The Importance of Setting Boundaries in Your Coaching Practice

Being an entrepreneur can be all-consuming. It’s pretty much all on your shoulders, and you care so much it’s hard to switch off, which can lead to boundaries getting blurred.
 
Something a new client I was working with said recently really struck a chord with me. I felt it really hit the nail on the head for how most people in the coaching space feel.
 
They said, “I would love to feel like I’m not looking for the next client, while I’m so busy serving my current clients.”
 
And, whether you’re busy serving clients or busy doing something else, I guarantee you will always be busy. Even when you are busy signing clients, there’s always that nagging feeling wondering where your next client will come from.
 
We live in a world that often glorifies the idea of being constantly available. Of needing to instantly reply to every message, and to say yes to everything.
 
As a result, you can feel overwhelmed. Exhausted. Stretched too thin, both personally and professionally.
 
This can especially happen when you’re starting up your business.
 
The first two years, in particular, can be really intensive and require a lot of hustle energy, whether we like it or not.
 
There is a lot to learn when you first start out and there will be a lot to do in terms of building your credibility, your network and your audience.
 
Doing the basics, like shaping your offer. Developing your website and so on. All these things really do take their toll when you first get up and running.
 
So, if you are in that place right now, know that it’s completely normal and you are not alone.
 
Setting boundaries is not selfish. It’s essential for your wellbeing, for your personal growth and for your business’s growth, because burnout is the biggest threat to entrepreneurs.
 
Let’s start by defining what boundaries are.
 
Boundaries are the invisible lines that we can draw around ourselves to protect our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
 
They define what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in our relationships, our work and our personal life.
 
Setting those boundaries allows us to honour our own needs, values and priorities, and helps us to make choices that align with what we truly want versus being in that place where you react and say yes, before you have even realised that you’ve said it.
 
One area in business where you may want to think about setting boundaries is whether you want to have fixed working hours.
 
Traditionally, 9-5 Monday to Friday has been a standard model but you can choose to work whenever you like. A fantastic freedom of working for yourself is setting hours that suit you. Want to take every Monday off? Happy to work on a Thursday evening or a Saturday morning? You can do whatever suits you.
 
When you’re starting out, you might feel you need to work every hour you can, around childcare or other commitments you have, to put everything you’ve got into your business to get it off the ground.
 
I certainly had to. But, hopefully, also like me, you’ll get to the point where you can ring fence the times you want to.
 
Personally, I would now never do evening client calls. I don’t work on my holidays, and I love my weekends. I might sneak off occasionally and record my podcast because it’s my favourite thing to do! It doesn’t feel like work, it just feels like talking to a friend.
 
But I generally have a lot clearer boundaries than I used to. It’s about what works for you.
For example, I used to have Voxer access as an ‘anytime’ messaging service for the clients on my Programme. The trouble was, if I received a message at 7am on Sunday, I just couldn’t ignore it. I had to reply straight away and I was finding it hard to switch off. My solution was to remove Voxer access from my Programmes.
 
Have a think about what the right balance is for you, and what you might need to say no to, to give you the time to focus on what really matters to you right now.
 
And, if you are a people pleaser like me, you may be wondering how you can set boundaries without feeling guilty or hurting people’s feelings by saying no.
 
It’s a valid concern, especially for women. We are expected to be giving and caring, and can be perceived as abrasive if we’re clear and boundaried.
 
If you’re feeling this way, try and reframe setting boundaries as an act of self-love, not selfishness.
 
Respecting yourself and protecting your own needs is a powerful energy, and you’ll find that people will respect you more for saying no when you need to.
 
Making time for yourself benefits everyone around you. I’ve often talked about the daily yoga practice I love. I used to feel guilty taking time away from my family to do this, but I see the positive impact it has on me and my family so I am very boundaried about it and make it a priority because I know how important it is in my life.
 
Here are 5 steps on how you can start to set boundaries in a healthy and compassionate way.

Step 1 – Reflect on your needs and values.

Take some time to think about your core needs and values. What do you need to feel fulfilled right now? Recognise those non-negotiables and prioritise them.
There may be circumstances, like when you need to devote a lot of time and energy starting your business, when you can’t carve out as much time for yourself as you would like, but this will hopefully shift over time.

Step 2 – Communicate clearly and kindly.

I practise with my coach how to be clear, assertive and kind in my communication. I find it really hard to be direct and can end up being unclear, so I’m working on practising expressing my needs and limits without apologising.
You’ll probably be aware of how often you say, “I’m really sorry, but…” Maybe we don’t need to apologise? Maybe we just need to say that’s not something we’re prioritising right now, remembering we have the right to protect our own wellbeing.

Step 3 – Practice self-compassion.

Setting boundaries might feel uncomfortable at first. I know it certainly does for me. Grounding exercises, like putting your hands on your heart, hugging yourself or doing EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) can really help.
If you haven’t tried it already, I would recommend looking up EFT on YouTube. You’ll find some short exercises, just 3-5 minutes long, that can be really helpful in managing all kinds of feelings, like anxiety and overwhelm.
Stepping back for a few minutes and coming back to your centre will make you feel more able to enforce your boundaries.

Step 4 – Be consistent.

Consistency is key when setting boundaries. You’ll know, if you have kids for example, how important it is to stick to clear boundaries. For us, it was screentime after school. Depending how busy with work I was, sometimes I would say yes, other times I would say no. They didn’t know where they stood and it was frustrating for all of us. Now we’ve set and kept to a clear boundary for a while, I realise they haven’t asked me for months to have their screens after school, because they know the rules and it’s not an issue anymore.
 
This works for all boundaries. Set your limits and don’t waiver. This consistency will help others to know, understand and respect your boundaries.

Step 5 – Respect others’ boundaries.

As we start to set and maintain our own boundaries, remember to acknowledge and respect others’ as well. We have no idea what is going on in people’s lives. We might not understand why they are saying no to something, but we have no idea what else they’re trying to juggle behind the scenes.
 
In summary, before you think, I’m just no good at setting boundaries and keeping to them, be patient with yourself. Life is all an ongoing process of self-discovery and growth.
 
Like anything, the more you practise the better you’ll get.
 
I was with someone the other day who has got to a place where she is totally utilising her time effectively and maximising her efforts. She doesn’t have email and social media apps on her phone. She never checks her emails on holidays and weekends. She’s totally protective of, and comfortable with, her boundaries. It was really inspiring!
 
Setting boundaries can make a huge difference in your life.
 
It enables you to reclaim control over your life.
 
By eliminating unnecessary stress and distractions, you gain new-found clarity and focus to pursue your goals with renewed energy.
 
Setting boundaries also gives you a stronger sense of self worth because you are sending a really core message to yourself that you are important.
 
There are so many reasons why drawing up your boundaries today can make a big difference in your life and your business for all the tomorrows to come.
 
As your business grows, I am sure you will become more intentional about how you spend your time and your energy, and choose activities and relationships that nourish you and help you to feel really good.
 
It’s a work in progress, and a continual journey of growth. I know I’m mindful of it every day, as I continuously work on it in my business and my life.
 
Celebrate every time you notice the positive change that managing boundaries is making to you, and let me know!
 
Get the love and support you need to make it happen
If you’d like my help to implement this so you make a difference, AND make a living, you can learn more about how I can help you here.

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Hello and welcome! I’m Joanna Lott, and I’m passionate about empowering qualified coaches like you to build brilliant businesses.