Setting Boundaries and the Power of Mute

Isn’t it funny how sometimes the smallest changes can have the biggest impacts on your life?

I’ve been having a battle for much of this year with one of my colleagues. He was constantly sending messages in our group chat outside of working hours (and inside sometimes, despite the fact we all work opposite each other!). If he didn’t get a response within the group chat, he would message me directly.

I made it clear from day one, that for emergencies, I’m always available outside of working hours (one of the joys of managing people). However, perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough what I meant by emergencies. And perhaps in the beginning, I made the mistake of replying outside of working hours. There therefore became an expectation that I was available 24/7.

However, when I started to receive messages from my colleague whilst I was on annual leave, I grew increasingly frustrated.

I knew I was partly to blame for not setting boundaries from the beginning, but something had to change.

I chatted this through at length with my professional coach. She helped me to realise that although not a particularly straight forward situation, it wasn’t too late to set those boundaries.

A week or so later, we had a department meeting, and I raised the subject. Not calling out the specific person (although he did guess it was aimed at him), I made it explicitly clear that there were no expectations for people to respond to messages after working hours or during their annual leave, and if there was a real emergency (I.e the building was on fire, or someone had been taken ill, or had an accident), they were to call me instead of sending WhatsApp messages.

Further to this, I then got into the habit of muting work colleagues ‘chats’ whilst I was on leave. My member of staff wasn’t the only person to contact me out of hours, so it was important to make sure others were also aware of the boundaries I was putting in place.

Muting conversations and setting boundaries had an immediate impact on the situation. I was finally able to enjoy my annual leave and my evenings, without disturbances from work (with the exception of when my boss accidentally sent an email to my personal email address rather than my work one 🤦🏼‍♀️). This resulted in a much more rested and happier Mindful Gingernut at the end of her leave.

Since then, I’ve made further changes. Not only are my work colleagues muted, so are family and friends. This might sound a little bit drastic, however, I had started to notice a really unhealthy pattern forming.

My phone was constantly in my hand, and as soon as I received a notification I would open my phone to check it and to respond. And in turn, I was wasting so much of my precious time.

Now, with almost all of my conversations on mute, as well as other social media notifications also on mute, my days are becoming much more productive. I also feel a lot happier. Coincidence?

Of course, I still check in on social media throughout the day, but I do it on my terms.

I honestly hadn’t realised how attached to my phone I had become, and the impact it was actually having on my life, on my time, and on my productivity.

But thank goodness I discovered the power of setting those boundaries, as well as discovering the power of ‘mute’ sooner rather than later!


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