Setting Boundaries in a Constantly Connected Society
Let’s be honest about something for a second -
when someone sends you a message, do you feel obligated to answer it right away?
Do you feel guilty for keeping them waiting? Whether it’s a friend while you’re in the middle of spending time with your sister, or client when you’re settling down with your family after dinner - we have this new feeling of obligation that has crept up ever since social media and technology has made itself so prominent in our daily life.
The thing is though, it’s just a feeling and it’s up to you to decide to set boundaries and expectations for yourself.
When I first started looking into information and inspiration around setting boundaries, it felt like everyone except me must have these nice, scheduled out days with the same routine day in and day out. That felt really discouraging to me. I’m someone who’s schedule never looks the same! So how could I ever commit myself to saying I will only send and receive communications at a certain time of day?
You might remember from this post that I plan my week out every week and I time block. My schedule looks a little bit different since that post was written since my baby is the definition of a night owl but I still plan out my week accordingly every single week. The problem that I found with setting boundaries around my time blocks is that my work time every day varies. Some days I can get it done during nap time, other days I can’t even get started until later in the evening. Sometimes I can get up early and get a good portion of my work done before the kids wake up. So there is no way that I can commit to saying I can only send and receive emails during a certain time of day without having to list out different times for different days that change every week.
What I realized is that boundaries don’t need to be defined by just a certain time of day, they can just be a clear set of expectations.
So while I do set blocks of time throughout my day for my schedule, we all know that things rarely go exactly as planned. So when I decided on how to set my boundaries for myself, I had to come up with my own formula which ended up being a set of expectations instead of scheduled periods of time.
When It comes to Work
When I take calls, I obviously have to have set periods of time that I can take them. So I set up my schedulers for both leads and clients within Dubsado using small, dedicated timeframes that I know won’t experience any sort of conflict. Having a scheduler also allows for me to block off days that I intend to take off, such as holidays or days where I have other obligations that require my attention.
I also set up the expectation early in the relationship that communication will primarily be conducted via email. Whenever I take on a new client, I have two major communication expectations that I setup. First, I let the client know my current office hours (usually in my contract). Even if I’m not working during my office hours, I keep my notifications for my email on so that I can tend to any questions or requests. I also mention that even though I frequently respond outside of my designated office hours, they can expect a response from me within one business day.
I do this for a few reasons:
Sometimes I have updates or questions that I like to send while it’s fresh on my brain. Even if this is sent outside of normal business hours, I respect the boundaries of my clients and never expect them to respond until their own regular working hours. This provides a lot less pressure on both parties when it comes to communication.
I often times am more than happy to hold a conversation with a client while I’m working outside of my office hours. In fact, I do so regularly. But I set the expectation early that the only guaranteed time that I am available is within my office hours.
Sometimes even if I receive an email during my office hours, it might be a request or question that I need to look into. In that case, I usually hold off on responding until I can provide a more substantial response.
when it comes to home and family life
All social media notifications on my phone are turned off. Owning a social media agency, I obviously have to spend a certain amount of dedicated time on social media each day for myself and my clients, but I’ve learned to schedule that out and set timers for myself. That comes down to intentionality.
When I schedule blocks time for myself to go on social media for my clients and myself, it allows me to fully disconnect when I put my phone down. That means no more black hole of mindless scrolling! I’ll be the first to admit I used to be awful about having my phone out and being more involved with what was happening on Facebook as opposed to being present with the people in front of me. But then I heard a saying that changed my whole perspective -
When you’re scrolling through social media in the presence of family and friends, you’re sending the message that you care more about being connected to the people on your newsfeed as opposed to the people who took out the time to be in your physical presence.
Whoooooa. Suddenly I realized exactly what I was doing - and I didn’t like it! I was doing it to my kids, my fiancé, my family, my friends.. everyone really. I didn’t want it to be that way. While I’m still always working on it, I’ve definitely gotten so much better about being intentional and reminding myself to be fully present for the people showing up for me IRL first.
Remember how we used to say things on AIM like “brb” or “ttyl”? Or even when we would set away messages? I can’t recall where I heard it, but I remember hearing recently we can’t say those things anymore because we never actually go anywhere, we are always. connected.
So setting boundaries for your personal time means being intentional about putting your attention to the people in front of you first, and holding off on checking Facebook or sending that text until later.