Boundaries and Balance

By Sandi Epstein

Boundaries create the lines of protection you set around yourself to protect you and what is important to you from what other people do to you. They allow you the time to do the things you want to do, not the things you have to do. By setting boundaries you free up both time and psychological space to do the things that matter. When your boundaries are weak you attract needy or disrespectful people who require time and energy you need for your family and work.

Step One: Identify where your boundaries are low
Here are some areas to explore - a co-worker or boss who asks you to do work that you consider outside of your job description; a child care provider who is consistently late; a spouse who doesn't pitch in; a child who interrupts work hours too often. Or the quality of interactions: a spouse yells when he is frustrated; a co-worker talks behind your back; or a boss uses poor language.

Step Two: Inform
Let the person know what you see is the problem - "Do you know that you are relying on me to do work that is inappropriate to my job?"

Step Three: Request
Tell them what you want very specifically - "I ask that we review any new work assignments before they land on my desk for their relevance to my job and alternative ways to delegate them if they are not relevant."

Step Four: Follow Up
Tell them how they are doing on meeting your request - "Thanks so much for working out the assignment delegations with me these past weeks" or "I asked for assignment reviews and I am still getting new work that isn't in my job description, can we find a way to resolve this today?"

Step Five: Warn
If people are consistently not meeting your requests and alternative solutions have been explored its time to warn them of a consequence you find appropriate - "If this continues I will be forced to drop other important projects…"

Step Five: Consequence
Follow through on the consequence if results aren't forthcoming. Know what battles are worth fighting for your space and spirit.

Right now, write down 5 areas where your boundaries aren't being met, formulate a solution and take the steps above. Have the time and energy you need to give your children the love and attention they thrive on and the focus you need to do your job well.

Also see:

  • Find joy instead of stress in your balancing act
  • Advice for finding work/life balance

    Sandi is a professional coach helping people to achieve their best in life. You can email her at or visit her Web site at