Setting Boundaries to Avoid Burnout

The lines between personal and professional life are blurrier than ever these days, and the burnout rate is soaring. How do you pull yourself back from the brink of collapse? It’s time to set some boundaries.

Boundaries are the guardrails you need to be the best version of yourself. Setting clear, healthy boundaries at work and at home isn’t selfish, it’s necessary self-care. 

Why boundaries are key to avoiding burnout

You hear it every time you get on a plane: affix your own oxygen mask before assisting others. The truism applies to every area of life. You can’t be an effective leader, collaborator, partner, parent, or friend if your energy is tapped out.

A lack of boundaries leads to mental and emotional fatigue, leaving you with:

  • Decreased productivity and performance
  • Diminished job satisfaction
  • Difficulty setting goals and planning for the future

When you cultivate healthy boundaries, you have the capacity to:

  • Perform at your peak
  • Be a better collaborator
  • Uplift everyone around you

Discover your boundaries

Boundaries are about more than protecting your time — consider all your inner resources.

  • Emotional/mental energy: what activities are draining, and what restores you?
  • Physical energy: what leaves you tired, and when do you feel in top shape?
  • Autonomy: what gives you a sense of freedom and control over your life?
  • Time: realistically, how much time do you need to rest and nurture yourself?

Identify external vs. internal boundary violations

As you get a sense of your personal boundaries, take stock of both external and internal forces that eat up your time and energy.

Look outward. What people or systems external to you cross the line? For instance:

  • A colleague consistently asks you to take on extra projects
  • A client expects you to be available at all hours
  • A co-worker constantly interrupts you to chat about personal issues

Look inward. How do you violate your own boundaries? For instance:

  • Saying yes to extra work you don’t have time for
  • Volunteering to help in an effort to please others
  • Believing things will fall apart if you’re not constantly available
  • Ignoring your innate need for a break

How to enforce your boundaries

You can’t control what others ask of you, but you can control your response. The key is being clear, kind, and consistent — both with yourself and others.

  • Set clear expectations upfront
  • Get comfortable saying no! It doesn’t have to be harsh, just matter-of-fact
  • Master the art of the qualified yes — offer compromise when you can’t outright refuse a request
  • Identify when you’re most likely to throw your boundaries out the window and develop inner scripts for curbing the impulse

Create systems to stop yourself from getting sucked into abandoning your boundaries, such as:

  • Silencing email notifications outside work hours
  • Disconnecting your work email from your phone when you’re on vacation
  • Blocking focus and break time on your calendar each day

Remember, boundaries are your best defense against burnout. With time and consistency, enforcing them becomes second nature. By protecting your time and energy, you’ll cultivate the resources you need to be the best version of yourself — and that’s the best gift you can give to others as well

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