The edge of a lake or puddle. The top is red with some disturbed sand visible. The bottom looks like sand or salt and is white and brown.
Photo by Idin Ebrahimi on Unsplash

Do you set boundaries? Do you keep these or do they end up blurred and it becomes difficult to stick to them? Here I share some of my boundaries and how I try and make sure they’re solid(ish) – I’m a permanent work in progress…

I mostly want to talk about work related boundaries. For me these are my working hours, email and how I communicate with people.

The key thing I have learned about sticking to boundaries is to share them. I know this can be scary but how else are people supposed to know that sending you a Teams chat message is fine or that you don’t work on Fridays. This is also a way to hold yourself accountable and it helps with the guilt around delaying an email response to your next work day.

Now you have to set your boundaries – some are easy like working hours (unless you’re doing something super different) and some are a bit tricky, like what to do with your emails. Below are my boundaries, how I found them and how I try and stick to them.

Working hours: It took me a while to find the hours within the “standard” uni hours that work for me and at the moment this is Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri 8:30-12:30 & 14:00-17:00, Tue 8:30-12:00 & 14:00 -17:30. I’m still working from home, which adds to the flexibility I have with my hours. Working from home helps but also makes it super easy to start earlier or stay on a bit longer…and before you know it you worked and extra hour or two. I have a morning routine (to replace the commute) and that helps me with the 8:30 start. Stopping is still a bit difficult but I have started to schedule some non-work activities – even if that is to crochet or read a book…

Email: This is probably the most difficult to navigate but the area where good boundaries will help you. In November 2020 I found out about the Calm Inbox via an email signature and the linked blog post really intrigued me. With this approach you minimise the amount of time you check your emails. I used to not check my email until 11:30 but with meeting links etc in Outlook and no way to have the calendar open by itself it blurred into checking constantly. In a recent On the Reg podcast episode they discussed how often you read an email subject header or the email before actually deciding what to do with it. That’s a lot of wasted time. So why not block some time and deal with them in bulk. I have removed all email related notifications and emails from lists get automatically directed into a folder so they don’t fill up my inbox. I have also discovered that my calendar is available via Teams – so I can check what meetings I have coming up without seeing my inbox. After I tweeted about the above mentioned podcast episode Jason and Inger recommended the Meeter app – another great way to not miss online meetings without email distractions. If I do end up checking emails more than twice per day – I use the send later function to send them all at around the same time. This helps to maintain the boundary to others, even if I don’t always tick to it.

How can you best share your boundaries? I started by adding them as an auto-reply for two weeks so people emailing me in that time got the message directly. In the auto-reply, I introduced my new boundaries as something I was doing for my work-life balance and digital wellbeing. After the two weeks, I added them to my email signature. I share my text below if you want to adapt it.

My email signature text:

This is a Calm Inbox in aid of digital wellbeing. I will check emails once in the AM and once in the PM and I don’t expect an immediate reply to emails I send. Click to find out more about How a calm inbox works and why you should try one. My current working hours are (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri 08:30-12:30 & 14:00-17:00 and Tue 08:30-12:00 & 14:00-17:30) and the best way to reach me is via this email address or get in touch via Teams chat.

Meetings: My calendar is up to date, please find a free time slot if you would like to book a meeting. If none of the available times suit, please email me. Please keep my Calm Inbox in mind and try to avoid asking for a meeting on the day of your email.