3 Tips for Building Boundaries with Your Schedule

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A week or so ago I mentioned in my insta-stories that I was working on creating spaciousness and boundaries in my schedule for the month of August and you guys were all about it! I asked if I should share more about this process and it was a hell yes across the board so here I am, settling in to share with you what my own methods for creating a schedule that feels really good and supportive feels like. Everything I share here is what I have been doing in my own life that is working to help me create the best quality of life possible.

I’m going to go ahead and put a little disclaimer here: This is coming from my personal perspective as an introvert who needs time alone to recharge and does not feel energized and motivated by a fuller schedule. I also am not a mama or have others schedule intertwined with my own and I recognize that adds a whole other dynamic to boundaries around time.

Allow me to give you some back story …

Back in July I found myself in a mini meltdown. A spiral of doom around feeling pulled in too many directions, committed to too many things, and feeling resentful that my dreams and aspirations kept falling by the wayside. This prompted my journal article on re-inventing my to-do lists but it went so much deeper than that.

There are two contributors to this mini meltdown of mine: 1. I had failed to adapt my schedule when I committed to taking on part time work for 20 hours a week and was trying to operate like I had been for the two years that I was 100% self employed. 2. I had leaky AF boundaries and had become a ‘Yes’ woman.

As I moved through the layers of my spiral I first blamed everyone else for not realizing that I needed time to work on my dreams, that they didn’t value me because they didn’t respect my schedule, that they always needed me and what if I denied them my help? #gross. This of course was my own denial of responsibility of my time and needs. Observing this though helped me see where I had allowed my boundaries to crumble and in the aftermath I had lost sight of my needs and goals.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?

It was from here, the realization that I had been responsible for feeling drained by my life, that I was able to wipe my nose, re-square my shoulders, and step back in to my rightful role as the Gatekeeper of my time.

Before we dive into some helpful tips for re-building those boundaries, take a moment and see if you are experiencing any of the tell-tale signs of an over-filled and under-satisfying schedule:

  • Your week ahead makes you feel anxious

  • It seems more challenging to fit in your personal time- self care, spiritual practice, hobby

  • You find yourself wanting to cancel more frequently (whether you actually do cancel or not, the desire is there)

  • Feelings of frustration and resentment over the demands of your time start to bubble up

  • When you do get free time you use it to escape through Netflix binging or mindless scrolling

If you answered yes to any of these then definitely read on my friend …

Tip #1 Assess the Situation & Course Correct Immediately

Pull out that planner, open up that calendar app and take a long and honest look at whats filling your time. Does something immediately grab your attention as being a drag? Conflicting with how you really want to be spending your time right now? Pay close attention to the commitments that make you think ‘well I should …’ or that you feel an obligation toward.

Real Life Example: When I opened my planner I realized I was not looking forward to my bi-weekly volunteer gig and that it wasn’t feeling good to spend my time in that space anymore. I also realized that the amount of coffee and lunch dates I was scheduling was taxing my energy and time that I wanted to be channeling towards my work. The volunteering brought up discomfort around obligation and the coffee dates brought up a lot of ‘shoulds’. But in the end, I needed to breakup with my volunteer group (even if for awhile) and pair back my coffee dates to conserve time for projects. Once I did this I felt much lighter in my mind and body.

The key here is not to tell yourself you will deal with it later. As soon as I realized that I need to pull back on my volunteer hours I immediately called and talked to the coordinator. I also committed to taking a month off from coffee and lunch dates- not because I don’t love my friends but because taking time from my workdays was keeping me from showing up fully for my goals and dreams.

Tip #2 Stop the Time Suckers

We know them and love them- the streaming, social media, and gaming apps that silently take away hours of our week. I am not anti any of these things, in fact I really enjoy instagram, and how could I watch Queer Eye without Netflix? I did realize that I was spending more of my downtime checking out by scrolling or watching a show (or two) instead of doing things that made me feel more fulfilled.

We cannot add more time to the day, friends. We can only direct how we spend that time.

So what might be taking up more of your time that leaves you scrambling afterward? Or worse, derails you from doing what you truly want to at all? Take back that power instead of letting them have power over you.

Real Life Example: I noticed I was scrolling a lot more after dinner than I had been in the past few months (since my 3 month social media cleanse to be exact). I was checking out because I wasn’t tuning in to what I really needed. So I went into my settings and added the time blocks on my phone that locks apps after 7pm and before 7am. This has helped tremendously. In the first week alone I read 1 1/2 books and filled many a notebook page with course and content ideas for my work. That, to me, was an increase in quality of life.

What are 2-3 steps you can begin to take right now to reduce the things that create a time vortex for you? Reclaim that time and I guarantee you will breathe a bit easier. Its an empowering step that helps strengthen you to do some of the more challenging boundary work like …

Tip #3 Say No with Confidence and Compassion

Many of us struggle with saying ‘No’. It is something I have been working on for years with my healer and in therapy. It ebbs & flows on how confident and consistent I am in saying ‘no’ and it’s safe to say I was not doing this very well at the beginning of the summer! Saying ‘no’ can feel contradictory when you desire to be of service, helpful, and you care about the people who are requesting something from you. But it can quickly lead to resentment, frustration, and create wobbly integrity in your relationships and partnerships.

This is where learning to say ‘no’ with confidence and compassion can refortify your boundaries, create respect in relation to others, and most of all- protect your well-being. We become so afraid of communicating our needs to others we disconnect from our ability to do so clearly and authentically. I have found that clear and honest communication has been one of the strongest allies in creating more space in my schedule.

Real Life Example: When I realized I needed to start saying ‘no’ to invites and requests I cringed a bit. I didn’t want to let people down but I also didn’t want to keep feeling the way I was. My first opportunity came in the form of a request to schedule a lunch with a dear friend. I had committed to my month of no lunch or coffee dates so I could get some projects off the ground (and this decision felt really good) but felt wobbly in saying no. So I thought, ‘ How can I express this no in the most honest and authentic way?’ Well, it came out as telling her I would typically love to get lunch with her but her request has come at a time when I am keeping my days open to get some big projects done. I can’t commit to anything right now but could we touch base in September about going to our favorite restaurant?’ She completely understood and even thanked me for being honest with her. I was so worried and worked up over nothing!

This isn’t to say some folks won’t understand when you tell them ‘no’ confidently and compassionately. I had one or two of those as well, but that is their work to do for themselves. I truly believe when we stand in our boundaries we allow the space and opportunity for others to stand in theirs. It opens up space for more integrity in our community.

Some ways to confidently and compassionately say ‘no’ …

  • I am so grateful for your invitation and that you thought of me, however, I am already committed to x,y,z (and be honest what your x,y,z, is!). I hope you will think of me again in the future because I would love to connect! (if this is true)

  • I have been really over-extended lately and am working to create some spaciousness in my schedule. I need to say no this time but perhaps we can touch base in a few weeks? (even setting a date to reconnect on can reassure sincerity).

  • I already had plans at that time to … (work on my dreams, do some self care, spend time with my dog, etc etc) … and I want to honor that time I had set aside for that.

  • That sounds like a really great opportunity but it is not the right timing/kind of opportunity I am looking to take on right now.

Always be honest in your ‘no’ and though some herald that you should never have to explain your no’s I have found that when you are establishing boundaries with those around you letting them in on how you prioritize your time can help them understand you better. This will often lead to more positive interactions in the future and again, when we are honest about our needs it allows them to honest about theirs too!

One saying I do love though? ‘If its not a hell yes then its a hell no’! and I fully stand behind that.

How to continue on …

Once you have stepped back into your role as Gatekeeper of your time, eliminated the time suckers, and are practicing authentic ‘no’s’, then its time to get into the deeper practice of pausing with each invitation, request, opportunity and tune into the gut, the place of your inner knowing, and listen to guidance. Is it a yes? A no? A can I get back with you, I need time to consider it? This is the place I am in currently and it is definitely a practice. The ‘shoulds’ and obligation mindset like to creep back in but like many other things, with practice comes mastery.

How do you create space in your schedule and uphold your boundaries? Have you found any practices or tools helpful?