Urgent Boundaries

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

October 20, 2013

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Categories: One a Day, Post a Day 2013

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was giving me a lesson in boundaries. He said, after expressing how a client wanted him to drop everything and take care of her need, “Lack of planning on your part doesn’t make it an emergency on mine.”

Lack of planning on your part…

… doesn’t make it an emergency on mine.

I wrap the words around my tongue, letting them pass before my eyes through my brain.

Lack of planning on your part….

… doesn’t make it an emergency on mine.

Boundaries, quadrant II, time management, being thoughtful, being considerate. To me, all these things are wrapped up together.

It isn’t considerate to assume that someone leads the same life as you. As such, it isn’t considerate to assume someone can just pencil in a meeting with you because suddenly you’re faced with a grave deadline.

It is shortsighted to overlook someone’s timeline, assuming they can do it all. And it is hard but needed to enforce those boundaries, otherwise your emergency does bleed into others.

I am thinking of a myriad of examples where we fail to live in quadrant II. And, lately, I’ve been speculating the motivations.

I have a revolving task list. That is, for my paid work, the tasks I do repeat, and repeat often. I have to open the mail with a colleague every day. I have to go to the bank and deposit money, every day. I have to work around these things, and the daily tasks are easier. I also have monthly tasks, some are shorter, and some need thought. For the ones that require thought, I often push them to the back burner, using the drop dead deadline as the deadline to reach, not the ideal planful deadline. Why? Because these things take time, and given the structure of my job, it is set up to do quick tasks more efficiently than my preferred thoughtful tasks.

So, my task list stays full of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. And, if someone wants to add something new to my plate, I often decline because of the monthly tasks, looming over, never given time to attend during the day. And, sometimes, I’ve noticed that when I do get them done, I feel lost. I have plenty of other things to do on my task list, but once that super important looming thing is gone – I feel a sense of inexplicable loss. In the moment, rather, it feels inexplicable, but in reflection it feels like loss of importance. Is my worth tied to this one, silly task? It is odd, because if done regularly, and insisted upon to be done quickly, everyone would be happier. I know, logically, that I’d likely be tasked with something more important – so why then do I cling to the status, frustrating, quo?

And, that, is why I think people work in what I dub, “pants-on-fire” mode. We can’t envision a more efficient, happier, more productive future, so we cling to what we know – putting out fires, living in quadrant I and quadrant III.

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