boundaries: the dark side of being motivated

In building a business, inspiration, learning, motivation, productivity by Jay Clouse

As I’ve gotten better at building a life of my own design, I find myself really only spending time on things that I actually, really want to spend time on.

What a great place to be.

Rarely do I have any problem with “motivation” — when your work is totally in the realm of things you have enthusiastically chosen to do, “motivation” is handled by compulsion.

On the surface, that’s great too. But it creates its own set of new challenges.

Right now I’m struggling with setting boundaries. Boundaries both for myself and others.

As I’ve honed in and curated my work, I’ve also curated the people I work with. And I’m excited to work with them, collaborate with them, and support them.

So when someone reaches out for help, support, or time to chat, it’s very hard to say no. I love these people, and the work we do (or could do) together is so exciting!

I’ve written before that access is easier than you think. I still believe that is very much the case — and it’s true for those trying to access my time too.

But other peoples’ demands on my time is only the tip of the iceberg. The bigger challenge is setting boundaries with myself.

When I look at my calendar, no hour is off limits. I want to get the most out of every day, so I’ll fill up all hours of the day. Rarely do I protect time for meals, working out, or winding down. At best, I’ll eat, work out, and relax when I find myself with open space by chance.

So there’s a need to set boundaries for working hours in general, but wait there’s more!

Even within the portfolio of work that I do, there’s a need for boundaries. Some work is high value work (paid or building an asset), some work is low value, and some work is purely volunteer or passion projects.

If I were to do a pie chart of how I was dividing my time across those categories, ideally a large percentage would be the high value work. But in reality, I’m spending a large percentage of my time on low value or unpaid work.

Some of that is a lack of delegation, and some of that is unchecked interest in the work that doesn’t actually help me earn a better living. I’m highly motivated to do that work, but I shouldn’t be prioritizing it.

There are some ways to set better boundaries, which I’ll be reimplementing.

1. Create and maintain a calendar or schedule

If I want to prioritize sleep, exercise, meals, or rest — I need to schedule and protect them in my calendar as I would any other commitment. Instead of guessing when I’ll find time, or doing them ad hoc, make them a priority in the place I name priorities.

2. Theme my days

This is something I’ve done for the last year+, but is harder to do during marketing and onboarding periods for Unreal.

All of our group or individual calls for Unreal are scheduled for Mondays and Tuesdays, which means I can theme my Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Or I can theme certain parts of those days.

Instead of scheduling calls and meetings whenever is open, only making Thursdays available for meetings. Or only making afternoons available.

3. Looking out for Future Jay

Today Jay can be real inconsiderate of Future Jay. I know Future Jay won’t enjoy late meetings or packing every weekend with interview recordings, but I’ve historically set them anyway. Creating problems for Future Jay just to get it off of Today Jay’s plate is not a sustainable long-term solution.

I don’t really expect or desire work/life “balance” in this season of my life. I am in a time of work/life integration — but that doesn’t mean I can’t integrate better boundaries and intentional management of my time and energy.


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