Time Management Tips - 3 Top Techniques to Simplify Setting Time Boundaries

Published: 10th February 2012
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Time management tips are simply tools that require decisive action to be of actual use to you. And the actions needed generally center around establishing boundaries. Setting and then maintaining boundaries safeguards your effectiveness, giving you the space you need to accomplish your goals. Therefore, the more successfully you create and enact boundaries around your time, the more satisfied and productive you will be.

"You always have the right to decide how you use your time." The Finding Time Proactive Bill of Rights

Chances are, you were not taught how to set boundaries in school. And you may not have seen it done well while growing up. But with practice, you can develop proficiency, and enjoy consistent success.

For a strong start, correct a common misconception about boundaries:

When you set a boundary, you're not imposing something upon another person. You are describing a need. This is your assertive right!

Fundamentally, you set a new boundary to change what you do with your time. And that is precisely how you present your time boundary to others.

Here are three simple strategies to help you set a new boundary:

Time Boundary Strategy #1: Own Your Role In Your Problem.

Provide the context for your new time boundary by describing your current problem. Readily acknowledge any part you yourself have played in creating that problem. For example, "In the past, I have always taken phone calls, whether or not I could spare the time. Now I face a work backlog and an important deadline."

By focusing on your choices, you communicate that you are not attempting to blame this person for your current problem. Once they hear this, they are encouraged to relax and become more receptive.

Time Boundary Strategy #2: Describe How Your Behavior Will Change.

Explain the change that you are going to make in your behavior to remedy the situation. Perhaps in this instance you might say, "Next week, I'm going to focus on my report, and won't answer calls until after 3 PM."

Notice that by stating this boundary as a change that you are making, you're keeping all the power within your control. If, instead, you request that the other person not call, you are asking them to change their behavior, and forfeiting control over the outcome.

Time Boundary Strategy #3: Negotiate, Don't Capitulate.

Request their understanding and cooperation, but be clear that you'll be changing your end, no matter what. It is perfectly suitable, at this point, to negotiate how to support your colleagues while you are unavailable. In fact, this helps reinforce how serious you are about making this change, and encourages their taking responsibility to troubleshoot in advance.

By using "I" messages that focus on what you feel and what you will do, you clarify that you're not setting this boundary to punish the other person, nor attempting to engage in a power play.

If you find that you can't translate your boundary into changes that you will be making, examine whether the change you seek will require a shift on your end that you feel ambivalent about. If there are consequences to this boundary you are not comfortable with, revise the boundary so that you are fully prepared to follow through on your end.

You will experience an important side benefit if you follow this approach. More and more, you will think of your time challenges in terms of choices you make that you can change. By doing so, you reduce your resentment, and you increase your creativity, confidence, and optimism about how you can spend your time.

So, what is your next move in creating effective boundaries?


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