Feeling overwhelmed? Taken on too much? Having trouble saying ‘no’? The key to creating a more balanced life is to set boundaries that support your visions, your goals and the way you function at your best. Boundaries provide a valuable structure for communicating with those around you, at work and at play, so that everyone achieves their desired outcome without feeling frustrated or resentful. But first, you need to know where your boundaries are.

So, when should you say ‘no’? Cheryl Richardson, author of The Art of Extreme Self-Care, suggests you create your own ‘absolute’ list to set boundaries for your optimal life.

What is an absolute ‘yes’ in your life?

What is an absolute ‘no’ in your life?

Learning to say ‘no’ is liberating and brings us back to being true to ourselves. Try practising saying ‘no’ in the mirror a few times until you sound clear, calm and confident.

Polite ways to say ‘no’

Many people, especially women, struggle to say ‘no’ for fear of sounding rude. But it is a vital skill that stops you committing to things that drain you and don’t add anything positive to your life. Here are some suggestions for polite ways to say ‘no’.

  •  I’m swamped right now, but please ask me again another time. (If you’d like to do it at a later date.)
  • I can’t do it, but I can recommend someone else.
  • I’d love to help, but I’d be letting other people down and I just can’t do that.
  • I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I promised myself I would say ‘no’ to things when I’m feeling overloaded.

Example: Boundaries at work

Martin found that if he completed his most important tasks in the morning, he could make himself more available to his colleagues in the afternoon. To achieve this, he always started with the hardest task first. He also set the boundary that when his office door was closed, his colleagues weren’t allowed to enter unless their request was urgent, and if it was open, they had to knock before entering.

Example: Boundaries at home

Darcy recognised that his partner and family were the most important people in his life. He decided that between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. each evening, he would be engaged with them, so he didn’t check his phone or emails during this time. He also consciously entered the house each evening with a smile and positive energy, so he would inspire, rather than drain them. Darcy changed his family dynamic with these commitments.

Example: Boundaries for yourself

By making one basic health commitment to yourself, such as giving up or limiting alcohol or coffee, you can bring about a huge positive change. Sally lost 4 kg in six months simply by giving up soft drinks.

(Extract taken from The Life Plan, by Shannah Kennedy. Head over to bookdepository.com to order your copy or get in touch with Shannah here to find out about executive coaching options.)