6 Ways Education CEOs Can Set Boundaries for Success at Every Level

Contributing Writer

Last week, I sat down for dinner with a dear friend and fellow social entrepreneur, who is also the CEO of a company focused on education. Part of our friendship involves regularly checking in on one another’s businesses, hiring needs, personnel issues, conferences and travel, and emotional wellness as entrepreneurs.

As we were getting the check, she asked, “Have you ever noticed how some people feel hijacked by their time, and are constantly busy and swirling? I really appreciate the way we are so intentional about our time.”

Sara DancingGranted, this friend is so intentional about her time that we needed to finish dinner by a certain hour, at which time she’s no longer eating for the day, but her point was clear.

We live in a world where we are constantly pulled in different directions, all at the same time. We are expected to be high performers at work, caregivers to our parents, attentive to our siblings, devoted to our partners, and present for our children. It would also be nice if we were well read, informed on politics, the world news, and the arts. Oh and did you also see that viral video of the sheep dancing? Because that will allow you to participate in the conversation at the water cooler.

We are all busy. We are all inundated with content, requests, and demands for our attention. So how do we avoid feeling stuck in a perpetual state of doing business and instead claim our time as our own?

In the case of myself and my aforementioned friend, it comes down to boundaries. That means knowing how to say no, even to some of your best friends. That’s why I wait until I leave the office to respond to social texts.

Nothing reinforced my boundaries more than having my first baby. Now, when I am with my daughter, I put my phone away because we are dancing and singing. I will respond to those messages while she’s napping.

When talking about work-life integration, it can be really challenging to mindfully allocate attention and care to all of the different pieces of ourselves. It’s not realistic for me to turn off my phone at 6 p.m. during the week, so how can I manage my time and use boundaries to maximize myself as a CEO and a mom?

Here are a few strategies I use:

1) I wake up before my daughter does. This allows me to fulfill my morning rituals that are key to my personal wellness–the Artist’s Way Morning Pages and a workout–before I tend to her.

2) I get the most complex, difficult projects done in the morning. I use the morning energy to tackle the projects that I would keep putting off if I had the choice. By the time it’s 11 a.m., my most important work for the day is done.

3) I don’t say yes to every social commitment. I used to feel obligated to attend to every wedding, birthday party, or fundraiser. Now I am empowered to politely decline if the invitation does not work for me or my family.

4) I schedule all of my internal one-on-ones in the afternoon.I prefer not to have internal meetings interrupt my productivity in the middle of the day. Whether it’s morning or afternoon, being intentional about when those internal meetings occur is important for your workflow.

5) I hold dance class sacred. My creative and artistic sanctuary is dance class. This is where, after a day of being a mom and a CEO, my only responsibility is to express myself. This is when I have many of my new ideas that drive my social-emotional learning company Move This World forward. Whether it’s playing the guitar, learning to code, or drawing in a notebook, doing something creative and giving yourself the gift of alone time will pay dividends on your productivity.

6) I try to do the things that only I can do. This is really hard and was not possible for the first six years of building Move This World, but we are at a place as an organization where we have a solid team that excels at what they do. By supporting team members to be great at their roles and helping them to remove any roadblocks that they face, it allows me to step back and focus on the things that only I can do, like set the vision and strategic direction of the organization.

We all live hectic lives, but putting boundaries in place allows us to be more successful at every facet of our lives. This way, we are never held hostage to our time but manage it in order to thrive in work and in life.

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Photo: Sara Potler LaHayne taking dance class. (Credit: Dance Italia)

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22 thoughts on “6 Ways Education CEOs Can Set Boundaries for Success at Every Level

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