What are non-negotiables and how do they relate to setting boundaries?

This is really important if you work from home or you work for yourself, particularly when it comes to your home office. If you're not crystal clear on what your boundaries and non-negotiables are, and if you don't communicate those boundaries to the people around you, then you can get really frustrated.

Let’s get real for a minute. Any job you do from home is a side hustle especially when you’re working a full-time job. Separating home life from work life is increasingly difficult when the two overlap. That’s why setting boundaries is so important.

Communication Breakdown

I remember when I first started working from home and my husband came home for lunch. He was working a full-time job and I was at home and used to being by myself.

I used to work through my lunch break and not think too much about it. I didn't tend to take anything more than ten minutes, tops. But he came home this particular day and was like, “Hey, let's sit down and have a chat,” and I was right in the middle of something. I got super frustrated, but really I couldn't get mad at him because I hadn't ever communicated what my non-negotiables were and what my boundaries were around working from home.

Let’s walk through what this process looks like and how you can do it for yourself.Setting boundaries and defining your non-negotiables

Setting Boundaries For Your Non-Negotiables

Obviously, the first thing you’ll want to do is set up your boundaries. To do that you need to work out what your non-negotiables are.

Non-negotiables are things that you don't want to move. They're the things that you must have in place to make things happen in your business.

An example of a non-negotiable might be that between the hours of 8:00 AM and 1:00 PM, your door is shut and you can't be interrupted unless it's an emergency. That is a non-negotiable and is something that you'd definitely want to make sure that you were communicating with someone who is living with you.

Another non-negotiable might be that you don't check your emails until 10:00 AM. Now, you would want to make sure that you communicate that with your customers, with your email subscribers, that type of thing. I have a hack that I’ll tell you about below on how to implement this easily.

Being very clear on what your non-negotiables are is the first step in setting those boundaries.

Take time to work out what these are for you. Write them down, get clear on them and then communicate them!

Communicate Your Vision

Next in this process is to tell people about your boundaries.

Clearly communicate the non-negotiables to people that live with you and to your family and friends in terms of what it looks like when you're working from home.

What are the things that they need to know about so that you can make working from home productive and effective?

When you work from home, people tend to think that you've got a bit of time on your hands. While you certainly have a lot more flexibility, you still have stuff to get done. You need to be super clear about what your boundaries are.

It could be as simple as putting up a calendar on your fridge and just blocking out the times or the days that you're unavailable.

Now, there are always going to be emergencies or there are just going to be times when someone pops into the room when you're not expecting them and that's okay. You just need to make sure you remind them about those non-negotiables when this happens.

The same thing goes for if you have a non-negotiable about not answering emails until 10:00 AM or not reviewing them until then. Make sure you communicate that with your customers and email subscribers.

Calm Inbox Hack

I have something called a ‘calm’ inbox. At the bottom of every email that goes out, I clearly state that “this is a calm inbox. Email is checked once in the AM and once in the PM”. This lets people know that they're not going to get an immediate response from me.

Also, with my email subscribers, I will add in my emails to them something along the lines of, “I'll get back to you within 24 to 48 hours” so that people know that I'm not glued to my email. That is a non-negotiable that I stick to.

Sticking to Your Boundaries

The last piece in this process is sticking to these non-negotiables. You have carefully considered them, now you need to enforce them. You want to make sure that your life becomes a lot easier and stress-free when you work from home.

To do that, you need to stick to and enforce these non-negotiables.

That just means setting up systems like reminders in your calendar.

Remind yourself what your non-negotiables are. Then do things as I said previously, like putting something up on the fridge for example. Whatever it takes to let your family know what your non-negotiables are when you're working from home.

Another thing you can do is to actually put a sign up on your door that says something like, “I am available between this time and this time”, or “I'm now free to chat”. Things like that make it a lot easier when you're working from home.

Five Minute Warnings

Another really cool thing that I do with my hubby now is to give him a five-minute‘ warning’. I'll say, “Hey, I'm about to record a whole bunch of videos. I'm going to start in the next five minutes, just so you know.” He can get whatever he needs from me before I start that process.

Or I'll say things like, “Do you need me, because I'm going to …,” and that means that I'm going to be going off and doing something that is going to take a bit of time.

It can also be effective to have a timer on your desk. There are some beautiful and functional timers that you can use to set time-limit boundaries on interruptions.

I personally use an app on my phone called Focus@Will. I set a timer when I’m doing a focused time-block and this app plays the music or sound I choose. You can set the intensity level of the music/sounds and it tracks your productivity during that time.

You can check it out here.

It's about being super clear what your boundaries are and communicating them with those around you so they know what your non-negotiables are.

I can tell you if you implement this, it will make your life so much easier.

Some questions to ask yourself:

While everyone is different, there are some common areas to consider when deciding what your non-negotiables are:

  • Email and social media limits
  • Office hours
  • Breaks (how many and how long) Lunch, dinner, etc
  • Can you be interrupted to bring lunches and homework into your office?
  • Are there specific times you are available for the elderly in your life?
  • What is your stance on being available for family members’ convenience? (ie courier delivery, waiting at their home for the repairman, etc)
  • What frustrates you the most while working from home and could a clear boundary relieve some pressure?

Action Step

Your action step is to sit down and work out what your non-negotiables are, then communicate them to the people around you. If you're going to do anything around your email or how you're working with clients, customers, or subscribers, then make sure you're very clear about what that looks like.

Make sure you have non-negotiables and set boundaries. That’s how you can work effectively at home and thrive.

Setting boundaries can be difficult, so if you’re really struggling with this, I’d recommend a great book on this topic called Boundaries: When to say yes, How to say no to take control of your life.

Lise Cartwright
Lise Cartwright

Founder of Hustle & Groove and your creative business strategist. If you want to get notified of new posts just like the ones you see here, then make sure you join the awesome H & G community — Join Now!

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