As entrepreneurs and trailblazing womxn, it can be easy to assume that pouring more time into work will yield better results. However, this mentality can lead to burnout, fatigue, and underperforming—clearly not the results we are after.
Rather than being all in all the time, setting boundaries—both in work and in your personal lives—can set you up for sustainable, long-term success. To further unpack this concept, I tapped into the Dreamers & Doers collective to learn about the boundaries these womxn have in place to ensure they are able to thrive. As their reflections show, less truly can be more.
Hold Others Accountable
This year has been all about boundaries for me and it is working so well, especially on a personal level. I am holding people accountable and not dismissing negative or harmful actions made against me. I am usually one to get over things quickly, which is still true, but I have learned that having boundaries such as accountability do not negate my flexibility and adaptability, but rather strengthen it while simultaneously boosting my self respect and confidence.
— Adero Miwo, Founder & CEO, FairFare
Start With the Deep Work
Not checking my email first thing in the morning. In the morning I first do “deep work”—projects I’m working on, or anything that requires more concentrated attention—and then at 11am I can turn to tasks of the day. If I accidentally check email first, I can’t help but react to whatever is there and then have lost the morning. This is based on a book by Cal Newport, and by changing to do deep work first, I feel I have actually accomplished something by noon.
— Sara Banks, Founder & CEO, SteamLine Luggage
Delegate Tasks Not in Your Zone of Genius
I am currently working a full-time job while running my own consulting firm so having boundaries is the only way I can function in either capacity. But the one boundary that completely changed everything for me is delegating things that aren’t aligned with my strengths and don’t live in my zone of genius. There are many things that I have the capacity to do but only a few things that I am uniquely qualified to do. So that sometimes means saying no to things I like so I can do the things I love and being transparent with people about that.
— Shani Syphrett-Haynes, Founder and Principal, Jamila Studio
Prioritize the Value of Your Time
As a high-end tutor, I used to be on call 24/7. Homework crisis at 11pm? No problem. Can’t solve the math problem before the test at 7am? I’ve got you. I became exhausted and resentful of the students that thought they had access to me at all hours. And then I realized that they didn’t have to. By setting boundaries on my time, I taught them to prepare and to search for the answer themselves instead of having a knee jerk reaction of asking for help. In the long run, they became more self-reliant and self-confident, and I could help from a place of support rather than helplessness.
— Mira Katz, Founder, Maison d’Étude
Take All Vacation Days
I think the biggest personal boundary that I learned to set for myself was the importance of taking ALL my vacation days in every job that I have had, and really being on vacation when I’m on vacation. Life is short and precious, and no days are ever guaranteed—and if/when you pass on, that job will continue to go on without you. So, I have set a hard boundary around self care in that aspect.
— Erika Speed, Chief Experience Officer, The Cre8tive Artisan
Honor the Boundaries You Set
For a long time, I was confused by the language around boundaries. Usually I heard the phrase “setting boundaries,” and it sounded like a decision, like something that came from the head to support healthy relationships. I came to understand, using meditation and embodiment practices, what it felt like to encounter, or experience, my boundaries. I realized that the decision was not in creating that experience, but in honoring it when it occurs. This shift has allowed my communication to become clear, non-negotiable, and free of justification.
— Gabriella D’Italia, Artist & Founder, Mirror & Lens
Don’t Start Work Right Away
Choosing to not start any business-related work before 10am has been a total game-changer for me. As someone who historically always tried to squeeze every last bit of work in to prove my worth, this boundary has taught me to trust myself to deliver and to finally learn how to work smarter. As a result, I am now more effective and impactful across all areas of my life by using my mornings to set myself up for success. I rarely ever wake up tired because I don’t set an alarm and this boosts me spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally with a non-pressured routine which includes my daily yoga practice, reading my bible, and dancing around to whatever song inspires me.
— Yewande Faloyin, CEO, Leadership Coach, Management Consultant & Speaker, OTITỌ Consulting
Adjust Phone Notifications
I do not receive notifications on my phone when I receive emails. This has been a critical personal boundary shift for me because in the past, I would get distracted by the alert for whatever just hit my inbox, and lose focus on my personal priorities for the day. Now, I triage my email time into several chunks per day, and don’t look at it at all in between those times. This allows me to focus on what I decide is important to prioritize, not what someone else deemed important to send at that very moment.
— Tara Zedayko, Co-Founder & CEO, DIG labs
Remove Work-Related Apps When on Vacation
Deleting my work email and Slack from my phone when I go on vacation so I don’t get notifications from work or have the urge to check in. I always let people know if they need me, they can call me. It helps me to actually take a vacation and not be on vacation and be thinking about or monitoring what is happening at work.
— Kate Anderson, Co-Founder & Operations Director, iFundWomen
Set Expectations Around Receiving Feedback
One boundary that I set in both my work and personal life has been around feedback. Now, when I share something with others, like website copy or a new design, I tell them explicitly whether I’m looking for feedback, or if I’m just informing them of something new. I think we all default to sharing without setting this expectation and sometimes this can lead to unsolicited or unproductive comments. Setting this boundary has been powerful because it allows me to stay on the same page as those I’m collaborating with. A specific example of this is when I launched my new personal website and a friend provided design feedback that I hadn’t asked for. Before I shared anything else with her, I was able to clarify what I was and wasn’t looking for from her.
— Ada Chen, CEO and Founder, The Cultivate Method
Choose Mentorship Opportunities Wisely
When I started saying “no” to “pick your brain” meetings, I realized how much time and energy I had spent on them over the years. I’ve always loved mentoring and sharing advice, so it had felt natural to network in this way, even if the meetings were usually rather unproductive and disappointing. With this new-found time, I’ve been able to focus more deeply on mentoring at NEW INC, She 256, and Princeton University, and offering pro bono legal services through my boutique law firm and arts-related services through my company Ninth Street Collective. This shift has been incredibly rewarding because it created opportunities to work with more social impact entrepreneurs and underrepresented creative voices.
— Melinda Wang, Serial Entrepreneur, Advisor and Investor, MW Projects
Don’t Take Meetings on Mondays
I stopped taking client calls and meetings on Mondays and it has been a game-changer! Instead of feeling stressed on Sunday nights/experiencing Sunday Scaries, I’m able to really enjoy my weekend and by the time I open up my computer on Monday, I feel refreshed and excited about diving back into work. And because this day is now reserved for personal creative work and big-picture planning/strategy for my business, I feel more grounded and less stressed during the rest of the week. I know exactly what small tasks and responsibilities I need to focus on to reach my overall goals. I also make sure to move a little more slowly on Monday mornings and take the time to go for a walk, journal, and meditate, which helps set the tone for the rest of the week and keep anxiety at bay.
— Brielle Friedman, CEO and Founder, BFCoaching + Creative
Only Focus on the Critical Tasks
Years ago, I reached a point of constant fatigue where I wasn’t at all in control of my time and my business wasn’t making any money. I let go of the myth that I should sacrifice things that bring me personal joy in order to advance my professional goals. Instead, I set the boundary that I was only going to focus on critical tasks at work and with my business so that I could have time to truly enjoy the other parts of my life. This kind of focus has been a game changer for my business and my life. As a single mom and business owner who has been a high achiever my entire life, I can relate to the challenges so many of my clients face. I’ve been exactly where they are now. Yet, through the tools I teach them in Take Back Your Time, I got off my own hamster wheel of overwork and incessant busyness to build a life that allows me to live in the fullness of my talents while having joy every day.
— Whitney A. White, Founder, Take Back Your Time
Go on a Retreat
I go on retreat once each year where I disconnect and focus on creative thinking. The concept is modeled on Bill Gates’ Think Week, where he would sit in a cabin in the woods, reading as many papers as possible and working on big picture strategy. I travel to disconnect from my normal routine, to feed my senses, and to immerse myself in something new, and to encourage original, creative thought. No matter how much I try to carve out deep thinking time at home, I just don’t get the same quality of creative thought when I’m in my normal routine. Last year, I went to Naoshima and Teshima and was inspired to create a new line of sculptural earrings, including our now signature Illusion Hoops.
— Trisha Okubo, Founder & Creative Director, Maison Miru Jewelry
Limit Time on Your Phone
I’ve created boundaries around when and how often I can be on my phone—and I’m never looking back. It’s no longer the first thing I see when I wake up, I limit my time on social media to one hour, and I never bring it out around friends. This has been a powerful boundary that reduced my anxiety and given me more time back in my day, which as it happens, has reduced my anxiety even further because I’m not stressing about what I should have been doing instead!
— Ronda Fraley, Founder & Sommelier, The Wine Party Co.
Stick to Your Core Values
I don’t do anything in my personal or professional life that does not align with my core values. It’s powerful because it keeps me in integrity with myself. It also simplifies decision-making because if something does not align, I either don’t take it on or address it in a way that brings me into alignment. It brings peace, clarity and keeps me on track with the big picture vision as well. Owning my own business is the ultimate boundary. Only I get to determine my pay, vision and rules of engagement.
— Melissa Priest, Founder & CEO, Alexandretta Transportation Consulting
Practice Intentional Gratitude
One major personal and professional boundary I have put in place for myself recently is to never let anyone stop me from smiling! Being an entrepreneur and a mom of two, I cannot count on my 8-hour sleep every night, let alone practicing my daily yoga/meditation. Being a Mom of two is amazing & messy! Yet, I chose this—so everyday, to kick my day off, I make it a point to smile at what I have. It works wonders, seriously! I realized just how powerful this tip is when I spontaneously gave it to my son who was a bit grumpy this morning! This changed his mindset right away.
— Alexandra Hoffmann, CEO and Founder, Alexandra Hoffmann Consulting