How to set healthy boundaries to achieve a work life balance and stick to them.

Boundaries are the limits that you place around your time, emotions and mental health that enable you to stay resilient, stable, happy and healthy.  The evolution of WFH and hybrid working has contributed to a blurring of the lines between work, home and family life, which can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout.

So why is setting boundaries so important?

By setting clear boundaries you are taking back control.  It helps you define which situations you are willing to say ‘yes’ to and when to say ‘no’. They give you clarity and a sense of agency over your own decisions.

Sounds brilliant, right? Let’s breakdown how we can put this into practice.

Identify your limits and priorities 

It’s really important to acknowledge and outright name your limits and priorities.  If you don’t do this, they will remain abstract, intangible and difficult to communicate (see Step 4).

To understand what they are create 2 lists:

  • Who/what gives me energy and builds my wellbeing and sense of balance
  • Who/what drains my energy and has a negative impact on my wellbeing and sense of balance


Create a visual representation 

Next draw a large circle.  Within it write everything that was in your first list – highlighting the things you want to prioritise, so you can address these first.

Then outside the circle, write down the things from your second list.

Set limits 

Look at everything that lies outside your circle and define a boundary that will limit or eliminate completely these things. Review what’s inside the circle – are they where you want them to be? Do boundaries need to be implemented to achieve your priorities?

Communicate your boundaries 

There is no point doing all the work up to this point and then not telling anyone! Those around you won’t know where your red lines are if you don’t tell them.

It can feel scary to do it, but once you start articulating it the sense of relief is huge and it feels liberating.  When you’ve done it once, it will be easier the next time.

Be clear, be kind and don’t be a d**k 

These are the immortal words of Sarah Knight in her 2015 book The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k – one of the best books I have read about working out what’s important to you and setting practical boundaries (if you can get past the swearing is it worth it I promise!)

The point is, if you can communicate your boundaries in an assertive, kind and clear way to the people around you, they have everything they need to understand where your limits lie, and in most cases will respect them.

Be consistent 

You may need to remind people of your boundaries at first as it may take time for them to understand or remember them – and that is fine.

The important thing is to stay consistent with where you originally set them – and whatever you do, don’t move the goal posts for somebody else’s benefit.

Don’t be afraid of the word ‘no’ 

It’s completely your decision how you spend your time and energy – no one else’s. When you have identified clear boundaries, it makes it much easier to identify when they are being compromised, and to be confident about communicating this without apology.

Make time for self-care 

It’s extremely important to prioritise and set aside time solely for you. It can be for anything you want it to be.  Just make sure you put it in your diary, make it non-negotiable and let others know that.

I am a huge advocate of the power of self-care – if you replenish your energy, it will give you the resilience to manage your boundaries more effectively.  You cannot pour from an empty cup.

Create a distinction between ‘work time’ and ‘home/family time’ 

Once you have identified your boundaries and what is most important to you, the tricky bit is sticking to it. Here are some quick tips to stop the blur between work and home creeping back:

  • Be precise about your work hours – do what you need to do to uphold this
  • Create a morning routine centred around self-care that sets you up for the day
  • Clearly communicate to co-workers when you are/aren’t available
  • Define a space in your home that is only for work if you can
  • Try something new that is completely unrelated to work (read this brilliant LinkedIn post about this
  • Have a ‘work wardrobe’ and ‘lounging about the house’ wardrobe
  • When you finish for the day, create an ‘end of day’ routine that allows you to mentally log off for the day


Be kind to yourself 

It’s not going to be perfect all the time – there are going to be times your boundaries slip.  You are only human.  The important thing is to acknowledge it, accept it and reflect on the circumstances around it. Perhaps your boundaries need reasserting with others, or you may have unintentionally set some boundaries at a level that is difficult to maintain over time.

No problem – you can go back to your original list and look at that boundary through a slightly different lens.

Your aim is to create a way of being that puts you in charge and let’s you live the life you want on your own terms.

Jane McKenna is a partner coach at Careering into Motherhood. Jane helps women navigating career change or maternity leave to uncover their story, reconnect with their professional identity and find career happiness through 1:1 coaching, group programmes, online courses and workshops. You can get in touch via her profile page