Creating Professional Limits


"I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread." -J.R.R. Tolkien

You’ve felt like this. Way too freakin’ often, even. There’s no need to feel like this- particularly in the workplace. Introducing 5 professional limits to create for yourself today. They’ll help preserve your sanity, offer peace of mind, and leave you feeling pretty damn empowered. Go on, girl, create some boundaries...

1.) ...With Your Stress Level

“It’s Friday afternoon, yes!!”

“It’s Saturday morning...sweet, sweet freedom.”

“It’s Saturday evening? It’s almost Sunday...Sunday is almost’s time for work again.”

If you’ve known this impending doom, you’re not alone. But you are in the wrong field, or working with the wrong people!

You’re human. You work hard. You’d rather be on the beach than sitting in a conference call. But if you have to go to work to make it in this world, work someplace that doesn’t spark a crippling, anticipatory stomach ache on a sunny Saturday afternoon (or ever).

Understand what you will and will not tolerate in terms of stress. Make these things crystal clear to yourself. A tyrannical boss who makes you cry? A grueling commute that has you ripping your hair out before the workday begins? A job that weighs on you so heavily that you’re too drained to do anything you enjoy after work? Life’s too short. Work life won’t always be roses, but it should never be a living hell.

2.) ...With Your Hours

Some company cultures have a sunup to sundown, in-office mentality. Some jobs require third shift coverage. Others are 9-5, which may or may not jive with your dog’s / kid’s / real life schedule.

If you work for yourself, you decide when and where. Working remotely is an option at some places, too.

Decide what your best-case scenario is, and go after it. Negotiate something feasible with your current employer if possible. Set hard limits on what you can and can’t do for the foreseeable future. Don’t commit to a schedule you can’t keep.

3.) ...With Your Personal Life

“Really nice, thanks, you?” is a great response to, “How was your weekend?” The nitty gritty on how your dog pooped all over your new carpet can stay between you and Rex (poor thing). Hey, dive into as much detail as you want to, sister, but there is no professional need.

So you’re going through a breakup. Or feeling exactly like that dog poop on your carpet. As hard as it can be, try not to let personal happenings interfere with your work or can-do attitude, you delicate rose! This too shall pass. And your kickass work reputation will remain in tact.

Remember, it’s okay to admit you’re “a little off today” without divulging the dirty details.

Setting this boundary early will show colleagues that you respect your own privacy, and that you won’t pry for details as regards theirs. This comes from a chronic over-sharer, and it’s probably the toughest limit of the bunch to set.

4.) ...With Office Gossip

Has gossip ever gotten someone something really fantastic? Probably not. Stay above it, and steer clear of it. Shut it down if it comes your way. It can be interesting, sure! But it can be more dangerous than it’s worth.

If your workplace has a Debbie Downer, wish them a good day, and be on your merry way. Feeding off his or her negativity can only bring you down.

*Disclaimer: 3 and 4 don’t necessarily apply to office BFFs who end up becoming real friends and confidants in your life. Everyone needs that.

5.) ...With Reachability

If your employer pays for your cell phone, it’s crystal clear they’ll be contacting you after hours. In this day and age, that’s more common than not. Be up front from the start on how accessible you plan to be outside of normal working hours.

If you never check your email at the dinner table, fine. If you’re constantly Bluetooth-equipped and ready to conference in, great.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s in line with employer expectations, and respects the work / life balance you create for yourself.


Kate Brierley is Community Manager for therapeutic skincare company Aidance Skincare, and a contributing writer for a range of publications and niche blogs, including Mom of 11 Kids and The Friendly Fig. She is certified in inbound marketing and information literacy instruction. Kate loves handwritten notes, family beach days, and sour candy. She and her husband will soon welcome their second son.