Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This weekend, I did something unprecedented in the 2.5 year history of my business:  I took a weekend off.  Well, if you consider running 20 miles a weekend off.  But seriously, I didn't return a single email.  I didn't read any blogs, work on any proposals or fret about unfinished business.  In fact, I barely even cracked the laptop.

Why?  Because I needed to establish some boundaries.  When you're an entrepreneur with a home-based business, there's no separation between personal and professional.  I work at the same table where we eat our meals (if I get the chance to clean it off, which isn't as often as it should be).  I'm surrounded by dishes that need washing, floors that need vacuumming, a dog that needs walking, laundry that needs folding--the work never ends.  And my attempts at "multi-tasking"--which has basically meant half-assed efforts at relaxing, working, housekeeping and relationships, sometimes simultaneously--are leaving me exhausted, burned out and frustrated.

I used to leave work, get in a run or a Pilates class, then come home for a nice dinner and a glass of wine, watch a favorite show on television or read several chapters of a book.  Now, the lines are blurred.  Most evenings, you'll find me returning emails, reading articles online, eating my dinner, all while engaging in 20 Twitter conversations and trying to watch the latest episode Gossip Girl.  My work is suffering.  My health is suffering.  My relationships are suffering.  Why?  Because I have no boundaries.  Because I'm not fully committed to one task.  Because I mistakenly believe that I can "do it all."

No more.  Thanks to the encouragement of the very wise Sarah Robinson, I'm drawing a line in the sand.  Establishing boundaries.  Pilates and yoga classes are as sacred as marathon training.  They are appointments to be kept, not activities to squeeze in.  Meals are a time for fellowship and conversation.  They are to be savored, not shoveled down between emails and snippits of Jeopardy.  Work time is sacred.  No more emails stating "I'm free all day on Thursday," only to end up with 12 hours of meetings, calls and running around town when I should be attending to client needs.  No more free brain-picking sessions.  More reading.  More time with people I care about.  More dreaming.  More play breaks with my dog.  More time outdoors.  More of the things that I truly value and care about in life.

How do YOU set boundaries in your work and life?


  1. Great post! I'm learning how to do the same. I realized the other week that somewhere along the line of my life I've started feeling GUILTY for relaxing. Not a good look!

  2. I know--I feel the same way, which means I never REALLY relax. But sometimes, I'm not REALLY working either. Good luck, and keep me posted on your progress!

  3. I work for a start up so even though I don't own the company I definitely feel like I am available ALL the time! Sometimes I have to make rules for myself - like no checking email on Sundays, getting up an hour early to get to the gym, not bringing the iPhone to the dinner table, etc. So important to have boundaries so the things that are important to my health and well-being don't suffer!

  4. I've been at this self-employment thing for nearly 10 years, and I've found you just have to decide. Decide to do one thing at a time, even though there are half a dozen things tempting you. Decide to turn off the TV when you're writing a blog post. Decide to close the laptop and go outside. Staying focused and staying balanced are in some ways the same. Kudos for taking the weekend off from work! May there be many more...

  5. *Amen*

    This also happens in the academic/scientific world. We're expected to respond at all hours. In part, that comes from the multi-time-zone collaborations that look so good to funding agencies. The rest is the expectation that we are driven by all-consuming passion for our work. Responding to email at 2am is considered important enough that some people cheat and have their computer send out pre-written messages. The passion's there, but it doesn't help if you let it consume the rest of your life.

    Interestingly enough, though, once you start setting some boundaries (e.g. weekends are off-limits unless there's a true deadline), other people become inspired to do the same. It does take work to re-establish the boundaries after they fall to cascading real deadlines, but the boundaries definitely help.

  6. This was awesome. Could really identify with you here. Whenever I remove myself from work, I do it completely. I fly down to visit my fiancee every few weeks and make a point to turn off my phone and generally stay away from the computer until I'm back at the airport. It's the only way my relationships (and sanity) stay in tact!

  7. I struggle with this too, but have found that keeping work emails to work days and mostly unplugging on weekends really gives me the boost I need for the next week. Good luck with your new goals!!

  8. It's a thin line we're too often trip on. But try to create space between work and free time, and if possible separate the room also. I've noticed that there are so many things that need my attention when I'm supposed to work at home. And try to schedule time/ breathing spaces between meetings every day to get your brain room to get things in order and stay creative. But the most important is not to feel bad about failure – because fail is an option. Just start over – read a book for a while and try again…

  9. Especially like More play breaks with my dog. :-)

  10. Exercise as an appointment to be kept, not activities to squeeze in... I love that. Need to start living by it.

    Keep it up Laura!

  11. Wow! This is really interesting. I applaud you for taking these bold steps to organize your life on your terms and not someone else's!

    For me, because my life is really a whole thing without compartments, I don't really have separation. I just have priorities. Another thing that helps greatly is to have help. For example, I have hired someone to help me keep my house clean. My husband and I, along with the kids, do the big things like laundry, cooking and daily dishes. But someone else vacuums, dusts, scrubs and shines. This frees me up to focus on things that I enjoy about my life, whether it's my family and friends or serving my clients -- which I really love doing as well.

    I use planning tools to prioritize all this stuff and just get to it. There is a lot of overlap but I am comfortable with that. Everyone has to find their own boundaries and then stick to them.

    Good for you, and thanks for sharing on this hugely important topic!

  12. Laura, You're right about the boundaries, esp. as a solo PR. But it's a weird mix.

    On one hand I can take more personal time during the year, just pack up the laptop and go. On the other hand, my work then travels with me, meaning I take "workations."

    Multitasking can work but with the right priorities. Projects like catching up on blogs and Twitter can share my time while high level client work gets my full attention.

    I'm setting my boundaries by not constraining myself by them. I give myself personal time, freedom to do what I need when I need to. If I get the inspiration for a client newsletter or blog article at 11 at night, I work on it. So if I get my nails done during the middle of the day, I do. FWIW.

  13. SO proud of you Laura!! This is great reading for any entrepreneur who's gotten caught in the hamster wheel of busy.

    Can't wait to see what setting these boundaries creates for you. YAY!

  14. Great post and great reminder for me. I've been self employed for 12 years and it took me 8 to decide that I had to set boundaries. I followed them religiously for 3 but in the last year, I've fallen back to my old ways. Your post has been a great reminder that boundaries are a good thing and that when I have them everything gets better.

  15. Great timing. I'm trying to figure this out as I'm on week 2 of being a stay at home mom as well as get my own business really off the ground. And it is difficult to know which direction to jump sometimes. Scheduling exercise is a must though and something I need to move up the priority list.

  16. Laura - Great stuff! Glad you are drawing lines around what really matters.

    Ironically, when people ask for advice when they are too busy at work, I usually ask them, "What is your hobby?" To which they respond, "I don't have time for a hobby!"

    I tell them they don't have time not to! In fact, spending more time on yourself will result in more time and productivity at work.

    It just works that way. :)

    Best wishes,


  17. Struck a chord ! So I'm doing a little of the opposite -- In corporate, boundaries: worked 7-6ish, no weekends, no evenings, etc. No cell on vacation. Carried over to my business -- but now I have classes to hold at night, so yikes. I can't work all day and into the night, so I have a 'deal' I made with myself. If I have a class at night, I sleep in and take my gym workout during the day. Yikes. But it's working.

  18. Very true. And you know, when you start setting boundaries, people start to respect them. If you are always available, people start to take you for granted. When you respect your own time, it's funny how often other people start to respect your time too.

  19. As usual I could have written this myself. I also tried this weekend to stop working. My phone battery died on Sunday and I did not charge it. I painted my livingroom instead, which was much overdue. I spent time with my kids and I didn't even go out of business! It is hard, I too feel guilty when I try to "relax". But lately, I have started to feel burnout coming on, just when it is most important for me to be focussed on growing my business! BALANCE BALANCE BALANCE. My new mantra.

  20. We all have to go through this process. In 2008 I took only one full day off (Christmas), and frankly that was only because I couldn't get internet access at my grandmother's house in the country. I knew that in 2009 I couldn't do the same, and like you, decided to make changes. But, it's somewhat of an experiment - trying a little of this, and a little of that - to see what works best for you. Determining your priorities is an awesome first step. Now to put it into practice (and keep it going!).

  21. I love this. And I love the picture. :-)

    One thing that has helped me is to stop checking my email once I get home from work (which is usually after 7 or 8 PM, but still).

    I also wait to check email until after I arrive at my office in the morning, and check by phone only when necessary. These changes have saved a bit of time here and there, but mostly energy. I have twelve hours a day AWAY from email and my business. I do spend most of that time sleeping, but still! It's something. :-)

  22. Thank you all so much for your comments and insight. You have added so much to this conversation, and it feels great to know that we are all supporting one another as we try to establish boundaries and priorities for our lives.

  23. I've been a solo PR pro for 15 years, and I'm a firm believer that you *must* set boundaries, take vacations, observe holidays, etc. Not saying it's easy or that we don't forget on occasion, but taking breaks is the key to longevity.

    And by the way, it's also been proven to help with your creativity and productivity. So enjoy that time for yourself -- you've most certainly earned it!

  24. What a very wonderful post. Being a FTE, solo entrepreneur, wife, stepmom, daughter, sister, friend, can all be very daunting.

    While it's important for me to build my empire, I also do not want to sacrifice my relationships. Thinking about this every now and again prompts me to shift my priorities. I sometimes convince myself that I'm probably doing things no differently than Martha and Oprah. Surely this is how they started out. Then I get a quick side eye from Mr TBS (who is usually tres, tres tolerant) or I feel an anxiety attack around the bend.

    Burning the candle at both ends is not the best but I, too, am beginning to become more adept at stepping away from the laptop, engaging with people who have no interest in social media (yes...there are a few left...my mother being one of them) and actually breathing. Yes. There's that matter of actually breathing.

  25. There are days that I am forever grateful that I can remember fondly my career days without faxes, email, cell phones, twitter, PCs,laptops, facebook, internet, youtube, skype, webinar, blogs...the list is never ending. Today I still work about 12 hours, from my home, my children are grown...however, still my children. My husband and I still eat dinner together and we always have. Remember to take care of yourself, respect yourself...others will reciprocate. Here is a link to one of my posts that will show you how far...life has come or not. http://bit.ly/cwW4YL

  26. It's especially hard to have boundaries between home and work when there are no physical ones. When you work at the table where you eat, say. I like being in the middle of the action, so I enjoy having my work space in the middle of the house - but at the same time, I hate having to ignore my husband when he's in the same room. It'd be good to have a room that says "I'm working" when I'm in it, so that when I leave it, it means I've left work for the day. Can't really do that when you work half the time on the sofa.

  27. Lauara - loved your thoughts!

    Boundaries allow you to focus, and make each event more enjoyable, more efficient I think :) Would you agree?



Thank you so much for reading my blog! I'd love to hear from you!



Blog Widget by LinkWithin