By Stacey Lastoe
Ever feel stretched too thin? Like everyone wants a piece of your time, and because you want to be a team player, you find yourself saying yes, embracing the conversation, accepting the email intro, attending the meeting, and chiming into the discussion.
It’s a tough spot to be in, but if you find that your work is suffering as a result—or, worse, that you’re spending hours each weekend on projects you didn’t get to during the week when you were sitting in meetings about a project you’re barely involved in—you need to create some workplace boundaries ASAP.
These three suggestions are intended to decrease those ever-rising stress levels and allow you to leave the office each day feeling accomplished.
1. Ignore Chatter
Whether your organization relies on Slack or your team’s prone to discuss everything aloud—from industry news to best happy hour spots—endless chatter can zap minutes of precious productivity.
Reclaim your time and make choices. If speaking up or chiming in is a job requirement, then make it a part of your daily routine—but see if you can do it on your time. That means if you’re digging into an assignment that requires your undivided attention, don’t simply abandon it because your co-worker wants your general advice on the best way to reach out to new clients.
Instead carve out 15-20 minutes of your day (maybe when you need less brain power) to catch up on everything and then respond accordingly. Let your teammates know that they can grab your attention urgently by messaging your directly, sending you an email, or popping over to your desk (really, whatever you prefer).
2. Manage Your Time and Work Flow Better
Now, depending on your role, this may be a real hurdle for you. If your job involves working closely with others and waiting on materials from colleagues before you can take next steps, you only wish you could manage your time better!
Nonetheless, there are usually things you can do to help with your own workflow.
Look at your calendar: Are there any meetings on there that you can skip? What about time blocks? Can you add a few to your calendar so no one schedules unnecessary time with you?
Next, look at your process: Do you need a new to-do list? How about checking out one of these six apps that are great for helping people who’re easily distracted? Or, can you try something cool, like the unarguably random but impactful rule of 52 and 17?
3. Learn to Say No—for Real Though
While we’re on the subject of taking control of the situation, that’s literally what creating boundaries is!
There’s a way to say “no, not now” that isn’t the same as shutting the door forever. If you’re terrified of this word, I recommend checking out this article—it has seven email templates to help you say no without having to overthink it.
Now, if it’s your boss asking you for something, you’ll probably want to tread a bit more lightly. But here’s the thing: If you can manage to set boundaries by implementing the first two suggestions here, then, essentially, you’ll have more leeway to meet all of your manager’s demands and then some. Clever, huh?
Most days, work is a time-management balancing act. The sooner you learn to value your time and set boundaries that allow you to do just that, the happier you’ll be. And the happier you are, the more productive and better performing, too. Creating boundaries isn’t selfish, it’s smart.
This piece was originally published by The Muse.