Protect Your Boundaries

January 24, 2013

I’m a stickler for punctuality.  I do not like being late or when people are late for appointments with me.  I have a client who is feels the same yet he struggles with managing his time and keeping himself punctual.

He is in a high-level and high-stress job and is often pulled into last minute meetings or asked to respond to last minute requests by his boss or senior executives.  This tends to mess up his calendar, causing him to be late to other previously scheduled meetings and often times, cancel meetings at the last minute.  He finds this extremely frustrating because, he swears, he does not like to work that way and does not like being late or canceling meetings at the last minute. The act of him canceling or showing up late to meetings had become so common that people expected it to happen (as much as he expected to be interrupted or pulled off task by a last minute request).  Needless to say, this was negatively impacting his reputation

After observing this behavior in him for several months, it became apparent that he was allowing this infringement upon his time. He didn’t protect his time or previously scheduled meetings from last minute interruptions so those who regularly interrupted began to expect that it was acceptable to do so.  Because he didn’t set any boundaries around other important items on his schedule, the result was him consistently lost control over his schedule.  He needed to start to protect his time and set boundaries around what could not be infringed upon.  Of course, this wasn’t easy because sometimes it’s not easy to push off senior level leaders or say no when they request your time.  However, this was less about saying no and refusing their request and more about ensuring they understand there are other important priorities.  This was about communicating when he can and cannot be interrupted and acting consistently around protecting his time.  Once he began doing this, he reset expectations – people stopped assuming it was okay to interrupt him last minute and instead began asking when he had time to meet or discuss an important project instead of presuming he was immediately available.

The realization is that we teach others how to treat us by how we behave, what we tolerate and what we allow to occur around us.   Teach others how to treat you and your time.  If you are steadfast in protecting your boundaries, others will typically follow suit and respect them as well.


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