Coffee in hand, you plunk down in front of your computer, staring down a to-do list rivaling the Mariana trench in length. With a big deep breath, you glance through your list and figure out which tasks must get done this morning. Alright. It’s a lot to get through, but it’s early, you’ve got this! You fire up your browser and off you go.

Except…

Your phone rings and your shoulders meet your earlobes as you see it’s that client who keeps asking for more work — for the same budget.

Or maybe the phone doesn’t ring, but pings tidily to let you know of an email (or 10), plus a few notifications from LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or Instagram. Then you look up and it’s the afternoon… Wait, when did that happen???

Or is it a video call from a family member who needs money, time, your efforts… and you know not answering that call, much less saying ‘no’ to whatever they’re asking for, is going to bring on the guilt trip of the year… no, decade. Century? Ugh.

Perhaps it’s kids bursting into your workspace every 15 minutes as you all are still trying to get this work from home thing down…

It’s rough out there, for sure.

The good news? There’s one strategy that will help with all this and more.

Truly, one simple strategy that will allow you to make space in your life for those things you want and need to be doing, that will allow you to

  • stop over-working on an under-provisioned client budget
  • put down that phone, once and for all, so you can focus on what’s in front of you
  • feel completely comfortable guarding your time, space, and energy from difficult people
  • create a peaceful (dare I say productive?!) work environment.

This, my friend, is the strategy of Artful Boundaries.

While boundaries are nothing more or less than a container for meaningful interactions, Artful Boundaries create these containers with the intention of honoring everyone involved, including yourself.

They may be internal (turn off those phone notifications, and please, for the love of suffering sleep, invest a couple of bucks in an analog alarm clock so you can stop leaving your phone on your bedside table) or external (“I can tell this is really important to you [demanding client name] — I can work on 2 of these 5 things. Which would you prefer?”).

While you can read more about different kinds of boundaries here, for our purposes a couple of things are important to keep in mind.

Boundary setting might be one of the very toughest skills you’ll ever master.

Like, ever, ever. If this is something you struggle with, it’s perfectly okay. It can be super tough stuff as you wrangle with the social implications, possible financial implications, and even health consequences of setting or not setting clear boundaries. So take heart and know yes, this is really super hard sometimes, and no, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.

Setting Artful Boundaries is a skill you can absolutely, 100% learn.

Cross my heart, pinky swear promise. Yes, it does require some know how and a ton of practice, AND it is absolutely within your scope of accomplishment to learn how to set boundaries so artfully that the person you’re talking with doesn’t even realize what’s hit them.

What’s more, as you learn this skill, some fantastically shocking things will happen. You’ll learn that you can trust yourself. As you practice boundary setting and actually do protect your time, space, and energy, you become confident in your ability to do just that. Whether it’s with your most beloved baby girl, your slightly less cherished narcissistic family member, your boss, spouse, or a demanding client. And let me tell you, with a healthy dose of self-trust comes an even more massive dose of self-esteem and ease.

As counterintuitive as it might seem, the people around you will trust you more. One, they’ll see your self-esteem skyrocket as your Artful Boundary skills grow. Plus, they’ll know that your ‘yes’ means “ABSOLUTELY!” and your no means “absolutely NOT.” Your friends who also have trouble boundary setting will know they can ask you anything and trust you’ll only take on what you can actually handle. In other words, the people around you will feel safe with you, because you’ve generated that sense of safety for yourself.

Before we sign off here, let me ask you one question. Where’s your most comfy cozy space right now? The place where you feel the safest, the most at ease, comfortable, and relaxed?

Take a minute and call it to mind.

Maybe it’s out in the forest on a walk, tea in hand. Maybe it’s around the dinner table with your spouse and kiddos. Perhaps on your meditation cushion or yoga mat. Or could it be in your garden or art studio? In front of a fire with a long-awaited novel, a steaming cocoa, and nothing but time and wood to burn? Somewhere else entirely?

Artful Boundaries brings that comfy, cozy, safe place feeling into your everyday. Boundary setting, while honoring yourself and the other folks involved is a habit that has the power to let the scalding steam of pressure-cooked stress escape so that you can finally relax into the stunning masterpiece that is, well, you!