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Improve work life balance by setting boundaries

For many achievers, filling a calendar is not a problem – it is done quite easily. On the other hand, many people will ask for our time, but the tough part is setting boundaries. Likewise, backing out of commitments when we have already given our word can be hard too.

The worry of disappointing someone, or the potential of causing drama, can weigh heavily in the minds of many people.

Consequently, we can fail in setting boundaries and over-commitment, spreading ourselves too thin.

As a result, we become overwhelmed with all of the ‘to-do’s’ we have. Other areas of our life will be forced to take a back seat. Maybe it starts will skipping a workout, sleeping less, or perhaps spending less time with the kids or other loved ones.

When we say ‘yes’ to too many things, it is expected that our life balance starts to erode. In order to maintain balance – to improve work life balance – setting boundaries is essential.

Have you committed to anything in your life that doesn’t feel right? Is there something that you could graciously back out of for the betterment of your own health, family, or friends?

The first step is to identify those things we truly want to back out of by asking ourselves the following question – if I could graciously back out of any obligation, and no one would be upset, what would I choose?

Graciously un-commiting is simple. I have done it time and again in my life, and guess what? The world didn’t end. People who genuinely wanted to do business with me continued to do business with me, and ultimately, I ended up feeling better.

Believe it or not, the ability to set boundaries and un-commit is essential to your ability to improve work life balance.

Having a great work life balance is essential to my happiness, and I do have to say ‘no’ often, and occasionally, back out of a commitment that I have made. It is never easy to do so, but sometimes it is necessary.

On the other hand, backing out doesn’t have to create drama. It can be done respectfully and without creating drama.

Here are five surefire ways you can graciously un-commit to improve work like balance:

1. Find a Replacement –

‘Bob, you know how I said I would help out on the fund raising committee. I am working on a new project that is taking much more time than I anticipated. The amount of time I have to commit right now is negligible. I do not want to leave you in a bind and have found a suitable candidate for my replacement.’

2. Improve the Atmosphere –

‘Sharon, I know your party is going to be a huge success. You are such a great hostess. When I initially accepted, I had a lot of energy. Right now, with so many things going on, my energy is not where it usually is. I wouldn’t want to be the ‘wet blanket’ at your soiree, so please excuse me this time. Would you include me next time?’ You can send flowers instead.

3. If I – Would You? –

‘Julie, women like us are always on the go. There is no end of things on our ‘to-do’ list. Listen, something landed in my lap, and it is demanding my attention this week. If I took the next two weeks of carpooling, would you take this week?’

4. Matching Mission –

‘Eric, your charity sounds amazing. I think the work you are doing is going to be wildly successful with the right group of like-minded people. Unfortunately, after careful deliberation, this does not match my charitable mission. Should you expand in this area, would you please re-visit me?’

5. Win-Win Solution –

‘James, you know how I promised to come in early and stay late for the next two weeks while we finish the project? I have thought of a win-win solution. It takes me an hour and a half to commute each day which totals almost one full workday every week. What if I log-on and work from home one day per week, so I can add those extra unusable hours? Perhaps we can nail this and make it even better than we had planned.’

Ultimately, living a balanced life – your ability to improve work life balance – comes down to the choices you make based on the priorities in your life.

If something doesn’t feel right, takes you farther away from your goals, or is going to create unnecessary stress, then setting boundaries is a must.


Susan Sly is a best selling author, work life balance expert, speaker and entrepreneur. She has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime Television and the CBN. Susan is the mother of five children and resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.





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