The weekends are meant for resting or spending time building relationships. There is no badge of honor for working on the weekend. I wish someone had told me this when I first became a consultant. All I saw modeled was the up or out, competitive roles of the big firms like Arthur Anderson, and I thought if I didn’t work a million hours I would never make partner.

But as I’ve matured I’ve started to realize if you consistently find your self needing to work nights and weekends it is a sign you haven’t set good boundaries.

There are 5 steps for setting good boundaries:

  1. Decide what you want
  2. Evaluate honestly if what you want is fair and equitable to both parties
  3. Ask for what you want
  4. Keep your commitments
  5. Review and tweak as needed

Step 1: Deciding what you want sounds simple enough right? Wrong! Getting clear on what we are and are not willing to do is the first step. This is often plagued with ideas such as- I only want to work 40 hours a week Monday through Friday 8-5pm. Then all of these voices, screaming “But I have to…”, “If I don’t…”, “”But I know that will cause XYZ catastrophe…” arise. We immediately start compromising what we truly want! Stop and ask yourself are these thoughts TRUE and are they even your thoughts? Or are they the thoughts others have imparted on you along the way?

Step 2: Evaluate honestly if what you want is fair and equitable to both parties. Often times I find myself thinking I don’t want to work more than exactly 40 hours and then I have to stop and think about the times I take off to get my kids on and off the bus, or run to a dr. appointment or take a personal call. It doesn’t happen all the time but it reminds me that often when I am in step 1 I want some fairly irrational things. I am able to acknowledge that often I want to have my cake and eat it to. Make sure you are driving for a win win. This doesn’t mean compromising what you want and need- just think about it from the other persons point of view and make sure you are prepared to overcome any objections.

Step 3: Ask for what you want. Many times we make up stories. For example: I had one co-worker that would get upset at the boss because he “had” to work on the weekends all the time but during meetings he would volunteer to help with additional projects because he wanted to be acknowledged for always gong above and beyond. When he worked on the weekends then didn’t get the acknowledgement he would get upset at his boss. Had he just said, I like working extra so I get the credit the boss would have made sure to give him the credit and he wouldn’t have been upset.

Step 4: The best way to set good boundaries is to keep your commitments. If you tell yourself I am NOT going to work this weekend and then you do it anyway you are teaching your subconscious not to honor the commitments you’ve made. You wouldn’t allow someone else to make an appointment with you and then cancel at the last minute all the time yet we do that with ourselves all the time! When you always do what you say you are going to do, and only say what you know you can and will actually do, you uphold your personal integrity. There is NO shame in that! You’ll worry less and feel better about yourself as well. Its the good old adage of Under promise, Over deliver.

Step 5: Once you make a commitment that doesn’t mean you can never deviate. You should have a predetermined time setup to analyze and tweak your agreements as needed. If you find yourself saying I will not travel more than 1 time a month and then one month make an exception then do it again the next month and the next month, its probably time to review why you put that rule in the first place. If the rule isn’t working for you because you want to be traveling more because you enjoy going to conferences  then change your mind. Its one thing to be intentional, its another to be legalistic and its another to make excuses and revise your agreements based on feelings. If your changing based on momentarily feelings chances are you are resisting something.

If you keep working nights and weekends realize it is a choice!

As a boss, I am not impressed when my employees are working every night and weekend. It tells me either they can’t get their work done during the day or they aren’t setting good boundaries. You may say- it could mean you as a boss are putting too much work on their plate- but I know that isn’t the case because we do resource allocating every week where the employee gets to say what they are doing and how long they think it will take and we encourage them to put in some buffer time.

So if you want to be a confident consultant don’t work weekends.

Want to learn other tips about being a good professional service provider, follow my blog for more things I wish I had known when I started as a consultant!

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