Boundaries have been the “talk of the town” for a few years.   But it is not a new concept.   However, when COVID hit and everyone was sent home, some existing boundaries became diffused, some changed, some completely disappeared, and new ones were created from scratch. 

As the world returned to normal and we all started to go back to our offices in various scenarios (full-time, hybrid, or fully remote), boundaries became the topic of many conversations.  Lately, we hear more and more people complaining of their inability to create effective boundaries.  

Defining Your Boundaries: The “What” and the “Why” 

When you want to create a boundary, are you clear about what you are protecting?  You may think this is a basic question, but clarity around the area of your life, activity, or time you want to protect with a boundary is the first step in creating an effective boundary around it.   This will be your “what”. 

Once you have identified the activity, area, or time you want to protect with a boundary, you need to ask yourself “why” you are trying to protect it.   Generally, boundaries align with our values. For instance, you might safeguard time for volunteering because service is a core value or prioritize relaxation to uphold your health and well-being. Your “why” is deeply personal and unique, reflecting what matters most to you.   

The importance of having a clear “why” is that it will help you defend your boundary and reconsider activities or situations that may put your protected activity in jeopardy.   

So, you have found your “what” and your “why”.  What is next?  Communicate.  

The Role of Communication 

In a hybrid work environment, creating boundaries demands keen observation—something challenging when colleagues are physically distant. Previously, we could observe behaviors in the office and adjust accordingly. However, remote work eliminates these cues. We can’t tell if someone is engrossed in work or taking a breather before another Zoom meeting. Hence, communication becomes vital. 

While this seems obvious, it is perhaps the hardest step in creating a boundary.  Some people fear that they are oversharing about their personal life or perhaps they simply don’t want to have to explain every detail of their time.  However, this is not about sharing just for the sake of it or sharing every detail.  This is about ensuring that those who need to know understand there is a space in your calendar you want to protect from other activities.  

What happens if we don’t communicate?  It is simple: expect your time set aside to do a particular activity that you want to protect from being sabotaged by other people’s calendars and expectations.  Can you complain?  No. You can’t because they are not wizards.  It is on you to communicate, not on them to figure it out. 

The Importance of Flexibility 

Now that you have your “what”, and your “why” and you have taken the time to “communicate” your plans, there is a final but crucial step in creating your boundary effectively: be “flexible”. 

Boundaries aren’t about ghosting; they’re about achieving a better work-life balance. Emergencies happen, and you may need to be flexible. By showing up when needed—even if it’s during your protected time—you demonstrate reliability. This, in turn, fosters respect for your boundaries.  

Start small, create a boundary around a small but meaningful activity or minutes of your day that you want to use to do something special (like reading a book), using these strategies and you will realize that it can be done! 

You can find more articles tackling this and other interesting topics here.