career advice Nov 15, 2018

I love boundaries! Boundaries are helpful in regard to letting people know how you value yourself and can help set the expectation of how you are to be treated. If you are unsure where to start with setting boundaries, I’m a firm believer in starting with your values. I recently did a great deal of work around my values with Kim, my therapist, and it was super helpful in navigating how to strategically set my priorities and shift my boundaries to accommodate those priorities.

As your values shift throughout your life, you will need to alter your boundaries to accommodate this shift. For example, the values and subsequent boundaries of a single 25 year old will likely vary from a 37-year-old mother of two.

Your values will also help you determine your work preferences.

My friend, Jen, who also provides a high level of support to her CEO was very clear and upfront about the fact that she doesn’t want to provide any personal assistant functions. I cheer her on because I know she’s being true to her values. I, on the other hand, LOVE doing personal things for my boss & his family. I love it because I have the opportunity to make his life easier and more streamlined on every front. I love helping his wife with her art business. I love getting to be a part of their world in so many ways a typical EA wouldn’t have the opportunity to. I also feel like helping with personal tasks adds value and exponentially increases my ROI.

How do we create healthy boundaries in regard to our jobs?

Why Values-Based Boundaries Are Essential for Assistants

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Check out the transcription:

Hey, guys. I’m Annie of wholeassistant.com. Last week, we talked all about work-life balance and how your values should inform your work-life balance. This week, we’re going to talk about boundaries, because it’s hard to have a work-life balance, or any decent work life at all, without healthy boundaries. My friends kind of tease me about this one, because I harp on this a lot. I am a big fan of healthy boundaries!

My first tip for you guys is that communication is key. Your coworkers and your boss will not know how to treat you unless you communicate it to them, so just assuming that people should treat you well and should honor your boundaries if they don’t know what they are, is ... It’s no good, so we actually need to communicate what our boundaries are. And, just remember that with every interaction, you are training people on how you want to be treated, which is why communication is so key because we want to train people on how we want to be treated. For each of us, this will look different, and our values will inform our boundaries, just like our values will inform our work-life balance, so keep that in mind as well.

My second little tip is around time management. Let your coworkers know when you are available to do certain tasks. This one is hard for a lot of us. As administrative professionals and as assistants, we tend to drop everything to help our coworkers, and sometimes that’s great, and sometimes it’s necessary, because it may be an emergency, but oftentimes, it’s not necessary at all. We take that interruption when we don’t have to! We could just say, “Oh, I will get to that,” or, “Can you come back in a half-hour? I’m in the middle of something.”

 I had a coworker at a former job, who put a sign outside of her office, telling everybody not to disturb her, and sure, people questioned it, and they pushed back, which I’ll get to in a minute, on how to deal with that, but it was a really great way for her to communicate with us, when she was available and when she wasn’t. So, back to that communication piece, we need to communicate, and we also need to let our coworkers know when we’ll be able to tackle whatever they wanted or needed to be done, again in a non-emergent situation.

As your values change, so will your boundaries, and a good example of this is I’m always available to my boss. I make myself very available after hours, and the reason that works is because my boss is really respectful of my time. If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t be so inclined to make myself so available, but because he is really respectful and because he only contacts me on the weekends or evenings, when he absolutely needs something, I’m really happy to be accommodating. 

Now, I will say that I recently had a conversation with him regarding my Sundays. So, I’ve been available all weekend before, and I told him that moving forward, I am not going to be available on Sundays, because I work a very rigorous job, and I run this blog, and Whole Assistant, and it was beginning to be too much, and I just needed one day a week where I would stay in my pajamas and do nothing, and just rest, and relax, and take care of myself.

I communicated that to my boss, and he got it, because he is a crazy busy human too, and that is one way in which my values, and my self-care values, I want to take good care of myself, informed a boundary with my boss. And then I communicated it, again, remember step one, communication is key. I communicated again, to him, what the change was and what I was hoping for. I told him if he absolutely needs something on Sunday, to text me and don’t send me an email, because I’m not checking my emails on Sunday.

So, here’s the deal guys, and this little tidbit is amazing, and I actually heard this from a mentor of mine way back when. She told me, she said, “Annie, it is other people’s job to test your boundaries. It’s their job.” You know, we can set a boundary, but the boundary is only tried and true once it’s tested, so I stopped getting offended when people would test my boundaries, and I realized that, hey, this is a natural thing that people do, because they want to know that your boundary is actually your boundary, so just keep that in mind.

And, to my next point, which is, what is the point of setting boundaries with others if we ourselves are not willing to honor them? For example, and I’ve not been good at this over the years, even though I know people test my boundaries, and with certain boundaries, I’ve been very good, but particularly with regards to work stuff, I started to respond to non-emergent emails outside of office hours, and that’s just training people that I’ll respond to non-emergent emails outside of office hours. That’s not a good or healthy boundary to have, so now I don’t do that. Now I hold that boundary because it’s important to me for everybody to know that I’m not 100% yours when I am with my family. In fact, I’m 100% theirs. 

That’s one good example of how we need to honor our own boundaries too, and my second point with boundaries, for us individually, is that we need to be aware of how much time we are spending on social media and wasting time during office hours. That is another huge time suck, and I’m big into time management, and I’m big into productivity, so that is a boundary that I really work hard to hold for myself, so at 10:00 and at 2:00, those are my times when I take a break and check social media. So, if you send me a note on social media, I will probably respond around 10:00 or 2:00, mountain time, because those are the parameters, those are the boundaries that I created for myself, because otherwise, what happens is we self-sabotage, and we aren’t getting stuff done for work. So, that’s another personal boundary that I would encourage us all to hold.

Okay, guys. I hope you enjoyed this. Please leave a comment below. I want to hear how you guys manage your boundaries and what boundaries you have set that have been really, really helpful for you in the office, and in your personal life as well, and maybe some flubs too, like, & I didn’t have this boundary, and now I do, and this is the result. So please share below, and I look forward to talking to you guys all next Tuesday, 7:00 am mountain time. Talk to you then.


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