Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others. ~ Brené Brown

Do you ever feel like a slave to your email inbox? What about the little red notifications from social media?
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I know it’s something I have struggled with quite a lot. I love email and social media (truly, they are such wonderful methods of communication!) but it’s easy to get sucked in to our inboxes and not actually do any work, or to spend so much time scrolling that it overtakes our life.
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If you’ve been following me on social media for a while you’ll know that I have been working on having boundaries around how and when I show up on social media for well over a year now.
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Why did I implement social media boundaries to begin with?
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I started to notice that I was spending way too much time mindlessly scrolling and it was beginning create a sense of comparison-itis in me that wasn’t very pleasant.
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Stopping to check social media on my phone was also creeping into almost all aspects of my day and interrupting quality time with my husband, family and friends. Sure, some of it was useful, but most of it was mindless scrolling.
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I started by simply removing my phone from charging in the bedroom so that I wouldn’t look at it last thing at night and first thing in the morning.
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Then I began setting myself time limits for when I logged into Facebook and got much more intentional about how I used the platform (i.e. actually interacting with the people and businesses I follow…what an idea!?). I deleted the Facebook app from my phone so that I would be forced to log in on the desktop only (this helped A LOT!). I also turned off notifications for my emails and Facebook on my browsers.
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I did a big clean out of all the Facebook groups I’m in. Then, in January of this year, I archived my Self-Care for Teachers Facebook group. In case you don’t know, that Facebook Group was how this whole SC4T journey started for me almost 3 years ago, so this was a very big step.
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I wrote in my #selfcaresunday post this week that removing things from my life has had a greater impact on my health and wellbeing than including good things.
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I consume a lot of information about productivity, and health and wellbeing, and have been doing so for years, so I knew the benefits of setting boundaries with my social media were many and varied.
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The last part of my social media boundaries was around challenging myself to stop the meaningless ‘scroll + like’ pattern I was in. I’ve seen this mentioned in multiple places around the interwebs so I thought I’d give it a try. The idea is that unless you can think of something to say in a comment, don’t engage with the post at all. If you are going to just hit the ‘like’ or ‘heart’ button and keep scrolling, don’t bother.
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If you are going to hit ‘like’ or ‘love’ or ‘wow’ or ‘heart’ on a post, actually write a comment as well that explains more about what you really mean by that reaction. It’s harder than you think, and I realise as I write this that it’s a habit I’ve fallen out of. So, from today, I’m going to re-start this strategy of engaging with social media.
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But what about email?
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Good question. I have known for years that productivity experts recommend setting limits around email use. For example, only check it at 8am and 4pm. Set a timer when you work through your inbox. Look at your emails and write a physical list of which ones you will respond to and in what order. If you get a lot of the same questions, have some FAQ template replies to save time.
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As teachers, we get emails from all angles: administration, colleagues, students and parents. It can be hard to keep up and I know so many of us feel a pressure to completely clear our inbox each day.
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Many of these emails are necessary and (relatively) urgent, so they do need responses. And yet, all too often, we get sucked into a vortex sending multiple emails back and forth for days with the person in the office down the hall (or the block on the other side of the school) instead of walking over to have a conversation in person, or sorting it out in 3 minutes on the phone.
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I’ve also been on the receiving end of more than one demanding email from a parent in an evening or over the weekend, and then been met with a phone call the next morning at school asking why I didn’t reply yet! In my early years of teaching, I didn’t even know I was allowed to say ‘I don’t check my email in the evenings.’ I thought I had to jump whenever they told me to, even if it was completely unreasonable.
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My new email boundaries
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Enter my friend and mentor, Naomi Arnold.
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She has an auto-responder on her email inbox that reads something like, “Life is very full right now with work, study, business and family commitments. I’m trying to spend less time in my inbox and more time in my life. Therefore, I’m limiting the time I spend in my inbox to twice a week. I will get back to you, but please be patient.”
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What a curious idea I have found this.
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It’s a brilliant way to manage people’s expectations, and to give the inbox owner some breathing room in replying.
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I have been deliberating this seriously for about a month now, ever since I put an out-of-office holiday responder on when we went to New Zealand in the first week of March.
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Could I really do it? Am I allowed to? What will people think?
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Will they think I don’t care about them? Will they think I’m a bad business-woman and an uncaring coach?
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But then I saw this quote from Brené Brown, and I realised that it was time.
Boundaries are about self-love.
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Boom.
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That really hit home for me. It reminded me that it’s okay to disappoint people. That self-care and self-love are my responsibility, nobody else’s. That having strong boundaries and practising self-care actually allows me to better serve others in the long run, even if disappoints them in the short term.
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It also helped me challenge the niggling voice that told me ‘the world will end if you don’t reply to every single email within 24 hours.’ 
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If something is truly urgent, email is not the medium to use to contact me. If you don’t believe me, watch this hilarious clip from the IT crowd that proves my point!
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I also realised that every time I get Naomi’s auto-responder, I am impressed. I don’t think she’s a terrible person for having a life outside her email inbox. I don’t get all self-righteous about why I demand a reply within 24 hours.
Actually, I’ve always been secretly jealous!
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So finally, this weekend, I decided to follow Naomi’s lead, and I put an auto-responder on my email accounts.
It feels SO good.
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Will it disappoint some people? Maybe.
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Will they get over it? Yep.
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Will it free me up to produce more content and quality resources for teachers, and take care of myself better so I can show up for my clients more wholeheartedly? Definitely.
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#worthit
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Why not give it a try yourself?
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Email me, and tell me when you do! I’ll celebrate with you!

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