When balancing all the things we do as artists, boundary setting is an invaluable key to staying productive and focused. Here’s round two of tips to keep your head in the game when you’re surrounded by distraction:
Don’t be too strict.
Finding balance is a challenge. Treating our work time like work time and setting boundaries around it is important, but we also need to take advantage of the benefits of our alternative, artistic and/or entrepreneurial lifestyle. So if you have the opportunity to go to the theme park with your kids on a weekday, take it! You don’t have to commit 100% to your self-imposed work schedule. Take advantage of the benefits of the life you’ve chosen.
Ask the people around you to pretend you’re not there.
A great way to clarify your workspace and headspace for the people around you is to ask them to pretend you’re not there during the work hours you’ve specified. You can set exceptions for when it’s appropriate to interrupt you, but this mindset will help those around you feel less tempted to interrupt you.
Turn off your phone and set specific times to check emails.
Your emails and texts might feel super urgent and you might be tempted to answer them immediately, but they’re really not and you don’t need to. Train your correspondents to know that they can’t expect an immediate response from you during work hours by batching your email and text responses to certain times of the day. Put your phone on airplane mode and stick it in a drawer or in another room until it’s time to batch and check. Then don’t get caught up in conversations. Send your response and then go back to work. It’s also best not to check your texts and emails first thing in the morning. An example of a time schedule for batching your responses would be to handle these once at 12 and once at 4.
Be disciplined about your work time and keep it separate.
Think of your work-time as separate from your play time and be clear about it. The more exceptions you make, the more you train the people around you to take your work boundaries lightly. Make sure that people know you’re serious about your work boundaries and only make exceptions when it’s really important. Similarly, don’t let your work bleed into your play time and quality time with those you care about. Leave your work at the “office.”
If someone is consistently interrupting your workflow via text, email, or in person, learn how to walk away. You don’t need to get the last word, you don’t need to make them understand or convince them to stop interrupting you. Just stop reacting, stop responding, and put up whatever blocks you can to keep them from entering your space. Your time is your time, so don’t let anyone else make you give it away.
The number one most important factor in boundary setting is communication. You simply cannot expect anyone to respect boundaries that you haven’t communicated, so be clear, be specific and remove any ambiguity, preferably in person or on the phone, and not in text.
I know that I struggle with guilt around saying, “no,” and not wanting to disappoint those I love by prioritizing my needs in order to be productive. This leads me to compromise my work sometimes. If this plagues you too, it’s time to work on it. You don’t need to feel guilty for putting your work first during your work hours. Let those around you be responsible for themselves. They’ll likely appreciate you in the long run for creating an opportunity for them to take care of themselves and their own time as well.
Clarify the job-ness of your work.
This can be a tricky one for artists. Art is work and it needs to be treated as such. If you’re practicing music, make sure both you and your loved ones think of it as true work and respect it as an important use of your time and energy. Don’t put it off and don’t let other things get in the way.
Guest Post by Allie Mazon