Small Business Articles from Make-it-Fly®
Clear Boundaries to Keep You on Track
By Victoria Munro
owners, we face constant requests for our time.
While writing this, I received a phone call from a dear
friend. Hospitalized after a sudden, serious accident,
and still drowsy from the effects of anesthetic after
surgery, she asked if I could help. She would be in
hospital for another week and their number-one client
urgently needed some work done. Would I take care of
it? I felt sorry for her, wanted desperately to help
and found myself saying, “Yes.” I already
had commitments and was under a tight deadline. Now,
I faced a dilemma. Without
clearly defined boundaries, we may live at the mercy
of our emotions and make unwise decisions.
define how you expect to be treated by others.
Many problems can be avoided when you lay down clear-cut
boundaries. Setting, and more importantly, enforcing
these will streamline your business. However, this isn’t
always easy, and women especially often find it a challenge.
We may have been raised to treat the needs of others
as more important than our own or have been rewarded
for sacrificing our own needs for others. This can cause
feelings of guilt and make enforcing boundaries difficult.
In addition, the fact that we don’t relish conflict
and hate the thought of hurting someone’s feelings
can make it even harder.
you are your business’s most valuable asset,
so establish boundaries that honor you. It’s okay
to demand respect from others and to honor yourself.
On a plane, the cabin crew instructs us to use the oxygen
mask ourselves first, so that we will be able to help
others. In the same way, as business owners, we must
take care of ourselves first.
around money as well as time. Outstanding debt
can be stressful for small-business owners. It’s
important to clearly state your rates and terms on price
lists, invoices, statements and contracts, and enforce
them. You may choose to negotiate, but accept and agree
on only what is truly a win for all parties. Let clients
know what is and isn’t acceptable in this area.
They will respect you for it.
If you work in a home office,
you have additional challenges. You face a constant
array of distractions, and it takes a dedicated person
to work efficiently from home. Discuss with your family
the problems you face in this area and ask for their
suggestions and cooperation. It may be helpful to set
time and space boundaries for children so they feel
included and special but so you’re able to focus
when working. Consider hiring someone to come in and
entertain younger children for a set time each day or
week—perhaps a responsible young neighbor or high
To maintain boundaries and be successful in business,
developing the skill of saying
“no” is vital! It may not always
be easy, but the success of your business depends on
Keeping your goals and immediate priorities clearly
before you will make it easier to say “no”
when you need to, and protect your precious time and
energy. Assure clients of your commitment to excellent
service, and let them know when you’ll be available.
If you’re not available, tell them when they should
expect a return phone call or email, then return the
call or email when you promised. Set clear guidelines
with employees as to when you are available.
Nine Tips to Help You Say “No”:
and plan ahead—remember what it’s
like to feel guilty and frustrated about commitments
you’ve made to do things you don’t have
the time, energy or desire to do.
to never giving an immediate response—request
time to think about it. Simply say, “I need
time to think about this. I’ll get back to
the costs and rewards. Ask yourself, “Will
scheduling this cause undue stress?” “Does
this align with my goals?”
to say “no” directly, without
feeling guilty or giving a lengthy explanation.
After all, you don’t usually offer a reason
when you say “yes.”
prepared for others to push your boundaries
and be ready to say “no” as many times
as it may take
may be able to avoid a confrontation by offering
the other party choices.
you’ve said no, remember that you’re
not responsible for others’ reactions.
saying “no” until it feels comfortable
without offering any explanation.
making a commitment, be sure you have a complete
understanding of exactly what’s being asked
When I initially agreed to help my friend in the hospital,
I assumed that it would be a quick project taking no
more than an hour. In fact, it turned out to be much
more complicated and time-consuming. I called her back,
apologized, discussed the situation, and agreed to spend
30 minutes to help with the most critical issues.
Remember, you and not your clients
should control your time!
© 2005-2007 Victoria Munro.
for printable version.
About the Author: Victoria Munro is
co-founder (along with husband Dave Block) of Make-it-Fly®
LLC, a company dedicated to creating success for
small-business owners through creatively designed programs
and tools. Victoria has started and run nine different
businesses. To receive FREE business success articles
with tips to help you with your business, sign up for
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More Done in Less Time: 101 Quick and Easy Time Tactics
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