- Setting boundaries about your availability starts with your calendar schedule and appointment bookings.
- You can organise your work week with time blocking, task batching and day theming.
- Not every query needs an immediate response. Let clients and colleagues know you’ll get back to them at a convenient time.
As we moved through the waves of the pandemic, our work and personal lives became scrambled. With many of us working from home, work diffused across more hours of the day and boundaries became blurred. That scramble was exacerbated by our increased dependency on technology devices (think smartphones) and social media.
But we can redesign our working lives so that we can operate in a more sustainable, tech-smart and balanced way.
A key element is actively maintaining kind and respectful professional boundaries. Setting clear boundaries helps you stay focused and productive, avoids scope creep, reduces stress, prevents burnout, and promotes mental wellbeing for yourself and colleagues who won’t feel compelled to respond to after-hours messages.
I’ve operated as a tech-loving digital nomad for more than a decade. These are the tools and technology I use to set boundaries and expectations while delivering an outstanding client experience.
How to set boundaries for your work week
Setting boundaries starts with your calendar schedule. Use calendar settings to define working days and hours, and block off time, to let people know when you are available.
“Use calendar settings to define working days and hours, and block off time, to let people know when you are available.”
I schedule my week using time blocking, task batching and day theming. Time blocking is for meetings, deep work, thinking time, breaks, training sessions and downtime. Task batching
I use for sending client reminders, responding to client messages and work involving the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) portal. Day theming could be a no-meeting Friday, which allows me to switch the day into a long weekend.
The next layer of setting boundaries is incorporating online appointment scheduling software into your workflow. This lets you protect your boundaries and honour your schedule while servicing clients. Numerous options are available: Calendly, Timely, Acuity Scheduling, Microsoft Bookings and many more.
I use Calendly which has self-serve booking links that can be defined for different meeting types and bespoke parameters. For example, client meeting blocks could be defined as Monday to Thursday afternoon. Potential new client meetings could be available from morning tea to lunch during the week, but can be switched off during busy periods.
Calendar booking links can be embedded on websites and dropped into relevant email templates. Automated workflows can be associated with different booking types. Once a booking is made, a prepared email sequence can be sent to the client to answer general FAQs, prepare them for the meeting, remind them of the appointment and follow up with them after the session. These workflows can be easily tweaked and refined as you learn from the process.
Here’s a bonus tip: use Loom to create engaging video content and embed it within the automated emails to humanise the experience. My clients have exclaimed, “These reminders help us feel super prepared for the meeting.”
Aside from supporting boundaries, calendar booking solutions have other useful features, including collecting payment at the time of booking.
Why is asynchronous communication useful?
Asynchronous communication refers to communication that doesn’t happen in real-time. Instead, messages are answered in the responder’s own time. It’s a method that was embraced initially by digital nomads working across different time zones but has now moved into the mainstream as a result of the pandemic.
It slows down communication but does enable the responder to provide a considered response. It also means that the response is documented and not lost in an extended Zoom meeting (although I would never lose my Zoom meetings as I record them using perfectrecall.app).
How tech can humanise communications
Loom is a tool that supports async video messaging. You open up a browser, click on the installed Loom icon, record your browser screen and a video message from yourself, then send it to the recipient as a hyperlink.
Your clients watch the video in their own time then use Loom to record their response. If Italian nonnas can teach grandkids how to make pasta over FaceTime during COVID, I’m sure this is the sort of tech accountants and their clients can explore.
Being an introvert, I encourage people to contact me via email rather than by phone. When I receive the gift of a client’s question, I take the time to provide a comprehensive response. I then repurpose generic responses into videos and blogposts I use on my website and social media.
I’ll also use a text expander tool which saves the text and, using a keyboard combination, allows me to replicate it elsewhere quickly. (There are plenty of text expander software add-ons available including Text Blaze, TextExpander and Phrase Express, and also ones for your smartphone.)
Doing this means I communicate my business’s culture, values and what clients can expect when working with me. It attracts like-minded clients, reduces the onboarding process, deflects unsuitable clients, and helps me respond to FAQs faster.
Your email signature is also a useful tool. It can include details of your availability, a link to a calendar booking, and explain how you prefer to communicate: “I am emailing at a time convenient to me, only reply when convenient for you.”
Also use the ‘Schedule Send’ option to send out emails during generally accepted business hours.
Should you flag your work mood?
I want to leave you with one last mind-blowing suggestion: use traffic light colours to flag ambient moods that signal the importance of the work you’re doing and whether you can be disturbed.
Get an Elgato Stream Deck device (Google Assistant and Alexa offer similar options) and program red, orange and green ‘moods’. Connect the stream deck to the office ‘smart’ devices so that, for example, pressing a ‘red’ button turns the light red outside the office, indicating you’re not to be disturbed. It could set the air-conditioner to quiet, dim the overhead lighting slightly, and turn on classical music and an atomiser filled with scents that help you focus.
It could also activate site blockers on your web browser and set a timer to turn your surroundings back to normal after a 90-minute work sprint.
To do your best work, it’s essential to have professional boundaries that you, your colleagues and clients acknowledge and respect. See if your existing tech stack offers that functionality or consider some of the suggestions mentioned here.
Implementing boundaries helps you gain space for personalisation to create an amazeballs experience that your clients are willing to pay for.
Browse the CA Library reading list on remote work best practice.Find out more