When you run a business, dealing with boundary problems can be challenging. While there are several places where boundary problems can come up, one place I see it repeatedly with my clients is their schedule.
As someone who deals with clients every day, you already understand that being flexible is important. However, that desire to be flexible can often result in us being overloaded and completely overwhelmed.
In a previous post, I shared some tips and tricks on addressing potential boundary issues. But let’s be real, scheduling is often the place where things fall apart when we’re trying to keep things on track. That’s why it’s important to deal with your schedule to help reduce boundary problems.
Let’s take a look at key questions you can ask yourself to get your schedule on track so you can better enforce your boundaries.
Your Schedule Isn’t Just About Client Meetings
If you’re a service-based business owner, coach or consultant, client calls or appointments probably take a lot of time each day. While this time is important in terms of your revenue and client satisfaction, we all know that this can slide from reasonable to out of control really easily.
If you want your business to be profitable, there are many other activities outside those calls and meetings that need your time and attention. That means ensuring we actually have time to do them!
The ultimate goal would be to design your schedule in a way that makes sense for your business and your life — and doesn’t leave you feeling burnt out or resentful.
What Are Your Ideal Work Hours?
One of the best things about running your own business is that you’re in control of your work hours, so if you’re letting boundary problems affect your schedule, it’s time to put some stronger parameters in place.
Start by thinking about your ideal work hours including:
- Are there certain hours of the day you’re most productive?
- Are there certain hours of the day you need to be unavailable for life stuff (like picking up kids from school)?
- Are you dealing with any variations in time zones with your clients that mean you sometimes need to be available during typical “off” hours?
Once you’ve figured that out, it’s time to think about what your ideal day or week would look like. Are there certain days you need to do operational tasks? Do you have standing meetings on the same day and time each week?
For example, maybe you don’t like doing calls or meetings on Fridays. Or maybe you find your energy tends to be low on Monday mornings.
By taking the time to really parse out when you work best, you’re actually able to make the most of the time you DO work.
Next, consider designating specific days for client meetings. Why? Because client meetings often require more energy and leave us more depleted. Taking client meetings at any old time can impact our ability to be productive.
Think of it this way. if you have five client meetings in one day, how much else can you actually get done? Are there tasks that you can do in short spurts in between calls? And more importantly, will you actually have the energy to do those things when you’ve spent five hours being “on”?
Having specific days and times for client meetings has had a huge impact on my business, and I imagine you may find the same.
However you decide to design your ideal schedule, the key thing here for preventing boundary problems is sticking to it. If you’re only available for client calls on certain days, block out your calendar during the unavailable times so that your team or clients can slip something in there without your approval.
And don’t forget — this is a work in progress! So if you try it one way and it’s not working, you can change it up and try doing it another way.
What Can You Reasonably Accomplish Each Day?
It’s not unusual for business owners to underestimate how much energy certain tasks take. Whether it’s a client meeting or reconciling your monthly receipts, each thing we do requires a certain amount of brain power.
Which is why the next step is to get real about how much you can do in a day.
Boundary problems often come into play because sometimes we’re trying to do it all, and we can end up overworking to get everything done. We need strong boundaries with our schedules so we don’t run ourselves into the ground and we’re being realistic about our time.
Think about taking calls or hosting meetings. How many calls in a row can you do? Do you need a break in between? How many hours in one day can you energetically dedicate to calls?
One task I see people sometimes forget to account for is the actual follow-up that needs to be done after your calls.
Do you like to do that follow-up as soon as the call is done? Or would you rather do ALL the follow-up at the end of the day (or the start of the next day)? Whatever your preference, that’s time in your schedule that needs to be accounted for.
What Kind of Exceptions are You Willing to Make?
As I said at the outset, flexibility is necessary for what we do, which means exceptions sometimes need to be made. The trick is ensuring you treat these as actual exceptions, not the norm.
People who don’t respect your schedule and try to get around them are usually at the root of boundary problems.
Listen, I am big on having business systems in place for everything and am very protective of my scheduling boundaries. But even my type-A brain can handle shifting gears from time to time. By considering what sort of things I am willing to bend on ahead of time, I’m much quicker to decide when these things pop up at the moment.
Let’s say you don’t take calls on Wednesday. However, one day you get a request to discuss a potential project with a dream client. Will you make an exception?
I live in Europe while many of my clients are in North America. So due to time zone differences, part of my regular work schedule occurs in the evenings. I recognize that I need that flexibility to serve my clients best.
However, I have a hard rule that I will not do calls after 10 pm my time. I need some time to wind down and disconnect from work before I go to sleep, so that boundary allows me to have that time.
Having these exceptions documented for your team is key because, often, they are the ones looking at our calendars and scheduling client meetings. And even if you don’t currently have a team, documenting this makes it infinitely easier to pass off scheduling tasks in the future when you hire someone.
When Are You Taking Time Off?
If there’s one surefire thing that will make you feel like your business is draining the life out of you, it’s not taking time off. (And I’m not talking about being off each weekend.)
By time off, I mean a meaningful break where you can actually step away from your business and relax.
Now, I know this can feel really hard. But you need a break and your clients will understand that. When it comes to boundaries, we teach people how to treat us. So if you’re always responding to emails or IMs when you’re supposed to be “off”, your clients are learning that your time off doesn’t need to be respected.
For me, making time off possible took some fine-tuning. It wasn’t smooth the first few times, but those experiences helped me figure out what I needed to do to make my time off meaningful.
My tips for making it possible to hold your boundaries about time off include:
- Block off the time in your calendar when you decide on your dates.
- Touch base with your clients about any outstanding projects or deliverables that will be due in your absence so you can make a plan to ensure it all gets done.
- Talk to your team about when you plan to be off so you have the necessary resources and coverage while you’re gone.
- Empower your team to make decisions while you’re not around. This is something you want to be already doing so that it’s not a big change when you decide to be off.
- Prepare invoices, expenses, or any other critical items that must be dealt with while you’re away.
- Make sure any marketing activity is prepped so it can continue seamlessly.
Finally, to help you avoid boundary problems while you’re away from work (like having a client call your cell phone while you’re sitting on a beach), communicate clear parameters on WHO is allowed to contact you and WHEN they can do so.
It’s realistic to expect that something may unexpectedly pop up while you’re not around, so decide on this before you go to make clients aware of who their point of contact is.
I generally designate one person on my team as the main point of contact, and I trust that they can use their discretion to decide whether or not an issue actually requires someone to contact me.
Better Schedule Management Can Reduce Boundary Problems
By having clear parameters around your schedule, you’re not only going to help reduce boundary problems — but you’re also helping out your productivity and preserving your sanity.
While it may feel uncomfortable at first, taking the time to really figure out what works best for your schedule and holding your boundaries will be worth it in the long run.
As a business owner, you can’t be everything to everyone, and sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to get some support to help ease the load.
If you’ve been wondering how you can get the right kind of Marketing and Operations support for your business, I’d love to chat! You can get in touch with us right here.