Internal boundaries present challenges for many. The challenges arise both in setting internal boundaries and in maintaining them.
And if I had to name a key tool in your time management toolbox, internal boundaries would be right up there near the top of the list. That’s because they represent the core of the way that you relate to yourself around time.
To delve into this important subject further, I’d like to share an article that I published in the Finding Time E-zine some time ago. It is titled “Finding Time: How to Set Internal Boundaries” and it offers some very helpful, concrete tips for developing this vital skill.
Finding Time: How to Set Internal Boundaries
In previous articles, we explored the importance of setting boundaries, so that others won’t needlessly interrupt your personal time choices. This lively subject surfaces often! We all need to find ways to negotiate, at work and at home, to get tasks accomplished.
Discussed less frequently, yet perhaps more important, are the challenges of setting internal boundaries, so that we do not sabotage our own time choices. Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’ve decided you need more time for yourself in order to stay relaxed and stress-free. If you continue to give in to requests from family and friends, your “private time” will slip through your fingers. Your stress level actually increases.
Two specific techniques enable you to set internal boundaries and then maintain them, without causing others’ hurt feelings, or creating regrets of your own.
The first technique is to always create very specific internal boundaries. For example, resolving to “have more time for yourself” is too vague. You will find it far too easy to say ”yes” to others’ requests, realizing too late that you’ve forfeited the time you’d wanted for yourself.
The best internal boundaries always include great detail.
Let’s return to our example. If you resolve to take more time for yourself to reduce your stress, spell it out clearly and envision it. Specify the day, time, and actual plan for what you will do with the time you set aside. This clear picture will help remind you of what you will be giving up if you don’t maintain your internal boundaries.
A good way to begin is to examine your existing commitments and then schedule your personal time. Creating your internal boundary may read something like, “This year, I will take time to myself, every Tuesday between 1:00 and 3:00 PM, to go someplace comfortable and quiet to enjoy one of the novels that I’ve been wanting to read.” Now, if someone asks you to do something between 1:00 and 3:00 PM on Tuesday, you know precisely what’s at stake.
How actively do you value your goal of lowering your overall stress level? If you possess a strong incentive, it is much easier to safeguard your personal time in the face of others’ demands.
Communicate your internal boundaries as needed
The second technique reinforces your resolve to establish and maintain internal boundaries. As soon as you have arrived at a decision, notify your family, your coworkers, and any community organizations where you volunteer. Politely explain that you will not be available on Tuesday afternoons, unless an emergency arises. When given advance notice, most people will respect your parameters. And consider recording your new boundary on your calendar, so you don’t inadvertently sabotage your plans.
Honoring your priorities through establishing and maintaining internal boundaries will strengthen your self-confidence and help you make sure that you can find time for what matters most.© Copyright 2014 Paula Eder, Ph.D.