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Setting Boundaries as a Business Owner

I think one of the most challenging parts of being a business owner is simply that you’re never really ever able to leave your work at the office. There isn’t really an off switch when 5 pm comes around which means it is even MORE important to set boundaries with work.

Okay, I’m sure I lost some of you or you’re chuckling at me thinking “Oh that sounds nice” but don’t fret, I’m going to offer up some concrete tips and steps.

Before we get into the how to start establishing boundaries, I’m going to put a little emphasis on the why you should be implementing boundaries.

First off, burnout. According to Forbes, 42% of business owners say that they have experience burnout in the last month with 24% experiencing burnout right now. Running a business requires playing the long game, something you can’t do if you’re actively experiencing burnout.

Second, your employees. Actions speak louder than words meaning if you are constantly putting in overtime hours, working on vacation, emailing late at night or early in the morning, and sending slack messages on the weekend, whether you mean to or not you are sending a message to your team of what is expected. The work culture shift is here to stay and people are reckoning with their relationship with their jobs. What kind of culture are you trying to build?

And finally, rest is important. If I’ve learned anything, a good night's sleep is always the answer to a challenge I’m facing. Weekends, vacations, and time off, in general, are not perks. They are integral to having an effective team that is able to produce their most creative work.

42% of business owners say that they have experience burnout in the last month with 24% experiencing burnout right now.

Okay so I’m sure all of this sounds fabulous, but I recognize running a small, scrappy business means you are often wearing 6 different hats at once. So here are a few tips I’ve found helpful in creating healthy boundaries at UnderBelly.

  • Set one day that you force yourself to not work at all.

I used to work both Saturdays & Sundays and that was partially out of necessity from working other jobs. But as I slowly dropped other gigs, I gave myself the rule “I don’t work on Saturdays”. Eventually, I was able to move to “I don’t work on the weekend.”

  • Remove email & slack notifications from your phone.

This was a BIG one. I means I’m not getting pinged with unnecessary notifications and I know that I’m able to respond while I’m in working hours vs when the notification arrives at 11 pm. No client needs me at 11 pm.

  • Don’t check your email on your days off.

This is a bit of a combination of the top two tips but I found myself instinctively checking my email on Saturdays (my hard no work day) so I had to be explicit in this rule. By sticking to no email on my days off, it was a lot easier for me to not think about work on those days.

  • Consider a 4-Day work week.

Okay, I know this is by far the most challenging but it has by far made the most impact personally. At UnderBelly, Fridays are fully optional meaning if you have stuff you need to work on, great. Otherwise, the day is yours. We have no meetings, and no slack messages. This means that every Monday we’re able to start fresh because loose ends were tied on Friday. It also has made Sunday Scaries (the feeling of anticipating the Monday morning dread) essentially nonexistent because the team is rested and ready to start the new week.

  • Find an exercise or hobby that forces you to disconnect.

I reconnected with boxing this year and having a couple of hours each week that takes my full focus allows me to get outside my own head. It’s 2+ hours a week that I’m more worried about hitting something hard rather than our marketing strategy or current sales pipeline.

Just like everything, setting boundaries is a process and a practice. But there is no day like today to get started.


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