Set Boundaries to Prevent Burnout

Article by 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.

Tip #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 two women at a table communicating to set 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 wellbeing, 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.

Tip #5: Prioritize Yourself

image of a coffee, pen and napkin on a table with the words "prioritize yourself" to set boundariesRemember – 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

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