How to Set Boundaries as an Entrepreneur
For entrepreneurs, time and energy are among the most precious assets.
There’s a finite amount of both. How an entrepreneur decides to leverage those assets will impact not only his or her personal growth, but also the impact he or she has on the world.
Entrepreneurs know this! Thus, many are quite intentional about how they expend time and energy. This is no less true for entrepreneurs with greater flexibility than their 9-5 counterparts.
That said, sometimes boundaries can become blurred.
What if you’re dedicated to a cause, but you feel you’re spinning your wheels? What if your loved ones want more time from you than you can give?
Setting boundaries isn’t always easy. But it’s one of the most impactful abilities an entrepreneur can master.
Here’s how to set boundaries as an entrepreneur.
1. Reflect on your boundaries
Boundaries aren’t the same for everyone. Moreover, they can change. Where do you stand now?
Reflect on the boundaries you have for yourself, first. How far will you go to succeed as an entrepreneur? How much time are you willing to devote? What are you willing to sacrifice, if necessary?
It's possible your drive will cause you to invest more into your pursuits than you plan for initially! But by understanding your boundaries, you can apply consistent effort while avoiding burnout.
Next, consider your boundaries as they relate to others. What behaviors will you accept and not accept?
To answer this question, think about behaviors that would make you feel uncomfortable, upset, or even simply displeased. Here are some examples to consider:
Are you okay with someone looking through your phone while you’re away from it?
How would you feel if you told a friend you were busy, but they kept pressing to meet?
Would you become frustrated with interruptions by others while you’re working?
Often times, entrepreneurs must invest a lot of time and energy into their pursuits, leaving less time and energy for others. Considering how this will affect you and those around you in advance will help set expectations.
If you’ve ever had trouble enforcing boundaries in the past, this is especially important.
Entrepreneurs often have huge hearts, and sometimes they overextend themselves to help others. Even when their own boundaries are being tested.
Consider how you’ll enforce your boundaries, once you’ve set them. This often involves declining others’ requests, even if it disappoints them. Enforcing boundaries may even cause you to lose some relationships.
In the end, you have the right to put your needs first. Those who respect your boundaries while communicating their own will enrich your life as you pursue your entrepreneurial endeavors.
2. Share your action plan with your loved ones
Your loved ones want the best for you. They want to see you happy, healthy, and successful. They want you to achieve your dreams.
So share those dreams with them! Tell them why you became an entrepreneur, and what your goals mean to you. Share with them your vision. Get them excited. Make them feel like they’re a part of your journey, too.
As all entrepreneurs know, it’s not a straight road, and things won’t always be easy. By sharing your “why” with your loved ones, they’ll be more prepared to ride the waves with you. Your “why” will give them resolve in the way it gives you resolve.
In the same vein, sharing your “why” will also provide insights into why you have the boundaries you do.
By clearly communicating your “why” and your boundaries with your loved ones, they’ll understand how best to support you during your journey. That understanding will, in turn, help you best support them.
For example, you could consider saying to your loved one, “What really makes me come alive is doing xyz. I feel it would have xyz impact on the world, and I’m inspired and motivated to make it happen. I also want you to know how much I love and care about you, and how much your support means to me.”
You could then communicate whatever boundaries you have, such as needing every morning from 8-10am free to work on your goals (without phone calls or other interruptions).
While some loved ones may feel hurt at your having less time to spend with them, they will likely understand. And by showing up for your loved ones in other ways, you can still communicate just how much they mean to you.
In fact, by setting healthy boundaries with your loved ones, you’ll be better equipped to show up 100% for them when you do spend time together. I would bet that most people would choose quality time over quantity!
3. Go easy on yourself
Here are some things I’ve heard entrepreneurs say:
“How can I rest, when xyz problem is happening in the world right now?”
“Tons of entrepreneurs are working as hard as they absolutely can. It wouldn’t make sense for me to go easier on myself.”
“I wish I could take a break, but I need to put out this fire, and this fire, and this fire…”
In short, entrepreneurs are often hard on themselves. For some, perfectionism, fear of failure, and dogged determination can create a dangerous cocktail that leads to overwhelm and burnout.
Such qualities can certainly serve as motivators, but they must be met with self-compassion. We all deserve a break sometimes.
Carve out space in each day to just be — without everyone else’s demands or working on your goals. Take a walk. Talk to a friend. Watch a TV episode.
Sometimes, you might need a bigger break. A “reset,” of sorts. If so, throw the “OOO” up on your calendar and take a vacation. There’s a time and place for everything, and vacation is no exception. Not even for entrepreneurs.
As far as any business goes, get clear on the people you serve from the beginning. (At least, as clear as you can be for that point of time. We all know as entrepreneurs that things can change!) Clearly communicate that to others to help set expectations.
Resist the urge to solve everyone’s problems all at once. This can be a tough one, as entrepreneurs are often trying to build businesses, nurture relationships, and save the world, in a nutshell.
But to do that, you have to take care of yourself, too. Take care to not lose yourself in the demands others place on you.
If you’re feeling like your boundaries aren’t being honored, or you’re having trouble enforcing them, feel free to seek out support!
As someone who lives in Silicon Valley, let me tell you: there are tons of fellow entrepreneurs to talk to.
They all have unique insights and experiences, including ones related to boundary setting. And sometimes simply talking to someone who “gets you” can do a world of good.
Learning How to Set Boundaries Will Unlock Your Entrepreneurial Potential
Setting and enforcing boundaries can be difficult, especially if others aren’t on board.
But by honoring your limits and clearly communicating your needs to others, you’ll feel more respected. You’ll have a safe space to achieve your goals.
You’ll be more refreshed in the long run, so you can balance your entrepreneurial goals with the other great things in your life.
In short, you'll put yourself in the best position to fulfill your entrepreneurial dreams.