time.

So here is what I’ve learned:

  • Work-Life balance is within our control, it is a choice.
  • It is necessary to commit to the things that are important to us.
  • Scheduling time for ourselves first before we commit to others is critical.
  • Whilst hard, we must be prepared to say no in order to put what matters to us first.
  • Creating ‘immovable boundaries’ that we are committed to protecting is possible.
  • We can do this by having clarity on why something is important.

What could this look like in your world?

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