When you think of a business, you typically envision a well-oiled machine. Multiple departments are there to make sure it runs smoothly, efficiently and with minimal hiccups. There’s the marketing department, HR, account, operations, and the list goes on and on depending on the type of company it is. Imagine now that none of those individual departments existed. Instead, there’s only a single person, otherwise known as an entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur myself, I’m constantly switching my mindset between being a social media manager to an event planner and from being a community builder to the CEO.
More often than not, I’ll be in the middle of a task, and my mind will switch to the ten emails I need to write or that task on my to-do list that I’ve been putting off for weeks. The biggest problem I’ve faced on my entrepreneurial journey is stopping the work and turning off the thoughts in my brain because, for me, I also have a full-time job as many entrepreneurs do.
At the end of last year, a friend of mine took out Post-its at our meeting and said, “write down each bucket of your life onto an individual Post-it. Then write down the number of hours you focus on that thing every week.”
I had eight Post-its in total, four on the social side, and four on the work side. I included my full-time job, my business, my new project, and coaching on the work side. On the social side I had alone time, family/friends, working out, and my personal brand. Since doing this exercise, I’ve also added a new relationship onto my social side. When I viewed my life through the lens of these colorful bubbles, I was able to translate those Post-its into different sections of my brain. After visualizing my responsibilities in this way, I knew I had to create boundaries to effectively give the right amount of energy to each element of my life. Including myself.
In my work, I’ve learned that the two most important things for creating boundaries as a business owner are organization and presence.
When it comes to organization, your schedule is your best friend, and so is a place to put a running to-do list. My recommendation? Make sure the calendar on your phone syncs with meetings that come in through your email. Additionally, have an open note on your desktop for all of your to-dos, or use an app that helps you organize it further. If I don’t have my computer with me, and remember something for my list, I will put a meeting reminder in my phone for a specific time when I know I will be back at my desk and then I go back to being present. Another organizational tip? Make Google Drive your best friend.
When it comes to presence, you have to understand that you will NEVER get to the bottom of your to-do list. Read that again.
It makes you cringe a little, doesn’t it? If you haven’t guessed it or experienced it already, work never stops. Even if you don’t own a business, your life to-do list often never ends either. The best thing we can do for ourselves is be present during each moment of our lives with limited distractions. By focusing on each task at hand or the person across from you, you can stay in the present moment. And authentically showing up is a great boundary to have with yourself.
Another essential tool when it comes to setting boundaries is to work in spurts without interruptions and to only focus on one task at a time. For example, I have allotted myself one hour to write this article. My phone is turned upside down next to me, and I am only allowing myself to pull up the web for the thesaurus if necessary. This strategy helps me be present in my writing and maximizing my time while doing so. As for organization? I would label this article as my personal brand, although it also dips a bit into my business.
As someone whose business focuses on digital wellness, it’s ironic that I have to spend as much time as I do on social media, my computer, and my phone. Although technology has made things a lot easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses, it is also how many of us choose to relax after we have completed our workday. From Netflix to news and Instagram to music, the amount of media there is to consume is overwhelming. For me, I have decided to limit my consumption of music, news, television, and podcasts, and I choose to read instead. This is an example of a boundary I put in place for my personal life.
Now, whenever I have downtime, or when I’m commuting in the city, I always bring a book with me. I’ve found that by returning to an analog way of life, my ability to focus for extended periods of time has increased.
Boundaries don’t have to come naturally; they take practice. Although my mind rarely shuts off, healthy boundaries help dull the noise. Reading, spending time with loved ones, and working out also allows me to reconnect to my mind, body, and soul. No matter how busy you may be, finding time for yourself will fuel you through the long days that are an inevitable reality for every business owner. To me, the healthiest boundary you could ever set is to always prioritize YOU.