What I’ve learned from doing this dance in my own business is that the path to sustainable success always depends on boundaries.
Having proper boundaries in place makes such a huge difference in life, in business, and in our happiness. Although many of us know this logically, boundaries are often challenging to enforce, so we let them go when we’re too tired, too stressed, too busy, or too whatever.
Sound familiar? I know many (if not all) of my clients can relate. In fact, the issue of boundaries comes up in my interaction with my clients almost every single day!
So, I’m constantly evaluating the boundaries I have and deciding what needs to change. I’m also encouraging you to do the same. Here goes…
Let’s start with your work hours
Start by identifying your ideal work hours. (One nice thing about running your own business is that you get to control your own hours, so take advantage of it!) Consider what time of day you’re most productive as well as any outside factors, like your children’s daycare or school hours.
Once you’ve identified your ideal work hours, it’s time to think through how you want your days and weeks to flow. As tempting as it can be to take client appointments any time, that may not lead to productive days.
I talked a bit more about this in a prior blog post on scheduling boundaries here.
Now, let’s talk about scheduling
Do you ever have weeks where you get to Friday and feel like you haven’t truly accomplished anything you set out to do?
When I look back at what those weeks have in common, I almost always find that I’ve failed to properly manage my calendar. Instead of following my scheduling guidelines of client calls on Mon, Tues, and Thurs, I’ll see calls every single day.
And instead of following my rule of no more than 3 appointments per day, I’ll see call, after call, after call, crammed in with few, if any, large blocks of time that I can use to just get work done.
This is something I also see on my client’s calendars. I’ve found that many service-based business owners really struggle to set manageable scheduling guidelines that support their own business growth as well as allow them to execute on client work.
It’s a phenomenon that I think ties directly to many service professionals innate tendencies to over-deliver in every way. We want to do everything in our power to help our clients succeed, even if it puts our own business at a disadvantage (unintentional though that may be).
So, how do we change this?
It all starts with setting ourselves up for success by establishing healthy, supportive scheduling guidelines that allow adequate time for business development and client work!
I challenge you to spend 30 minutes this week evaluating your current schedule. Ask yourself a few key questions:
- Am I setting aside any time to work on my business?
- Am I setting aside enough time to work on my business?
- What does my client schedule look like – for calls and for actual client work?
- Does my schedule support or hinder my overall business goals?
If you’re not satisfied with the answers, take some time to do something about it!
As a business owner, your schedule is in your hands, so take control and use it for your benefit! Consider using an online scheduler to help you better manage your schedule itoo!
Get Clear on Deliverable and Deadlines
When you are juggling multiple clients, it’s very important to establish some basic deadlines for the common deliverables you complete. If you don’t have these types of boundaries, you’ll find yourself always scrambling to get things done, and you’ll end up burning yourself out on many fronts.
The first step is to get really clear on what your common deliverables are and then figure out some typical turnaround times you can promise to your clients. This should consider not just how long the task takes to complete, but also how it will work into your typical workflow.
Then, determine the lead time you’ll need clients to adhere to so you can ensure you meet the turnaround times you’re promising. For more on this process, read this.
You also want to establish a clear list of deliverables and deadlines internally. Be sure to identify exactly who on your team can complete each of the tasks that commonly require support. Find a way that works well for you and your team to track the progress of tasks and deadlines so you can effectively manage projects. Email most likely won’t be sufficient so consider a project management software like Basecamp, Trello, or Asana.
Once you’ve established all of this, make sure you document them and communicate them both to your team and your clients. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and that your clients know the basics of how best to work with you.
After the communication comes enforcement– enforcement of the boundaries that is! As challenging as it can be, you have to enforce the boundaries you set with clients and with your team. Otherwise, the boundaries you’ve set won’t have much of an impact on your workflows. It helps to decide ahead of time any exceptions you’re prepared to make and how you want to handle clients that repeatedly ignore your boundaries. Similarly, you want to think through how you handle team members that continuously push your boundaries.
What are the Deal Breakers?
Whether it’s your clients or your team members, you also want to establish what your deal breakers are and how you’ll handle them when they occur.
For instance, one of my deal breakers is respecting my expertise. My clients hire me for my knowledge, skills, and expertise. So, if I find that they are consistently ignoring my advice or refusing to follow my suggestions, then I need to sever the relationship. This does not mean they have to blindly follow my advice at every turn, far from it. But, when a client wants to do things their own way entirely without any regard for the plans we make together then it shows they don’t value my support.
Another deal breaker is disrespecting my team. I get that we are all busy and it’s easy to get short tempered from time to time but it is important that I protect my team in the process. So when a client starts being rude to me or my team members, that’s a red flag. If it continues, then we’ll have a huge problem on our hands that will likely result in letting the client know we won’t be able to work with them any further.
This can feel yucky to think about, but it is far better to have an established list of some basic deal breakers that you never have to use, than have to decide how you want to react in the heat of the moment should something arise. You’ll generally find you have a few strict rules where no exceptions are allowed, and then a few that are escalating concerns to keep an eye on.
Consider also what deal breakers you want to have for your team members. They are just as integral to the success of your business as your clients or customers, perhaps even more so. This will again help you know how you want to react should something occur rather than feeling overwhelmed by deciding in the heat of the moment.
What about your personal life?
Boundaries aren’t just important in your business. You also need to look at the boundaries in your personal life. They are intrinsically related to your business success and your overall health and happiness. So be sure that you do the same sort of work on the boundaries with your family, friends, and personal choices.
Establishing boundaries that work for you is the first step to improving everything. In fact, What works for you is the standard I use to measure pretty much anything.