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Becoming a Better Artist #1006: Set your Boundaries

When one "just" leads to another, whaddaya do?

Happy 2024!

Wow! Where does the time go?

I originally posted this image back in March 2023. The idea was to jot down my thoughts on the topic that month and push it out. However, something came along, and then something else, followed by something else, and this soon got pushed to the back of my mind.

…and now, almost 10 months later (and one year since the last Becoming a Better Artist post), here it is.

I’m sure many of you have experienced this. You set yourself a plan for the day, and then suddenly a curve ball comes your way. Maybe it’s an email, a message on Slack, a “quick” meeting on Teams, or someone asks you to look into something that will “just take a few minutes” (so they say).

“Just”

I’m not a fan of that word. Nothing “just” happens quickly.

And when one “just” gets compounded with another “just”, and another “just”, then very soon you could be drowning in a whole heap of “just” tasks.

Tasks and Deadlines

Suddenly, that task you initially planned to tackle has been pushed back. But deadlines are deadlines, and if you are working on a project where your original task of the day is needed for review by your supervisor or the client, then they may not be too thrilled to know that you’ve not completed it because you were sidelined with a series of other issues.

Or maybe you do complete your original task but in doing so, you had to work late or do an all-nighter. So yay, colleagues, supervisors, and clients are all happy. But… what was the impact on you? and your health? and your personal life? What did you have to push aside in order to complete all your work-related tasks?

Maybe you missed out on catching the latest episode of a TV show you were looking forward to. Or maybe you missed dinner with your buddies. Or maybe you were late for your kids birthday party, or missed it completely!

One thing I’ve finally learnt (after 40 years in this shell) is that you will never be able to satisfy the needs and wants of everyone all the time. And maybe more importantly, when you combine their “just” tasks with your needs, wants and tasks, then you’ll more than likely have issues fitting everything into the day, let alone the working day.

This is where having a great project manager can be soooo helpful, and communication is key. Working with the PM, you may be able to prioritise your tasks and therefore, new boundaries are set, so expectations can be realistically met. And if you are working on a personal project or a solo project, then it is important to set your own realistic boundaries.

Square Peg, Round Hole!

So, how do you go about solving this square peg into a round hole issue?

I’ll be honest with you, I do not have the answer to that question. The only person who can answer that question is YOU. You’ll need to figure out where you want to draw your lines. You’ll need to set your boundaries for what works for you and your lifestyle. You’ll need to make the decisions. You’ll need to find your voice. You’ll need to say yes, say no, say tomorrow, say next week, next month, next year, and possibly even next decade to the stream of “just” tasks and projects that come your way.

Time is relative, and what you do with it is up to you.

So if you want to spend more time than you need to in a Zoom or Team meetings, or have an after work chit-chat on Slack or Discord, and if this makes you happy, then no sweat, go for it. I’d only ask that every now and then, you have a pause and assess your situation. If things are good and you are happy, then great, carry on as you are. If not, then don’t feel you cannot change things. Change is important. Change is inevitable. And what worked for you 5 years back simply may not be what you want today. Don’t forget your wants and needs, and also your value.

Take Control of your “Just” Tasks

And if you do have to add a few “just” tasks into your day, then why not make it something new and something that you want to do?

Maybe you’ll learn how to swim or take up a course in self-defence, or learn a new language. Or maybe you want to use your time to support a cause that is meaningful for you? Maybe a charity run? Or maybe you “just” want to climb a wall or two!

And when did you last step outside and “just” appreciate the world? When did you last “just” go for a wander, or “just” get your feet wet by the sea?

When did you last “just” enjoy the simple things in life.

And sometimes, “just” sometimes, you may find that the most meaningful things in life are those moments. Especially when you get to share those moments with the people in your life that you care about.

Life should be an adventure. So make sure to set your boundaries so you are enjoying it. And if you are not, don’t be afraid to erase your boundary lines and re-draw your them. And who knows, you may find that not only can you set some boundaries, but maybe you’ll push through and find some new boundaries! And maybe you’ll push through them too 😉

Be nice, be kind and have a great 2024.

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