The best business planning tool in my entrepreneurial toolkit are two things: rest and intentional time to decompress. Boundaries make me a better businesswoman.
And I know that sounds completely counterintuitive, but hear me out.
When I’ve gotten enough rest (or time away from my phone and/or computer on the weekends), I perform better: I work faster, I’m more efficient, I feel refreshed, I feel more creative and get better results for my clients. Rest is more than just a nice afterthought; it’s necessary for my business’ success.
Since becoming an entrepreneur at Hey J. Nicole, complete and rejuvenating rest has been a lot harder to come by than my days working in corporate America.
As I’m sure many of you experience, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to keep the financial train on the tracks, and as a solopreneur, I feel that pressure tenfold.
This fall, I realized the culprit to my diminished ability to rest and relax wasn’t a blip in my night routine or the downfall of my diet. Instead, my inability to rest and relax were rooted in my boundaries (or lack thereof).
Boundaries are hard for all of us. We’re nervous to exercise them and we’re offended when they’re exercised against us.
But the truth?
Healthy boundaries make us significantly happier, notably more productive and make all of our relationships better.
Creating and enforcing boundaries have single-handedly made the largest impact on my wellness and well-being. Here is how I created, communicated and enforced healthy boundaries that bloomed the happiest and most balanced version of my business to date and proved to be the best business planning tool.
The Best Business Planning Tool: Boundaries
Define what’s important to you
When I first started to consider healthy boundaries, I made a list of things I wanted in my life that were currently lacking: at least 7 hours of sleep, regular exercise, home cooked meals, time with my pup and one “social” night a week.
As work became overwhelming, I’d quickly strip all the above essentials from my plate and start to feel as though I was living for the sole purpose of working. If you’re anything like me, I’m willing to bet that the reason you run your own business today is to avoid the exact feeling I’m describing.
I’d find myself crying about all of the life I was missing out on because I was working. This includes: time with my friends, opportunities to date and most importantly, my health.
Let me give you a hint: anything causing you emotional discomfort and/or resentment is a boundary violation screaming to be remedied. Start your list with ways to minimize or eliminate those negative feelings ASAP.
Know Your Value
When I was looking for a new therapist, I found that it was rather challenging to get on anyone’s schedule. All the BEST therapists with the highest recommendations only had times available during the workday, and I found that difficult. Same with my business coach. But I somehow managed to make it work, and do you know what I realized?
The same was true for me.
As I began to accumulate higher paying clients in more predictable quantities, I was able to reschedule or refer the lower paying clients who only wanted to meet at inconvenient times away.
The truth is that the best service providers have boundaries. Airtight ones.
Telling folks no and limiting access is only an indication that you are high quality and in-demand. Exercising strong boundaries between you and your clients communicates nothing but confidence (and a brief economics lesson on the concept of supply and demand).
Be Proudly Selfish
Selfishness has gotten a bad rap.
I’m not sure when selfish became a bad word, but the Webster definition of selfish is, and I quote, “Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”
Is that so bad?
There are certain times when selfishness is inappropriate, for sure. I get that. Hashtag global pandemic.
But when it comes to your (i) well-being, (ii) self-care, (iii) goals, (iv) values and (v) priorities, you SHOULD be SO freaking selfish!!
If “selfish” makes you uncomfortable, try this: every time your brain triggers you to feel selfish, instead, thank yourself for honoring your PRIORITIES.
In order to assert your healthy boundaries, they’ve got to be a priority for you.
Part of being selfish includes a little entitlement (which takes us right back to the previous section on knowing your value). In order to prioritize your well-being, you have to give your personal needs the same weight and importance as your professional obligations.
In the early days of my boundary setting, I had a very challenging time enforcing my list of priorities. Why?
Because I had little to no concept of my self-worth.
Once I truly believed that I was smart, kind, capable and a boss, the natural next progression of thought was to preserve that awesomeness at all costs! It was a lot easier to redirect clients and colleagues when they did anything to diminish my value when I approached it from this perspective.
Enforce and correct violations
The hardest part of this whole “healthy boundary” thing for me is enforcing and correcting boundary violations.
I want to say especially with my work, but also especially with my family. And especially with my friends. And basically with everyone and anything.
Here’s what I’ve learned: You’ve just got to start.
Here’s the game plan: You enforce just one little boundary (like leaving the office/shutting work down at X:XXPM). And you do it every day unless it’s an absolute emergency otherwise.
But then once you’ve started, it gets just the slightest bit easier. And then it’s almost easy. And then it’s the expectation and you stop having to even talk about it. And then that confidence spills over into a new boundary that you’re able to create and begin enforcing.
Allow for Flexibility
Sometimes you have to cave a little on your boundaries. That’s a natural part of this whole life thing. However, I try to keep in mind that every time I cave on my boundary, I am caving on myself. Each time I stay up late to finish work for a client, I’m saying, “this client’s needs are more important than my own.”
Now, there are PLENTY of times where other people’s needs are required to come before our own. The issue occurs when everyone’s needs ALWAYS come before your own. The problem exists when your needs NEVER come first.
One way I counsel clients to minimize this trait is to keep a tally. Right next to your computer, keep a tally of how many times you violate your boundaries for someone else and how many times you honor them. At the end of the week, take a look at your totals. If you’ve violated your own boundaries more than you’ve honored them, it’s time to reevaluate.
Build Boundaries as a Best Business Planning Tool
Boundary building is like working out. At first, your muscle is pretty weak, but once you start to use it, you get a little stronger every time you exercise.
And then you become a boundary boss. Just like dat.
You can do this. I believe in you. I believe in us. Let’s get after healthy boundaries together, and implement the best business planning tool you can find.