If you hang around here often, you’ll know I love Boomerang, the email scheduling app for Gmail.
It’s like my very own personal inbox assistant, who handily reminds me at just the right time that I need to follow-up on some piece of correspondence. And it helps me preschedule important emails to go out at just the right time.
But I have a dirty little secret…
… Boomerang also helps me enforce my boundaries on my time.
As The Photographer likes to joke, I don’t have an ‘off’ switch. I sometimes find it hard to unplug and stop working.
But as I built my business, that lack of being able to turn it ‘off’ led to wonky boundaries with clients.
I would receive an email at 7pm and because I saw it and could quickly respond, I did. “So where’s the problem, Lindsay, that’s top-notch service?” you may be thinking. And I would agree with you.
Except, the issues I was responding to weren’t important in the sense that they couldn’t wait until the following morning. I became accustomed to the workflow and I knew my clients did too (although no one ever asked specifically for that type of response time).
And always responding became a habit, a bad habit. On a night that I told myself I was going to take off, if an email came through that I could quickly answer, I’d feel guilty. I’d feel like I was failing my clients. I’d think I was delivering subpar service.
Again, no one ever asked me to respond to emails within a couple of hours, especially outside of business hours – I created my own story in my own brain for my own self to suffer through.
Genius – I know!
So to wean myself off those self-imposed feelings of pressure to always be ‘on’, I got Boomerang.
At first, I worked the same as I always had, answering emails day and night and on the weekends, but I would schedule the responses to go out during the morning of my next business day.
After a few weeks without clients even acknowledging the fact that I wasn’t in their inbox outside of my office hours like I was in the past, I felt at ease enough to actually unplug at night. I’d check my email via my iPhone here and there, but wouldn’t act on my need to fire up the computer. I would acknowledge the sense of urgency and tell myself that the email could wait until the following day and let the feeling pass, then return to what I was doing previously.
Today, my nights are my own to spend with my family, without mental space devoted to thoughts of my inbox and wondering what’s landing in it at any given moment. I recharge during those times, so that I can come back to be the most awesomesauce version of Lindsay I can be for my family, friends and clients.
Yes, I still work outside of business hours at times (hey, launches happen and they’re important), but its the exception not the rule.
Guess I do have an ‘off’ switch after all.
Do you have squishy boundaries in your work life or personal relationships? What is one simple step forward you could do today to firm them up?