Instant communication is a dream come true in a lot of ways. What more could we really ask for than communication platforms that make it possible to connect basically anytime and anywhere?
But no matter whether you prefer texting, phone calls, or even the dreaded email, you need to set boundaries.
Yes, instant communication is great. But you know what else is great? Not having to worry about replying to messages at all hours of the night. Not feeling guilty about taking needed time away from work or other responsibilities. Not suffering from debilitating burn out because you’re constantly available.
Setting boundaries with your communication starts the same way you would set other boundaries. You need to identify your limits, pay attention to your feelings, and give yourself permission to set boundaries in the first place.
Identify your limits
One of the communication boundaries I haven’t regret yet in 5+ years is my availability after work. When I leave work for the day, I leave work. My coworkers know they can text me if they really need to, but they also know I won’t guarantee an answer until the next business day.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have positions in which these specific boundaries are made possible and respected. Anyone can set a similar boundary that suits their schedule and needs.
Make it clear to your coworkers or employees that you will have “off” hours and that unless it’s an emergency you won’t be answering messages. Some people may need quiet evenings at home; others may want an uninterrupted afternoon. It’s up to you to decide on the hours and duration you’ll be unavailable.
If you do personally text with clients or customers, make them aware as well. In theory it sounds great to be as accommodating as possible and always remain available. But you may quickly find how limiting it actually is to be at the beck and call of all your customers.
Pay attention to your feelings
Reflect on past experiences to figure out what boundaries you need to set. You’ll likely start seeing patterns.
If answering texts well into the night is interrupting your sleep schedule and your ability to function the next day, you need a boundary.
If you feel extreme guilt after you don’t immediately reply to a text, you need a boundary.
If you feel unreasonably upset when someone else doesn’t immediately reply to your messages, you need a boundary.
Give yourself permission
Simply getting started setting boundaries is honestly the hardest part. Most of us already know how we could better balance our lives, but it’s scary to make a change, especially if we think it could hurt our relationships with others.
Just remember that you’re not completely cutting off contact. You’re simply limiting your communication time, which should ultimately help you help the business even more. If you feel like you need permission, this is it.
You know yourself best, and it’s very possible you know the business best. Don’t let other people dictate what you will or won’t do. Be reasonable with your expectations and you’ll avoid most problems making a transition to your new boundaries.
Keep in mind that not all boundaries will be completely personal or specific to you but could instead be boundaries for the business. Besides availability hours, you may want to set boundaries related to topics you’re willing to discuss with employees or customers (to maintain a certain level of professionalism), the number of people at work allowed to communicate with customers/clients via text or social media (to decrease the possibility of miscommunication), or even what devices/platforms your business uses to communicate (to ensure you’re only using what works).