Don't Put Soap in My Egg Pan: Why We Need to Set Boundaries in Business

business coaching blog

A few years ago my mom and I were traveling in the Pacific Northwest and booked a room in an Airbnb in Portland, Oregon. The woman who owned the house welcomed us in, showed us the chickens in the backyard, walked us through the house and we stopped to chat in the kitchen. 

"Any rules we should know about?" My mom asked.

"The only rule is don't put soap in my egg pan." 

We agreed, although this was definitely strange to us both that the egg pan was the only thing with a rule. My mom has owned a Bed & Breakfast since I was in middle school, and there were always lots of rules. (She did have 2 young daughters + dog + cats + another business in the house!)

And when you own your business you get to decide the rules. But if you've never had a business before setting "rules" aka boundaries can be tricky. I used to STRESS if I didn't get back to a client immediately. I was all consumed with being "professional" yet what I was- was a slave to my business. I had no set hours, no communication guidelines, and I said yes to just about everything. No boundaries=no good. 

There was one time I was on vacation with my then boyfriend, and I got a client email requesting access to a Dropbox folder of images. We were driving through the mountains of Colorado, I had a total freak out and had to find somewhere to stop so I could try and get internet and complete the task. Mood killer. Was it really needed right that minute, right that day? Probably not, but I took any request as urgent and responded like my life depended on it. Did I mention it was stressful living like this??

And this is something I now discuss with my coaching clients a lot- how to set boundaries in your work and how to communicate with clients when they need to be made aware of these boundaries. Sometimes it's as a simple as an auto email responder letting people know you'll respond in 24-48hrs unless urgent. Sometimes it's including your work hours in your email signature. And sometimes it's just letting yourself know that you are allowed breathing room, you're allowed to respond to people when you're finished with what you're working on, and if you're on vacation you're definitely allowed to put on the "out of office" notice and relax! Notice where your boundaries have been feeling squeezed lately and ask yourself what you can do ASAP to correct and give yourself the space/time/privacy/energy you need to function your best.

These days there's an abundance of communication options, and sometimes that's the issue in itself. I personally am still working on not feeling badly about not responding to Facebook messages right away, especially when they can pop up on my phone at all times. But alas, I'm not an ER doctor and I'm guessing you aren't either, and really pretty much everything can wait.