Do you feel like your responsibilities are crowding out what’s most important to you? Regain control of your life by setting healthy limits. Why? Because:
- It can lead to a more manageable, less stressed life.
- You will more likely succeed at reaching your goals.
- When you have more respect for your time, others have more respect for your time too.
- You are likely to be more efficient and effective.
Here are a few quick tips on setting boundaries that may work for you.
Determine Your Values, Priorities, and Goals
You have so many choices about how you can spend your time that making progress means weighing your choices. The most effective way is against your values, priorities, and goals so that whatever you choose is more likely to make a big difference to your life. For instance, if you want to transition to a healthier lifestyle and be physically fit, you’ll make the time for movement on certain days during the week. That may mean letting go of other things like getting through all your emails, somethng that is not your priority for the day.
Examine Your Routine
An inventory of your daily routine can yield a lot of information about activities most under your control that you can eliminate. It might be too much television, too much social media, or too many newsletters and podcasts. Perhaps you’re obsessed with your mobile phone. Be careful though that you don’t eliminate all sources of relaxation and joy. Decompression time is important; it’s a matter of how much time and when.
Identify Essential Tasks
There are tasks or moments that are essential in light of your values, priorities, and goals. And these will differ from person to person and at different stages of your life. The essentials may be organizing your kitchen as part of resetting your eating habits, setting up a space for daily meditation, getting clear on your income and expenses to help you gain clarity for financial planning purposes, or arranging for wills, living wills and powers of attorney for yourself and your elderly parents. Or, they may be moments like setting aside routine creative time with your kids and having a block of time carved out daily just for you and your spouse. Knowing your priorities can help you discern what on your to do list takes precedence or if it should be on your to do list at all. By setting limits on your activities, you can simplify even more by sticking with what is essential and letting go of the trivial. It is important though not to overwhelm yourself by making too many changes in your routine at one time.
Notice When You Automatically Say Yes or Take the Lead
Here is where we get into trouble. And here is where a mindfulness practice is especically useful. There are tasks you just automatically do or you can’t say “no” to when asked. People expect it of you. And you don’t give it a second thought. You are good at doing it. You have always done it. You might even enjoy the task. Or, it might not remotely fit into your priorities but you like having control – a whole subject in and of itself I will write about in a future article. So it becomes a part of your to do list. Taking that mindful pause is so important here. Taking a moment to check in with yourself before you take on something new and also for the tasks you already do – listening to your body’s signals – is there an unpleasant sensation in the stomach or do your energy levels suddenly drop? What about your emotions? Do you squash feelings of resentment or anger or even fear of what might happen if you don’t perform “your role”? Do you automatically reach for food or some other distraction when you think about it? Those may be signs that the tasks are out of alignment with your values, priorities, and goals or you are simply overwhelmed at the moment.
Learn to Say No (or Not Now)
Ultimately, if you’re looking for more hours in your day, you may need to learn to give other people the opportunity to take on some of your responsibilities and learn to say no to new ones. These tips can help you discover what to let go of and what responsibilities you want to take on and keep.