boundaries in your business

5 Boundaries to Set In Your Business This Summer

For many of you, you’re heading into summer, and you may be wondering how you’re going to juggle everything for the next two months. In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to create your Summer Action Plan, including five boundaries to set!

Summer is here and the time is right for taking a break. And even if it’s not summer for you as you’re down under, you’ll still find some helpful ideas for setting and managing boundaries when you work with clients.

Let’s start with some real talk. For some of you, the idea of being out of the office and setting boundaries makes you queasy. You’re probably wondering how you can actually do it. Others of you have the boundary basics in place and need to step up your game.

Here’s what I want you to all know. Boundaries are always a work in progress. I’ve been working with clients for over 20 years, and I still have my moments where I let things slide. Where I say yes when I should say no.

That’s just reality as we’re humans working with other humans. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have boundaries. 

Now, let’s talk about your Summer Action Plan.

What’s Your Summer Action Plan?

Before we get into boundaries, we need to talk about WHAT your plan really is. Without a plan, you’re going to struggle to set, let alone stick, to any boundaries you set.

You can get started with creating your Summer Action Plan by asking these questions.

What Life Commitments Do I Have?

From kids out of school to adventures to wanting to soak up the sun, your life should come first. That’s always true, but for summer especially. I know for me, I spend a lot of time at our cabin, and with my kid going to college in the fall, family time is my top priority.

I’m sure you have your equivalent so get those life priorities nailed down so you can ensure any plans you make take them into consideration.

What is My Schedule?

Schedules are subject to change during the summer. You may work shorter days, fewer days per week, or have full weeks you’re taking off. Getting your hours of work and your weeks off nailed down now means you can communicate them proactively.

Throughout this month I’ve been priming clients for my slower schedule in summer so they can plan accordingly.

When Am I Taking a Vacation?

Whether you’re planning a trip or not, I encourage you to schedule time off now. Even a full week off can make a critical difference to your well-being. Once you pick your weeks off, let your clients know so they’re aware and everything can work around your availability. 

How Much Time to Work Do I Really Have?

Even in the last few weeks my social activities and commitments have ramped up. Where I might have snuck something in during non-work hours, I have something planned. You’re likely the same.

Time to adjust your expectations of what you can actually commit to and how much work you’ll actually get done.

What’s My Client Load Like?

As you’ve answered all of these questions, you’ve likely come to realize that you may have too heavy a client load. You may have overcommitted. Take out a pen and paper and figure out what you’ve really got on your plate, then adjust from there.

Ignoring your workload and pretending everything is fine, is NOT a plan. Your capacity as a human, and for work is limited.

Do I Have Time to Work ON the Business?

I used to have these lofty goals for all the things I was going to get done in the Summer. The truth is, we don’t slow down that much, so I found myself constantly frustrated by not having time to work on the business.

Last year, I finally got smart and recognized that something had to give. That’s where I came up with the concept of the content sabbatical where we took eight weeks off the podcast. Honestly, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and we’re doing it again this summer. The podcast is going on hiatus, newsletters will be if I feel like it, and for social media, we’ll be trying a few new things based on old content. (TikTok, I’m looking at you!)

We need space to work on the Fall launches of the BS-Free Service Business Mastermind and the Agency Masterminds.

You probably have something internally you want to work on, so if you do, now’s the time to figure out where it fits in.

With those questions handled, let’s talk about five boundaries to set in your business this summer.

Boundary #1: Really and Truly Take Time Off

If you’re taking time off, really and truly take time off. None of this checking email and responding to clients. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, and it means you can’t really relax.

Honestly, for me, it’s some bullshit over-functioning where I think I’m way more important than I really am. The hard truth is that your clients can live without you for a week, or even two. They’ll be fine. They’ll figure it out.

And if they can’t, that’s a problem. We should never be so enmeshed with our clients that we can’t take time off. If we had a 9 to 5, we would take a vacation. Running your own business shouldn’t be any different.

For this summer, I’ll be fully out of the office for at least two weeks, likely three, and my clients will adapt. And yes, I have a team, but some clients have a lot of contact with me, and they’ve been told that I’m not available and will not be on email.

Boundary#2: Set and Keep Communication Boundaries

During the summer months, most of us are out and about more, and we’re not necessarily butt-in-chair, so it’s easy to let our normal ways of communicating slip.

Where we may require clients to use our PM system, we’re not in there as much so we let things slide. We start answering emails that should be in the system because it’s “easier.”

But here’s the thing. It’s easier at the moment, but it will not be when October rolls around they won’t follow your preferred process.

Do you know that saying “you teach people how to treat you”? When it comes to communications you train your clients on how to interact with you.

And if you’re reading this and thinking you need better boundaries around how you communicate with clients, it’s never too late. Today’s a good day to start fresh with new boundaries that make working with your clients easier for both of you.

Boundary #3: Revamp Turnaround Time and Deadlines

When you’re aiming to work less and live more, it’s completely understandable that you want to try to get as much done as possible when you are working.

But here’s something to think about. What if you didn’t do that? What if you left enough margin with how you manage your tasks and projects that you don’t have to go at full throttle when you’re working.

The big secret for me has been to slow down my turnaround times and what deadlines we commit to during the summer months. The last thing I want is to have to skip nacho night on a patio with friends on a random weeknight as I have a tight deadline.

Keep in mind, that your clients are moving slower too during the summer months. So you need to avoid defaulting to thinking everything needs to be done quickly. Instead of throwing out a random deadline, ask when they really need it. Nine times out of 10 it will be longer than you would have given yourself.

Why do that to yourself when they’re not even going to look at it? And if the deadline doesn’t work for you, negotiate. I love to say, “That doesn’t work for me, but I can do X date instead.”  Because again, many times these deadlines are arbitrary and summer in Canada is short so I want to enjoy it while I can. 

Boundary #4: Commit to Your Hours of Work

I would love to say that everyone has a neat and tidy work schedule. Summer can be chaotic for many of you, and so your hours of work may be shifting based on multiple factors.

This is why I want you to think carefully about how you can commit to your hours of work. How many hours a week are you going to work? When are you going to work? What are your office hours?

First, you need a clear idea of how much you plan to work each week and a loose schedule. I’m not going to pretend this will be perfect, but you need more than an “I’ll do it when I have time” kind of schedule that results in needless stress and drama.

More importantly, your clients need to have a handle on what your office hours are during the summer months. When can they expect a response? For example, our office is closed on Fridays. Our clients know that so they don’t expect a response on Fridays or for us to be available.

With Small Business Boss clients, they’re aware that my in the office days during the summer, and when to expect responses to Voxer and Teamwork messages are Tuesday to Thursday.

Commit to your office hours at a minimum, and TELL your clients. Otherwise, they’ll expect things to be business as usual and for you to have the same availability.

Boundary #5: Sticking to What You Say

This last one is a boundary for yourself. Because you know what? When you break your boundaries, you show your clients that they can too. 90% of my boundary issues with clients have been of my own making as I answer an email out of work hours and then I set a precedent that I will keep doing that.

Commit to sticking to what you say. You’ve done the work of stating your boundaries with clients, so don’t undo that work and sabotage yourself. If you’re a people pleaser this is likely going to be a challenge, but how much better would you feel if you kept those boundaries? How much more fun would you have? How much happier would you feel?

Summer is short, but the boundaries you set right now will stick for months to come. It may feel a bit nerve-racking or like you can’t do it, but you can. I have faith that with some proactive communication and sticking with it, you can make a significant difference that gives you the space you need.

Speaking of boundaries, this is the last episode of the 2022 Spring season of the BS-Free Service Business show. I’m taking my annual content sabbatical, so new episodes will resume in mid-August. To stay connected during that time, make sure you’re on my email list as I’ll be sharing over the course of the summer, and I’ll be over on Instagram sharing my rants and revelations with you. 

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