Practicing Being Unavailable: the Art of Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries can be difficult for those of us who are overachievers. It’s not our default setting.
Instead, we’re wired to be constantly available, tackling problems and checking items off to-do lists.
We thrive on achievement and solving problems.
But – this mindset doesn’t always serve us, or our businesses, well.
Practicing unavailability isn’t just a skill that’s nice to have; it’s a necessity for maintaining your mental health, productivity, and overall quality of life.
It’s also essential if you want to exit your business one day.
The Art of Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries in a healthy way means creating deliberate containers for your time and energy.
It’s a conscious effort to define when you’ll answer calls, do work-related tasks – or dedicate time to personal or family matters.
This deliberate approach is a game-changer, and it allows you to take control of your time – and, ultimately, your life.
There are lots of different ways to set boundaries.
While some people might thrive on structured time blocking, you may prefer a more flexible approach.
It’s not about conforming to a specific method, but more about discovering what works best for you.
Whether you divide your day into focused time blocks or embrace themes for certain days, the goal is to provide your brain with breathing space and reduce the burden of multitasking.
Why We Need to Practice Saying No
The journey to unavailability starts with the powerful act of saying no.
This is about embracing the idea that not every opportunity, task, or social engagement deserves your time and attention. Learning to decline politely, without unnecessary apologies, is a skill that brings you both freedom and autonomy.
We all know that over-committing ourselves can lead to burnout, but we tend to underestimate the true risk here.
Protecting your mental health means being selective about the projects and engagements you accept.
It’s about recognizing that saying no is a form of self-care, and it helps make sure you never reach the breaking point where everything falls apart.
If you don’t practice saying no, you are never going to get to the point where you truly have freedom in your business.
Establish boundaries that safeguard your personal time, ensuring you don’t compromise on the quality moments you spend with your loved ones.
Tips for Getting Started
For a recovering overachiever, saying, “no” the first time can be the hardest. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Apply a “hell, yes” filter – Adopt the philosophy that, “if it’s not a hell, yes, it’s a no.” This mantra serves as a North Star, helping you tell the difference between genuine enthusiasm and obligation.
- Identify Your Priorities: Know your non-negotiables in life and work. When your choices are in alignment with your values and the things most important to you, everything feels easier – even saying no.
- Communicate Simply: Say no clearly but kindly, without lengthy explanations. “Unfortunately, I can’t commit to that right now”, is enough to get the point across without being rude. Much better than making up an excuse or telling a white lie to get out of it.
- Start Small: Practice saying no to minor requests first. BJ Fogg suggests that starting with tiny habits makes it easier to create lasting change.
- Leverage Technology: Use email autoresponders, do-not-disturb settings, and calendar blocks. Make tech your friend and cut off intrusions at the pass.
- Schedule Personal Time: Treat self-care as a non-negotiable appointment. There’s something about having it on your calendar that makes it seem like a formal commitment that you’re less likely to cancel at the last minute.
- Reframe Your Mindset: Saying no to one thing means saying yes to something more important. Like…YOU and your priorities.
- Set Boundaries Proactively: Define your working hours, preferred communication methods, and workload management upfront. If you don’t create a structure, it’s harder to know what to say no or yes to.
- And Regularly Review Them: Adjust them as your life and priorities evolve. We don’t live in a vacuum, so we need to adjust as our situation changes.
- Be Patient: Understand that setting boundaries is a skill that improves over time. You’re going to slip up along the way and say yes to some things you’ll later wish you hadn’t. Just review the tips above and keep on going. You’ll get better and better with practice.
The art of being unavailable isn’t just about creating an empty schedule – it’s about curating a life that aligns with your values.
Think of it like a journey of self-discovery, finding balance between productivity and fulfillment.
Remember, the first steps might feel uncomfortable, but with practice, setting boundaries will become second nature. So, protect your time, prioritize what truly matters, and reclaim your freedom.
If you’d like a partner in this journey, I’d be happy to walk alongside you.
Set up a strategy session and we’ll plan how best to make you unavailable.
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