So every time around this time the world of higher education can get hectic – and I found myself feeling underwater, never fully caught up with my email or the endless to-do lists, juggling so many different commitments. And, honestly, most of it is stuff I love! Does this sound familiar, planner pals? How do we balance productivity with self-care, and maintaining a steady and sustainable pace?
I got to do a lot of things, and made it through with only a few tasks slipping through the cracks… but the vision of productivity comes at a cost – I was not sleeping what I needed, which led to less focus at work and making less strategic and whole decisions, reacting instead of responding, and doing work just to do it. So how do we undo the life we have created for ourselves?
We often talk about saying NO – and the advice is less-than-stellar. “Just say no.” Okay, obviously if it was as easy as “Just” (omg pet peeve) then I would be doing it!! So what makes it hard? If we can address why it’s so difficult, we can reframe how we approach our choices… because if there’s anything that’s incredibly hard to learn, it’s that we are valuable just by existing. That we don’t have to keep doing things to earn our human value. That we are human beings, not just human doings.
ON BALANCE AND BOUNDARIES
So my video is short, and just barely touches on the specifics of how we can shift our thinking and just how hard it is to do so. I’ll elaborate here.
What I mean by disappointing people:
- To feel others wonder if they can “rely on you next time”
- To feel others’ annoyance or frustration with you
- To feel less valuable because you’re not there to provide an answer, face-time at their events, fulfillment of a role (like in wedding parties), time, support, a plan, or completion of a task
- To feel like you aren’t sharing your talents and gifts (in my case, when I turn down additional calligraphy projects) – and thus wondering if you’re missing out on an opportunity to advance
- Disappointing yourself because you’re not snagging every opportunity you feel like you’re supposed to
- Feeling like you’ll be seen as “less capable” if you say no to a project, or that it might set you up for the next promotion, or superhero friend
- Feeling like you don’t have a “real reason” to not go to something, do something other than “I don’t want to” (for this, see – “If Friends Were Honest Making Plans“)
- Feeling like you’ll be “lame” not going to some social outing, or that you’ll miss out on something
Now, whether or not these feelings are from others or from ourselves is probably the major question – either way, they feel VERY real, and often get us into trouble as we commit to yet another thing. Individually, things are very easy and simple – but in context of all our other stuff, it suddenly becomes overwhelming. And let’s be honest, we do it to ourselves. So here’s what I’m suggesting.
Some concrete strategies that help me manage my commitments, boundaries, and saying no:
- Thinking about the Focus Funnel – what can I delegate? What do I actually have to do myself?
- For tasks and favors, sometimes, people just default to asking people because they are convenient, not because they absolutely are the right person for the task – so sometimes I’ll ask questions that get at whether that is true
- Also for tasks and favors, I remind people of boundaries by always asking first, “When do you need this by? What’s your ideal timeline for this?” – and being able to show that it is the task within this time-frame that will or will not work for me, not really because I can or can’t do it, period
- Understand how your friends see support – is it showing up for the event? Or can you support in other ways by inviting others, publicizing, sharing words of affirmation elsewhere? And then offering support in another, more realistic way for you
- Tell people what you CAN do rather than what you can’t
- Don’t apologize if you can help it – so we can help shift the culture that we should be apologizing for protecting our own hearts and time. So instead, saying, “I hope you find someone”
- Schedule in time in my calendar for errands, projects. I’m not always good at this for personal stuff, but it helps me at work block out necessary time to focus, rather than everyone else claiming and controlling my time. This also keeps me realistic about what time I need more intentionally, rather than reacting and squeezing it into spaces it can fit
That’s what’s worked for me- and maybe if you’re more introverted, these things come more easily to you! But what makes it hard for you to draw boundaries or say no? What strategies have worked for you?