Set Boundaries to Prevent Burnout

Guest Author, Mallory Dunbar, Learning Specialist, Greatness Magnified

We had a great question from a reader, which in essence was:

How do you go about setting boundaries at work in order to prevent burnout?

Do you too find it challenging to set boundaries? Do you worry if you don’t, you’ll burn out? Have you always wanted to become more proficient at not breaking promises to yourself because of feeling guilt, obligated, or unassertive when others need or make demands of you?

We combed our almost 300 blogs and vlogs for some juicy insights to give a timely answer to our reader’s questions, and we thought you might find these helpful too.

image of a 3 item list of priorities created to set boundariesTip #1: Identify Your Priorities

Knowing what’s most important to you is the first step in setting boundaries. Start by making a list of everything that’s important to you, then go through it and identify your big rocks – the things that matter most. Once you have identified your big rocks, schedule them in first. Give yourself enough time to ensure that all of these things are met before moving on to the smaller, less important things. We talk more about how to do this in our priority-setting infographic here.

Tip #2: Say No

Once you’ve established your priorities, it’s time to start saying no to the things that no longer align. I know it sounds scary. You may be thinking to yourself, “What if I look unprofessional?”, “What if another opportunity like this doesn’t come along?”, “Will this ruin my chances at that promotion?”. However, when we’re always saying yes to the wrong things, our energy and productivity decrease, and we push ourselves to the point of burnout. When we learn to say no to the right things, we can do a better job at the things we are saying yes to. Need some tips on deciding when to say no? Check out this blog.

image of 2 women sitting at a table discussing setting boundariesTip #3: Communicate Clearly

Communication is vital when it comes to setting and maintaining boundaries at work. Once you know your personal limits, you can communicate them confidently and clearly with your co-workers.
Next time someone asks you to do something that will take you away from your main priorities, try saying “it sounds like a great opportunity, however…” or “I am so honoured you asked, however…” and then explaining what the priorities are without the need to apologize.

Not only is this essential for you and your well-being, but it also helps to send a message to co-workers that work-life balance is a priority.

Tip #4: Pay Attention to Your Feelings

Maintaining your boundaries is a difficult task. It’s essential to regularly check in with yourself and evaluate how you’re feeling. Be mindful of the signs and symptoms of burnout and compassion fatigue and continually monitor them within yourself. If you’re noticing yourself hovering between compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue, it may be a sign that you need to revaluate your boundaries and assess whether they have been violated. You will find a Compassion Fatigue Chart here.

image of a cup of coffee, a pen and a napkin on a table and written on the napkin is prioritize yourselfTip #5: Prioritize Yourself

Remember – you are a priority. Protecting your mental health and wellbeing is non-negotiable. Figure out what makes you feel calm and grounded, then schedule time for it. You’re not selfish for prioritizing yourself. In fact, you’re doing everyone around you a favour as this allows you to be the best version of yourself. Here is another blog to start you in the right direction.

And, if you start to feel overwhelmed, recalibrate yourself with these three questions:

  1. What do I most want?
  2. What is possible?
  3. What is my one next step?

These solution-focused questions will help you get back to a more hopeful and resourceful place.

Which tip is most relevant to you right now? What can you do to set more explicit boundaries for yourself? What difference might it make?

And one last thought: you are actually helping others when you do not sacrifice your needs for others. You’re less likely to be resentful (behaviourally showing up perhaps as grouchiness and procrastination) when you’re focusing on the things that are most essential to you.

We are so grateful when you reach out to us for suggestions of topics, requests for information, and sharing what you are wrestling with. These blogs and our vlogs (video blogs) are here for you; never hesitate to recommend topics or reach out for help. We’re here for you because, unwaveringly, we know you are already Greatness.

Here are the links listed above:

Tip 1: 10 Tips to Prioritize What’s Important in Work & Life
Tip 2: Three Tips for Deciding When to Say No
Tip 4: Compassion Satisfaction Chart
Tip 5: Three Questions to Determine if You’re in Burnout Mode

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve