The Life Changing Art of Setting Boundaries: How to Give and Guard Your Time Effectively

Trying to juggle both our home and professional lives can easily turn our days into one long revolving door of fire-fighting emails, calls, texts, and never-ending demands on our time. This is where setting boundaries becomes a game-changer in managing our time effectively. 

Woman writing in planner


In an office situation people may constantly drop by with, ‘just one quick question?’’, or even just to say, ‘hi’. While the latter is obviously both important and well-meaning it often, sadly, just adds to the stress of another grid-locked day, the end of which leaves us feeling frazzled and like we haven’t really achieved any of the things we wanted to. As a working mother of two, I am often asked, ``how on earth do you have the time?’ The simple answer is that I create it. It’s certainly not always easy but when my day seems to start to escape me, it’s important to remember that ultimately, how my day unfolds, and how I respond, are both my choices and my responsibility. 

Each morning I set my intention for the day, and then decide what my priorities are. This helps me plan and give focus to the important tasks that I must do (e.g. pay my invoices, buy my mother’s birthday present) and gives a different perspective to other tasks (e.g. respond to a non-urgent marketing email, attend a meeting to which I probably cannot contribute a lot right now).

Now that all sounds easy but, back in the real world, sometimes it can be difficult to say, ‘no’.  We worry about other people’s reactions, or that we are being selfish, or coming across as unhelpful or uncaring. 

The fact is that it is so important to make space for what is really important and what matters the most.  If we don’t take control and make time to focus and recharge then, frankly, we can’t expect to serve others the way we would wish, and be there to take care of the people who matter the most. We need to be fully in charge of our own time otherwise people will, quite naturally, place their priorities over ours! 

For example, I once said that I would help a friend with his website. While I had the best intentions, it ended up taking WAY more time than I had intended to work on it. I went to bed late as a result, I woke up shattered and I had to drag my feet throughout the day. I made less than ideal decisions, I was short with my family … and that could have been avoided. There's nothing wrong with being assertive to say no or, allocating time (if you have it) to help someone.

Here are some steps to help regain control:


  • Schedule smartly (see our blog on Intentional Planning for help with this) and put the big things into your calendar right away – remember, that includes time for you to recharge.
  • Decide what your overarching ‘No’s’ are in advance.  Maybe you decide that you won’t do any further work on your business after 8pm? Or perhaps you will get up an hour earlier and set aside this specific time to work only on your business and nothing else? Make sure you honour this time. Tip: try putting your smartphone in a different room so you don’t get distracted by texts or other bleeps.
  • Practice saying no assertively. This means being clear as well as graceful. If you start your sentence with, “I’m so sorry, I mean I’d love to help you, I really wish I could, it’s just unfortunately  …” the message gets lost and other person may become confused as to what your real intention is.  A simple and polite, “I’m sorry, but I really need to respond to these overdue emails right now” creates clarity and understanding.

Picture of Ponderlily planner quote page

I hope this blog post gave you an insight on how to start setting boundaries and managing time more assertively. Why not download one of our lovely FREE planning printables and begin scheduling to take control of your week? Don’t forget to let us know how you get on!

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