My training and background is a Journalist — a content creator. The tactics and techniques I learned to be a good, ethical reporter have helped me my entire career. Being a good writer is key to being a great content creator, but there are many, many “rules” of journalism that have helped me in my career and now, as a business owner. These tactics may not be for you, but boundary setting is a lifelong practice that evolves as you evolve in your personal and professional lives, so take some time to think about if one — or more — of these tips might just be for you!
Boundaries. Oh, how I love to hate that word. I’ve had to set boundaries from day 1 in my career. You see, I started my career as a journalist. And journalists have to get the story without ever being the story. They have to connect without engaging and they have to give the facts without any fluff.
At least, that’s what they train us to do.
Say what you will about the media (and believe me, I have my own opinions too), the nitty-gritty tactics of setting boundaries that I learned in my undergraduate career have helped me more than I realized.
As a business owner, you have to set boundaries with clients, colleagues and employees. You have to set boundaries with your followers, friends and family members. And setting those boundaries isn’t always easy but when you set them effectively and efficiently? Your success expands.
These three techniques have always helped me level my expectations when it comes to boundaries and they are tools I pull out of my tool belt on a regular basis in my ever-changing practice of setting boundaries. I hope they help you too… and if you are stuck? Tweet me! I’d love to have this discussion with you.
It is Not About You
This one is the most important piece of solid boundary setting practices — when people push your boundaries, it is often not about you as an individual. It is about something in their past or, if it’s a trigger that’s coming up for you, it’s something in yours. When you feel a boundary is being pushed, take a moment or write a note to examine for later — write down the 5 W’s and an H of what’s happening —
Who is making me feel like this?
What is it about their request that is creating this trigger?
When have I felt like this in the past?
Where have I felt like this?
Why have I felt like this?
How have I coped in the past?
I use 5 W’s and an H (another journo-technique) to do a lot of things — from content strategy and creation to brand personas — and it felt natural for me to employ these 6, simple questions in this instance as well. As you get more familiar with the practice, you won’t always have to go through all of the questions but the practice itself can often calm you down and help you process instead of a quick reaction that may not be the best way to proceed.
Create a Chain of Command
When you’re freelancing, side-hustling or starting out in your career, it can be hard to simply say “no” outright. Young women often feel this push and pull strongly — they feel the need to justify the no with another statement or authority. And I’m not judging — I have been in your shoes so I know what this feels like. It is AWFUL! The best way to tackle this is to think about an editorial team — as a young journalist, I often had to cover breaking news events that weren’t pretty. And every time a bystander would lash out, I would often say “my editor requires that I cover this story.” Do not mistake this technique for passing the buck — think about it as a way of saying that the chain of command demands that you do A, B and C in order to move forward.
As a solopreneur, one way to do this is to create separate email addresses for billing and customer service. That way, once you have a team, a chain of command will already be established and you won’t have to make massive announcements about changes unless you want to.
As someone just starting out in their career and/or making their way up the corporate ladder, you can employ this technique too. In your mind, create a person of authority. It could be you, at a further stage in your career, or it could be someone you admire. When holding your boundary, do it as that person and imagine what they would say to you if you didn’t hold the boundary. This is best done with love as holding your boundary with anger or fear doesn’t erase the problem and often exacerbates it.
Policy + Procedure = Productivity
Great journalism organizations have an editorial policy and procedure — I’ve built several editorial style books in the past and I can tell you that one thing this does is create a record of how things are done and, most often, an understanding across the organization of why things are done.
You don’t have to do something as formal as creating a Boundary Book for yourself, but a few well-placed post-its go a LONG way.
Mantras — something I share daily on Facebook and Instagram with my audience — are one way of establishing a Boundary Book of Policy and Procedure. For me, this helps me remember the practice I started with item one, the boundaries I’ve established and worked through, and they also serve as a reminder of all of the things I’ve accomplished to date by holding true to my boundaries.
Reinforcement of your boundaries is, as I’ve said several times, a lifelong practice. Doing the work to hold these boundaries will help you in your career — it’s how I tripled my salary in four short years in New York City in communications, as a woman!, and how I built a 6-figure business in six weeks by securing enough contracts to quit my full-time job.
Without boundaries, I wouldn’t be where I am today and for me, that is something I can never, ever let myself forget.