“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”
This quote, from Robert Frost, couldn’t be more accurate! This can apply to any number of situations we find ourselves in as clinicians but in this case I’m going to apply it making and setting appropriate boundaries for your work. A coaching client of mine was recently bemoaning that she had no time to herself because she had spent most of the previous weekend finishing reports for work. A SLP, she had completed all the necessary testing at school and found herself scoring and writing up evaluations due in the next week. How did this happen?
Boundaries or fences as Mr. Frost called them, are critical for success as a Thriving Clinician. Knowing when and how to set boundaries as well as when its appropriate to make exceptions, is not usually taught in grad school. This isn’t about being so rigid that you can’t change them up or even make an allowance from time to time for special circumstances.
How to set them? Read on!
First decide what’s important to you. Is getting home in time to meet your child’s bus a priority or being able to kick back at the end of the day for downtime a priority? Those are both great priorities! In order to decide how much time and energy we have for something first we need to decide what’s on that BIG to do list.
I’m not talking about the shopping but rather where you see yourself going in general; do you need to put in extra work because you’ve just returned to work after a lay-off or withstood another type of financial hit? No matter what’s important to others if they are YOUR priorities they are IMPORTANT.
Next it’s going to be useful to know what can be flexible and what can’t be. Can you put off some pieces at work such as writing your notes at the end of the week or do they have to be done each day? Some reports have deadlines, others don’t. Sessions generally have to be done on time.
Within that framework it becomes easier to set priorities and boundaries. Once you are aware of both what needs to get done for yourself as well as your practice, you can say out loud, “I’m sorry, that won’t work for me; can I get that to you tomorrow afternoon?” If the answer is, “no, I need it today” you can offer up solutions that work for you such as, “I can work on that but it would need to be during the staff meeting time; would it be OK to miss that this week?”
If there’s a bigger problem and you find yourself doing work on your time off you might want to look at your schedule. Is there time built in for reports, lunch and returning calls? Do you find yourself working through lunch, “just this once” but find it’s become a daily thing? Being mindful to take a lunch break and blocking out time for daily tasks are the healthy way to stay Thriving, not to mention they’re a great example of setting boundaries!
I trust you’ll do a great job of boundary setting once you get in the habit!