I’m 21 years old, sitting on the couch in my New York apartment with a cheese plate, glass of wine to my right & an out of town guest sitting to my left. The red light on my blackberry is blinking and at the risk of being rude, I check to see who is messaging me at this hour. It’s my client’s assistant and the message reads, “Picture fell, glass shattered, he’s not happy”. I panic.
To put this into context, this was back when I was organizing/styling closets, homes & corporate offices and he was my first big client. I had just decided to drop out of college, and I was busting my ass to make sure his office was perfect. The text from his assistant – at 9 o’clock on a Thursday night – sent me into such a tailspin that I had to excuse myself to call my life coach (no shame in my game) and was fully planning on going to his office to hang a fucking picture back on his wall so that he’d happy when he got to the office the next morning. The problem was (as Daune pointed out) that by doing that, I was sacrificing my own happiness and teaching someone that it was perfectly okay to contact me at inappropriate times, for something as benign as a picture falling off the wall. You might be thinking, well DUH, but have you ever been in a situation where you would do anything to impress someone, prove yourself or make sure not to disappoint? This was that situation for me and for a moment, I forgot something that I had learned years before…BUSINESS IS BUSINESS.
In that exact moment I made a decision to never forget that again and began a very slow journey towards the ultimate freedom; a life made up of boundaries that I set, of rules that I make for myself and a standard that I now hold everyone around me to.
If you are anything like me, a people pleasure by nature, you know that it is difficult to set boundaries – not just in business, but in your personal life as well. Here’s the reality though, unless you set healthy boundaries for yourself, you will forever be living for everyone other than yourself and what kind of life is that? This has taken me awhile to get comfortable and is still something that I have to actively work on but being in control of my time and energy has made my life so much better.
Here are some things that have helped me set personal and business boundaries:
SAY, ‘NO’ TO ALMOST EVERYTHING
I did a full month of what I called the ‘yes detox’ – I literally said, ‘NO’ to anything that I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to do/be a part of. I said no to dinners, I said no to letting people stay at my apartment, I said no to traveling with friends, I said no to compromising any ounce of my happiness or peace. The cool thing about dedicating 30 days to saying no, is that you get comfortable with it and it spills over into the rest of your life until you are literally only doing things that bring you joy. Try it.
STOP ANSWERING EVERY CALL
One of the greatest things I’ve done for myself is to turn my phone on ‘do not disturb’ for most of the day. This pisses people off because I’m not very accessible – but THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT! We live in an instant gratification era and think that means that every person must be immediate in their responses or assume that everyone is on their phone 24/7. Be okay with not being accessible to everyone; most people drain energy from you that you don’t even realize until you stop turn your phone off for a few hours.
REALIZE THAT ALMOST NOTHING IS URGENT
I still have clients who text me, call me and email me with things that they need done ‘immediately’. But truthfully, 1% of things in business are actually urgent, the other 99% of things can be done in the next day or two. I keep to a schedule everyday and if you’re not on my calendar, you’re going to have to wait – period. I make it very clear to my clients that I will get what they need done within 48 hours and like I said, there are almost no exceptions. This isn’t to be rude or obnoxious, but why would I treat my client’s time with more respect than I treat my own time? You know how this goes, you have 5 things you have to get done and then you get distracted by other people’s shit and all 5 things remain unfinished and pushed back. Fuck that. Stay on YOUR schedule, get what you need to get done first. The irony of this is practice is that you actually become so much more efficient and your work gets better by taking the appropriate amount of time to react to each client.
TIME BLOCK & BATCH
I discovered time blocking/batching a few years ago and will forever be grateful that I did. It has not only made my life easier, but it has made me so much more sure of myself and able to schedule my time wisely. First, I batch my time; I allot certain days of the week to certain tasks for example, if Wednesdays & Thursdays are for making/taking calls, that means I will not schedule a client or business-related call on any other day. Then, I block my time into 45-90 minute increments throughout the day. If I am about to tackle my inbox, I set a legitimate timer for 60 minutes, do nothing but answer emails and once those 60 minutes are up, I move onto my next task. If you do both of these things religiously, your days, your weeks, your life will change.
STOP GIVING A SHIT
Here’s the thing; once you have given people so much of your time and your energy and then you begin to take it back, they’ll be upset. For the first time maybe ever, they will feel like your world doesn’t revolve around them and for most people, that’s annoying & confusing because we are all so human. But guess what? That’s a them problem, not a you problem. You doing what’s best for you, has to be the priority – even if you feel like you’re pissing people off. You can’t be worried about what other people think of you when you are doing what’s right for you, believe me, everyone is looking out for themselves first…or wishing they had later in life. Stop thinking about the word, ‘selfish’ as being taboo – you should be selfish with your time, your energy is sacred, you will be better for paying better attention to your happiness and peace. Promise.
Devyn Penney is a certified life & intimacy coach and the author of, "Mastering the Art of Internal Intimacy". This blog is dedicated to ending small talk by having Big Conversations, "the only way we connect is through love, empathy and an open line of communication".