“I’m so overwhelmed, there’s way too much on my plate. I can’t get it all done well, and my life is out of balance.” That’s the kind of complaint I hear quite often from my clients these days. Even after they’ve prioritized and delegated, there’s STILL too much to get done in a week while attempting to stay healthy.

Maybe you can relate. You’re highly skilled at what you do. People rely on you because you are dependable and take a high level of accountability for the success of your projects. Being smart, driven, hard working and people pleasing has gotten you where you are, but you’re stuck because these skills alone won’t get you to the next level. In fact, you’re burned out and it’s no fun for you anymore.

So what to do?

In my experience, one of the most useful skills you can learn as you move up in your career and get more responsibility, is Graceful Boundary Setting. Otherwise known as the “Pause and Breathe, Before Saying Yes.”

As in:  It’s Friday at 3:00 PM and your colleague walks by, “Hey, can you review this presentation for me?”

You feel your stomach tighten, as your normal reaction would be to say yes, add it to the pile and end up staying at work until 7 PM.

Instead try this:

Pause, breathe, smile. “Yes, I’d be happy to review this for you. I have some things I need to finish before I leave the office today. Can I give you comments by Monday at noon?”

Now your colleague has options. “Sure, that would be great, thanks!” is often the answer. Alternatively, maybe she does need it by the end of the day, and she can then reframe her request, “I actually need it by the end of the day, but I see how busy you are, so I can ask someone else.” OR, “I need it by the end of the day, but I’m looking for a very high level review, could you maybe spend just 5 minutes reviewing it with me briefly?”

You see how just pausing, and gracefully setting a boundary has opened up some space for more clarity? Maybe if you had just said yes, you would’ve spent 30 minutes reviewing it and commenting in detail, when all she really needed was 5 minutes of your time? Maybe if you had just said, “No,” you would have felt guilty all weekend that you had disappointed your colleague.

Getting good at this has far reaching results that might seem opposite of what you FIRST might think. Not only does it create more ease, space, and joy in your life, but also you end up having even MORE success, by doing less.

It takes a lot of confidence and self love to start to put yourself and your own needs first, before saying YES to the needs of others. But once you start practicing graceful boundary setting, you’ll see that you’ll have more time, ease, and joy in your work and life. Plus, because you are happier, more rested and balanced, you’ll actually do better work, and get even MORE praise for it.

Sounds like a great idea, you say, but easier said than done.  I agree, it can be challenging at first, but it’s a practice that gets easier as you use it.

Stay tuned for my next post. I’ll be posting more tips for how to cultivate that deep self love and confidence to help you practice setting healthy boundaries.

Until then, may you pause and breathe before saying yes to the next request for your time.