We run into situations where we worked a few extra hours into the night, and we wake up the next day unable to function. The work project, and the people, get stuck relying on us. Especially when we can’t afford it.
The reason is that we want to stretch a bit more, make the project go faster and please more. We do that by spending our extra resources on the project’s (or person’s) behalf. What’s happening is that we are looking for a magical way to get more time and energy in the day.
Of course, the person we’re helping doesn’t need five more minutes for a small request. They have five more requests after. But it feels like helping them with a request (that is not agreed upon) is a way of showing them that you care.
The alternative is a simple as it is difficult: Say no.
Say it without rushing and without stress. “I’m sorry, that’s not going to work for me.” You can explain, “This is not so healthy for me because…” and suggest an alternative, “I think what would be in our best interests that we do it this other way”.
An overloaded truck isn’t a more efficient way to move gravel (or anything else). And when you overload your day by treating your engine as indestructible based on how much you care, you’ll become inefficient and thus disrespectful.
Lots of other things in our life aren’t squishy. Gravity, for example, or the load capacity of the lift. They are what they are.
So is boundaries if you let it.
The hard part about stating your boundaries is standing up and moving on. But the cost of being squishy is that you’re not only disrespecting the next person or project. You’re stressed all the time.
Stand up and walk out.
People will learn, and they’ll end up respecting you for it because it’s not personal. Just as it’s not personal when the train leaves on time. The alternative, which is squishiness, is personal. Because if you like someone, you’re willing to be even more late than usual.
Boundaries are needed for us to do our best work.