Pursue What Matters
Episode 161: Setting Boundaries with Yourself
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. If you find yourself chronically doing too much, it’s time to set some boundaries with yourself.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:11
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So a couple of weeks ago, I asked the question, are you doing too much? And probably a lot of you say, Yes, that’s true for for so many of us. And then last week, I did a great book review of the book, The Art of saying no, so maybe if you’ve been listening, you’re starting to get my point. If you are prone to doing too much, you may need to learn to say no, a bit more often. And so today, I want to help you do that. And the first person you need to start with is you. That’s right. So don’t look side to side, look in the mirror, it’s time to really get straight with yourself in terms of doing too much, and setting some boundaries with yourself. Because as you learn to set some boundaries with yourself, you’ll get a lot better at setting boundaries with others. So again, so many of us are our own worst enemy, we say yes, when we should say no, we spread ourselves too thin, we end up being exhausted, resentful, and frayed, at the edges, right. And that is really the path to burnout. So let’s not do that. Any more.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:42
So today, I’m going to help you understand the main causes of doing too much did you know that there are a few different areas where that shows up. And then I have a ton of ideas to help you set boundaries with yourself and others. So I don’t want to overwhelm you, right. Because if you’re someone who does too much, you might listen to all these ideas and feel like you need to do them all don’t do that, that would not be effective. I just want to help you generate some ideas and really help you think about of the three categories. Where do you find yourself getting caught, and then maybe choosing one thing in that category to to work with, right? The goal is that we’re going to be doing less of things that really don’t serve you so that you can really focus on where you can do your best work. So I’ve got a lot of ideas, but we don’t want you to, to take it too far there. So of course every week with the podcast, my goal is to help you pursue a matters. By strengthening your confidence to lead I do that in one of three ways, leading with clarity, which helps to connect you to purpose, leading with curiosity, which helps you to develop curiosity and self awareness and self leadership, and then leading and building a community on the three, the three causes of burnout, right that the categories where we see the doing too much show up, are so relevant to work, because, you know, you might find ways at work that you get caught in this trap, if you’re a leader, you might find ways that you’re trapping others, because maybe you’re giving them too much to do. So we don’t want to punish the really competent folks at work. And, you know, unfortunately, that happens a lot.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:21
So let’s start with our first point, which is that burnout has different causes. So it’s really important to understand that. So if we think about doing too much, it’s just another way of thinking about burnout, there are three main causes that we are going to pay attention to. So first is work related. So these are situations that are external to you, for the most part. So you still have to deal with them. But you didn’t necessarily cause them, of course, they impact you. And we really want you to pay attention to those and see what you can do to help yourself. And, you know, think about the boundaries that you might need to set. Now, of course, we’re focusing on boundaries, you need to start with yourself. But as you listen along, you might find there are some boundaries, you need to start with other people. And I think that’s, that can be very true when it comes to work related causes and so, you know, some of the causes of those are feeling like you have little or no control over your work. There’s a lack of recognition or reward for good work. There’s maybe unclear or overly demanding job expectations, maybe you’re doing work that’s monotonous, or unchallenging, or you’re working in a pretty chaotic or high pressure environment. So those are the work related causes of doing too much and burnout. And so now let’s understand the second cause of doing too much and burnout. So that is lifestyle causes.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:54
So it here’s the category where you have a lot more control. So this is a good Rate point of intervention. So listen up, as we talk about some of the boundaries that you could set with yourself lifestyle will present several opportunities for that. So some examples of lifestyle causes of doing too much, you’re working too much, you lack balance between work socializing, and relaxing, you lack close supportive relationships, you take on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others, maybe you don’t get enough sleep. So we just think about good self care in terms of sleep, exercise, rest, all those good things. So that’s the second cause of doing too much, or burnout. Now let’s move to the third one. Now this one can feel kind of pesky, it can be a little more intractable, it’s definitely there’s definitely a lot of room for for change and improvement that this category is personality. So we think about personality traits, that traits that may make you a little more susceptible to burnout. And as someone who definitely has been vulnerable for burnout, to to burnout, I recognize a lot of these personality traits. And what I would also say is, I’ve been able to create a lot of meaningful change in these areas. So hope is not lost. And you know, you don’t have to take my word for that there’s really good research foundation for the fact that these are movable, right? Personality is stable. But these traits we can absolutely work with in a different way.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:36
So what are some of the personality traits that really can make you very vulnerable to doing too much, so perfectionism, that’s a big one, a self critical view of yourself, because you’ll just keep pushing yourself to the brink. Maybe you have pessimism about the world. And the future, right like that really undermines your optimism and your ability to harvest excitement and motivation for the work, which of course, paves the way to burnout. Maybe you’re controlling, maybe you have difficulty delegating, maybe you’re very high achieving, so you’re not perfectionistic, but you are a high achiever. And then, of course, the Type A personality, right, so you’re just a hard charger, you don’t really, you know, you don’t really let small things go, you’re very competitive. And so some of these personality traits just listening to them, you can kind of see how, how they might set you up for doing too much. And also what I would say, is just feeling kind of miserable about things. So that’s our first point is understand that burnout has three different causes. And today, we’re going to talk about three primary causes of doing too much. So now let’s head to let’s jump into the details of these causes. And right, we’re getting to the meat of the podcast, which is I’m going to give you some boundaries.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:01
So we’re on to our second point, which is I want you to set work related boundaries, right. So the first cause of doing too much is work related. And so we’re going to talk about each of these points. And I’m going to give you some recommendations. I’m going to give you some questions, maybe you can ask yourself, maybe you can, can consider asking at work. So you know, one of the first areas of concern with the work related issues is feeling like you have little or no control over your work. So some questions for you are there ways you can have a bit more autonomy at work, we know that autonomy at work is one of the biggest predictors of job satisfaction, low turnover, and commitment to culture and vision. And so having autonomy at work really is a game changer. So listen up you hierarchical leaders, make sure you have autonomy for your folks, right that that they shouldn’t be wills cogs in a wheel, right, that they should have some autonomy in the work and it will really right, it makes your job easier. It makes everyone happier. So that’s the first question, are there ways you can have a bit more autonomy at work? So we think about even a little more flexibility in your schedule. So a day when you can come in late or leave early, having just a little bit of flexibility in your schedule can make a big difference because it brings you some autonomy. I know so for myself, right? Like I’ve been in charge of my schedule for a long time. But for a lot of a lot of that time, I’ve been pretty rigid, right? I had high expectations for myself to be in the clinic by a certain time. And, you know, one day I just kind of step back a little bit and ask myself like, why do I need to be so rigid? I could create a little more flexibility in my schedule and certainly Still, you know, contributing a lot of work. But I can’t tell you what a difference that flexibility has brought to me. Right? So the work is, is very similar, right. But when I know you know what I can, I can take a little more time at home in the morning, if I would like to like giving myself permission to do that has really, it has absolutely increased my job satisfaction. And that sounds like a very small thing. But it’s not because autonomy is not a small thing, that autonomy makes a big difference. And so I certainly recognize that not everyone has that sort of flexibility, right? Like you might not have that kind of flexibility in your schedule, specifically, right. Like, there’s lots of folks that, that do shift work, and they need to be there at the appointed hour. But are there other ways that you can create a little more flexibility? So maybe it’s not on schedule, but maybe it’s an another area of the work?
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:01
Okay. And then I want you to also get curious about how others might be creating flexibility in their schedule. So what are they doing, that you can maybe learn from? What can you learn from other folks at work? So, you know, one of the ways that I realized this, the flexibility in the schedule is like, I never took a lunch. And I would see some of my colleagues go to lunch, and come back and right, they were getting this social time, they were getting a break from the work, they’re getting a good meal. And that that was the other thing. One day, I’m like, Why? Why don’t I go to lunch like I could do that, I could make that work. And that helps us to balance work and social connection, which is really important. That’s one of the boundaries that we’ll talk about in a little bit. So I just want you to ask yourself a couple of those questions and consider how you could create a little more autonomy and flexibility in your schedule. So when it comes to work related boundaries, another area of concern is the feeling of a lack of recognition or reward for your good work. So these are my recommendations in terms of some boundary, some things that you can do to help yourself, document your good work, I am really serious about that keep track of all the good work you do. So you know, as a professional, as a psychologist, I keep a curriculum vitae, or a Vita around. It’s, it’s a fan, it’s a fancy resume, right. So it’s a little more involved, because you have research, publications, presentations, that sort of thing. But I tried to keep this update updated. And it’s really good, because I have a running document of my good work. And that’s a really good case to make for yourself, it’s also a really good case to make to others. So not that you’re necessarily going to go looking for another job, but it helps you to really document the work that you’ve been doing. So my guy friend is in the military, and they have a similar, they have a similar process. It’s so very bureaucratic, bureaucratic progress process, because of course, it is the military. But he he has to really reflect once a year, he has to document all the good work that he has done. And of course, that goes into rank and advancement, and all of that sort of thing. But it’s good. Because if you if you document that some it can strengthen your case where you know, I’m gonna go in and ask for a raise, or, you know, I think it’s time for me to be developing in my career a little bit more. So you can make a good case for yourself. And so having that boundary for yourself can help you to assert yourself in other areas. So this can be really helpful for building courage when you ask for more autonomy. So again, check out what I just said about autonomy. So when we think about this recognition issue, make your case to your supervisor. The truth is some supervisors and bosses are just lousy at acknowledging good work. And maybe it’s just because they don’t have eyes for it. Maybe they’re so busy in the work that they don’t feel like they have the luxury or the time to acknowledge that but you leaders, you got to do that it’s really, really important. Maybe they don’t realize how important the recognition is. We know from the Leadership Research, that recognition is incredibly important. And that’s not just monetary recognition. In fact, money, money can help but it it’s limited in how effective it is. It’s much more valuable for us to see how our work connects to a higher purpose or how we contributed how we helped someone how we helped a client, that recognition is really valuable to folks. And maybe your supervisor just needs a nudge in the right direction.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:51
So you can really help her or him out with that. So the other point that I want you to pay attention to is asking yourself off what recognition or reward would be meaningful for you? So would it be a race? Would it be a promotion? Would it be a title change? Would it be a little more autonomy. So think about that. Keep that in mind so that you can carry that with you for, you know, conversations with folks at work. So another area, where it might be helpful to set some boundaries for yourself as it relates to work is in the area of unclear or overly demanding job expectations. So here’s what you can do here, you can ask for clarification, you can point out scope creep, right? Like, oh, my goodness, like, when I started this job a year ago, these were my responsibilities. And now we’ve creeped to, you know, 10 more responsibilities, that can be really important to take note of set boundaries related to scope creep, or renegotiate your terms, asked for a detailed job description, that detailed job description is really helpful for you as well, so that you don’t overdo it. So you don’t do more than you should be, which can undermine your effectiveness in your core job responsibilities, ask for direction on how to prioritize new tasks against existing expectations. And that’s a really important thing to do. Because we can get new tasks or responsibilities piled on us very easily. And it can be hard to know how to prioritize them, or how to make them fit. And so I think asking whoever assigned that to you, hey, how do you want me to prioritize this against existing expectations is really good because it puts the ball in their court again, and it becomes a shared responsibility in terms of getting things done effectively, while not undermining what’s you know, what you already have existing in terms of commitments. So another thing you can do here is try saying no on small things.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:02
First, I think that can be really helpful. Another area of work related boundaries and concerns is doing work that’s monotonous or challenging. We don’t want to do that. So I want you to consider joining a project that excites you, you could ask for Google time. So with Google, at a certain point, they had 8020 time, where they spent 80% of their time on their specific Google responsibilities. But then they had 20% of their time that they could spend on special projects and the 20% of the time, really, I mean, that’s where a lot of the innovation and creativity from Google came from. So you might not be able to ask for at 20 time, but maybe you could ask for 9010 time, where you can work on a special project that where you have a lot of energy, and excitement, you could also consider how you can improve a process and then consider proposing it to someone with an open ear that can help you to be more engaged and have a little more challenge at work. So one of the other areas. So this is the last area of the work related concerns where we want to think about maybe setting some boundaries is that maybe you work in a chaotic or high pressure environment. So I want you to consider how you can bring in predictability, even when the environment is unpredictable. So you know, one thing that you could do is you could pack a lunch, right? So you know, for those who worked in shiftworker in the hospital, right, I got a guy friend that works in the emergency department, you know, packing a lunch or packing some food can actually be really helpful because it’s like, okay, I know I can get something to eat, I might not be able to head down to the cafeteria or to the docks lounge to get that but I am not going to starve right on the on the shift. And that can also be helpful, especially if, you know, people are ordering all sorts of food that might not be a great fit for you or might not help you to have the energy you need to get through your shift. Other things you can do, what can you count on at work, even if it is small. So the example of packing the lunch or knowing you know what, it’s a busy day that I know, I’m going to have this 15 minute block where I’m just going to shut the door. I’m going to go to a quiet place by myself and rest for a few minutes.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:23
You can also discuss the nature of the work with colleagues. Do they find it chaotic as well? What have they found helpful for them to thrive in this crazy environment? And then how can you feel support at work? So just having a conversation can help you to feel more supported? Because you know, you’re not alone. You know, that it is a challenge for other people. And that might also create an opening for larger conversations about okay, how do we all want to deal with this together because we’re all dealing with it kind of on our own But how can we support one another? Are there opportunities for changes, so it can be less chaotic. And then you know, asking yourself whether there are maybe some solutions that you’ve missed that are working for others. Because right, when you’re doing too much, it’s hard to think creatively. And so maybe there are some solutions that are working for others that you’ve just missed. Okay, so now we’re gonna head to our third point, which is we want to set some lifestyle related boundaries. So this is the area where you have a lot more control, it’s a great point of intervention. So some of the ways we go sideways with the lifestyle boundaries is we work too much. So I would love it if you would set some boundaries with yourself and with colleagues. So set a timer and leave or move to the next task, when the timer buzzes, I’ve done that I’ve absolutely done that when I’ve been working on projects, and it’s been really helpful, hold yourself accountable, tell others you need to leave and ask them to check in with you. I’ve done that. So I had an accountability group. And my goal was to leave the office by a certain hour, and then I had a call with them the next hour. And my goal was to join that call from home instead of at the office, and they would check in with me, and they could tell because they could see my background. And so that really did help make a difference for me. So keep work to specific timeframe. So these are some of the good, good boundaries, you can set with yourself. No, no email after 6pm. No work at home, no texting after hours, right, you will need to choose boundaries that are really fitting for your work. But can you stick to some specific work hours and don’t don’t go outside of those hours, this is particularly important. If you work from home, you got to create some boundaries for yourself. Otherwise, work takes over everything. And you feel like you’re a victim to your job. So the second area where we’d like to set some lifestyle related boundaries. And the concern area is a lack of balance between work socializing and relaxing.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:13
So I want you to build in balance time. So what are some of the ways you can do this. So I already mentioned going to lunch, you could set lunch dates, I started doing that. So I will set lunch dates like with my guy, friend, or other friends. And it really it forces me to to be a little more balanced. And I’m sorry to say I’m at a place where I still need to really set those boundaries with myself. And, you know, I guess I’m not sorry about it, because it’s it’s self awareness and just recognizing you know what, this is what I need to make those changes. And I don’t, I don’t need to get, you know, too critical about that. You could go on a work on a walk during work, you could set a social calendar, so make plans, so that you’re not, so that it’s not easy to just stay at work. And that’s something that I’ve also done, I will make commitments to people in you know, for after work so that I’m not tempted to just stay longer, and put work things away at home. So if you have a work bag, laptop, that sort of thing, put them out of sight, so they can be out of mind. Okay, and then the next area that we want to pay attention to related to lifestyle related boundaries, is the lack of close supportive relationships. So what can you do to strengthen your relationships? Can you call an old friend? Can you get friendly with those that work? Can you join a class, so maybe you join yoga, or a different exercise class, or you join a community education where you’re working on a skill development or hobby group, be friendly, chat with people be open, and strengthen the relationships you already have. So call your sister, talk to your partner, let them know how you’re doing. Right, you gotta make a bit of effort when it comes to the supportive relationships. Because what what can often be true is like we have a lot of people who we care about and who care about us. But if we’re not, if we’re not constantly cultivating those connections, it’s really easy to feel that distance pretty quickly. And for you to then feel alone, which is a big contributor to the burnout. So we really want to stay away from that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:30
Okay, another area when it comes to lifestyle is taking on too many responsibilities. And what I would add to that is without enough help from others, so the real key here is to delegate. You know, I think I’ll do a podcast on delegation. Upcoming because this is a big issue, especially for a lot of those high achieving leaders. You fail to delegate. And so we really do. I think initially, you’ve just got to set that boundary with yourself that you I’m not going to, just because I can do it doesn’t mean I am going to, and really get better at delegation. And that what I would say is that is a practice skill. But once you, once you get some traction, oh my goodness, you’re just gonna like, pick yourself that you didn’t do it sooner. So what can you do, you can delegate, you can ask for help, you can hold others accountable. So rather than fixing it or doing it for them, you need to hold others accountable. It’s just like with parenting, right? It takes way more effort to teach the skill or to hold the kiddo accountable, it’s always easier to do it yourself. But that’s not the point. The point is that you know, those you work with develop the skills, develop the competence, develop the competence. And so in order to do that, you have to hold them accountable, you have to set expectations, you have to support them, and hold them accountable. I also want you to challenge the belief that you need to do at all you do not. And in fact, you’ll be happier and your relationships will will benefit more, and you’ll probably be more successful, if you can challenge that belief. Because none of us were meant to do it all, none of us were meant to go it alone. And then the last area that I just want to touch on related to lifestyle is not getting enough sleep. But I would add to this, it’s just imbalance in health. So when it comes to sleep, give yourself a bedtime. I’m a big fan of sleep hygiene, there’s it makes such a big difference for the quality and the quality of your sleep. So set a timer for when it’s time to start your evening wine down, give yourself at least 30 to 60 minutes for your wine down it really choose your body to start lowering the physiological arousal, it also helps to gear down anxiety or worry or thoughts of the day. So that when you lay down on your pillow, right that, that your body and your mind are actually ready for sleep. And so of course, utilize some sleep hygiene because that can be that can make a big difference. Other ways to create balance is make sure you’re getting balanced, moderate exercise most days of the week, that’ll help you feel a lot better, it also kicks in just a little more balance, because maybe you go on a walk with a friend or a loved one. And so we think about balance with nutrition, as well. So you know, all of those things can really help create some meaningful lifestyle changes. So those are some good boundaries that you can set with yourself, give yourself a bedtime, right? It was good for kids, it’s good for you as an adult as well.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:45
Okay, so now we’re gonna move to point four, which is our third area of boundary. So right, we need to set work related boundaries, we need to set lifestyle focused boundaries, and we need to set personality focused boundaries. So this is the third area that we’re going to talk about. Now. Don’t get down on these because personality is very stable. But there’s a lot of wiggle room on these traits that you can work with. So the first one is the perfectionism if you have perfectionistic tendencies, right? This belief that nothing is ever good enough, I really want you to challenge the effectiveness of perfectionism. And I can tell you right now, that perfectionism is not correlated with achievement, or success is actually correlated with unhappiness, and lower achievement. And so instead, we want to pursue excellence. And, you know, I have a podcast, I believe, on, on the difference there. And so I will link to that, we really do want to challenge perfectionistic tendencies. And you know, when we think about pursuing excellence, said it’s doing our best, but it’s also having a soft place to land. And that moves us into the second area, which is a self critical view of self. So if you struggle with perfectionism, you’re probably pretty self critical. And that, you know, at the end of the day, no one feels better. And it lowers motivation for change. And so instead of that self critical view, I really want you to embrace self compassion. So when you notice yourself, being critical of yourself, just stop it say, I don’t want to talk to myself that way. Try to work with some affirmations. Even if you don’t believe them, maybe just one small thing, which is I’m I’m learning and that’s a good thing. I’m doing my best at this. I’m doing my best at this activity, and you don’t have to be perfect.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:40
So we want to embrace self compassion instead. And of course, I did a book review on The excellent book self compassion, so that can be a helpful primer to you. Another area that we can get tripped up when it comes to the personality is pessimism. Maybe we have pessimism about the world and the future. So I want you to understand the negativity bias as witches, our brains are wired for negativity, it helped us to survive on the savanna is not very helpful to us now in modern life, because we just we can focus too much on negatives without recognizing the positives. So I want you to actively cultivate optimism. Start with small things, having a gratitude practice can really make a big difference and shift you away from pessimism towards more realism, or even optimism, optimism can be a great thing. So we want to just make sure that we’re also taking note of the good in our lives. Okay, another area where personality can trip us up, is maybe your controlling. So I want you to remember that control is just an illusion, it’s not a thing, we do not have control over life, you could walk out the door and get hit by a bus, we don’t have control. So we want we do our best to manage what we can and recognize that uncertainty is always part of the equation. So life is full of anxiety when you are trying to control it. When you try to control life. That is a recipe for spiking anxiety. So we don’t want to do that. We want to learn to ride the waves learn to tolerate uncertainty that will that will help you much more than anything else. And you know, Eckhart Tolle told us that our ability to embrace or to tolerate uncertainty really opens us up to life’s possibilities. And I absolutely see the truth of that. So we want to challenge those tendencies towards control.
Dr. Melissa Smith 31:44
Okay, another area where we can get tripped up with personality is difficulty delegating, we talked about this a little bit. Back when we were talking about lifestyle, so I’m not gonna say much here except to start small, and consider a task that you do not enjoy, and are not well suited to, and think about, okay, how can I delegate that task? Or how can I even delegate one small part of that task. And then the next area when it comes to personality, is maybe your high achieving? And so we want to balance the high achievement with access acceptance of yourself as you are. So can you bring some self compassion and acceptance to yourself in this moment, and so when it comes to these personality focused boundaries, your self talk really makes a difference. We want to have some good boundaries there. And then the last area is, maybe you have a type A personality, right? You’re a competitor, you’re always gunning, that sort of thing. And so I want you this may sound a little crazy, especially to type A’s. But I want you to identify one to two areas of your life where you can be mediocre, that’s serious about that. Choose something where you don’t have any ego or skin in the game. So no ego associated with it, maybe it’s checkers, whatever, right? Like I played codenames this weekend, I’d never played it before. I’m like, I could, I could be totally mediocre at this game. And it’s okay, like, I can still have a really good time. And so choose even just one or two areas in your life where you give yourself permission to be mediocre.
Dr. Melissa Smith 33:18
Okay, so that is the podcast for you today. So again, we talked about different causes of doing too much. And we really wanted to focus on setting some boundaries with yourself, which paves the way to help you set boundaries with others. We talked about the three causes of doing too much, and burnout. So with each of those areas, I gave you a lot of ideas. So the first area was setting work related boundaries. The second area is setting lifestyle related boundaries. And the third one is setting personality focused boundaries. And I just want you to pick one area. And one thing so if you want to listen to the podcast again, there are lots of ideas. And then just do just do one thing. And let that be enough. Because remember, we’re trying to set boundaries with ourselves, we’re trying to do less. And so head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode www.drmelissasmith.com/161-boundarieswithyourself. So one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/161-boundarieswithyourself. So, I’d love to continue the conversation on Instagram I’m at @dr.melissasmith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai