Leaps & Boundaries, or why Jude Law ain’t the answer.


Can we hash out secret fears together?

Like huddle close to one another and make our voices get real low and tell each other things we’ve never admitted? Sounds o.k.? O.k. then.

You know the movie The Holiday? The one with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz? The one that has made nearly every female who has ever watched it wish there was a man for them with a mean Mr. Napkin head impression? So here’s the truth on that one: I am secretly petrified that I’ll end up like Cameron Diaz’s character in that movie, unable to pull herself from too long of work hours and riding off in the backseat of a car on the way to a secluded cottage in England to spend my holidays alone. Yes, it sounds dramatic but you’ve feared it too, maybe.

As much as I love that movie, I cannot actually believe  Jude Law’s character– a hunky Brit who stumbles in blaring drunk & charming one evening– is the answer to this gal’s problems. I don’t necessarily think that love stepping in is the very thing that can pull someone away from an unruly work schedule or bad habits.  It’s apparent every time I watch that movie: Girl. Needed. Boundaries. B-O-U-N-daries. Bow-chicka-wow-woundaries.

There’s this strange sort of paralyzing feeling that rushes over when you wake up and realize that you’ve got just two hands. And two feet. And only one mouth. And two little eyes. And that there is only 15 or so waking hours. And yikes, just 7 days in a week?

It’s not that we are running out of time, it’s that we are realizing we are just one person. That our hearts were not actually designed to be pulled in too many directions. That flesh, spread too thin, hurts more souls than it helps. That we must learn to preserve our lives, and make intentional breathing room, if we ever want to avoid brokenness and burnout to the Nth degree.


I never used to put much weight on that term. I used to confine boundaries to relationships and relationships to romance. I thought boundaries were the sort of thing to break… to push your own limits. I never thought I might need to set some up, that I might need to know my own limits if I want to be happy & whole & charging forward in my professional and personal life.

So I’ve set some boundaries. Some stringent boundaries that I want to stick to more than anything: No emails after 6pm or before 8:30 am. No social media after 8pm on week days. No email on the weekends. No checking of Facebook messages, EVER.

Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 11.31.20 AM

They’re simple. They’re not frilly. But they give my otherwise unstructured & unpredictable life a chance to shut off. They tell people, “I leave the office too,” “I shut off and get away from here too.” Because it’s healthy. Because it’s necessary. And I want to be better to you, and more attentive to you, and more intentional with you because of it.

1) Boundaries plant your feet down in an ever-marching world.

I’m realizing that there is this exhaustion that sets in if I go to sleep scrolling through a screen and I wake up to stretch my limbs and check my email. I walk out into the day tired, already influenced by the social fingerprints of 8,000 people. Already knowing who needs me for the day. And it becomes harder, so. much. harder, to just say, “Enough, I’ve had enough.”

We’ve taken a tool like social media and on-the-go emails from our iPhones that were supposed to make our lives easier and we let them mindlessly rule us. And control us. And swap real moments with a presence that is half-hearted and two-dimensional.

Boundaries make room for creativity. They make room for real conversations. They give you a space to breathe that is not always influenced by other people. They allow you to shut off, regroup, and come back stronger for the next day.

1) Boundaries set expectation & professionalism.

We gotz mah gurlllll Sara Brink to thank for this next one. Sara Brink set me straight one evening as I was sending emails at 11:30pm. She kind of looked at me with her Tay Swifty-we-are-never-ever-ever-getting-back-together-face and said, “Do you really want people to think you are spending your Friday night sending emails?”

BAM. GUTTED IN THE STOMACH. The time stamp makes me look disorganized. It makes me look like I don’t have time management in my own life so I just choose to never shut off. It makes me scream to people (unknowingly), “YO, I gotzzz nooo boundaries so email me at any time of the night and I will be at your doorstep with a bone in my mouth.” Um, hi. No thank you…

So try out this application (courtesy of Ms. Brink). Download it into your Gmail. And watch your life change for the better. Boomerang will allow you to hold an email in your inbox and send it at a specific time later on. Working through emails on a Saturday? Delay them to be sent on Monday morning. Burning the midnight oil? Hold those suckers for 10am the following morning.

Set your own levels of expectation for other people, put your “office hours” in your email signature. Let people know that you do shut off, that you do take breaks, that you do feed your soul occasionally with Les Miserable anthems and hiking.

3) Boundaries keep you out the tissue-paper heart zone.

I get anywhere from 50-100 emails daily from people wanting to share stories, and tell me their problems, and receive love letters, and I used to make false promises to myself that I would be there for every single one of them.

I can’t be. I want to be. But I cannot be.  It’s a hard lesson to learn but I am just one person. I have just one inbox. And I will never, ever be trained in fixing the brokenness of every soul that comes into my path.

You have to know when to step back. You have to know when to fuel up. When your heart actually needs pour into the faces you know and the hands you can actually hold instead of just strangers on Twitter. Don’t misread me, I’ve made plenty of best friends on Twitter but I’ve made the relationships because we benefit from one another, we pour into one another, we hold one another accountable off the screen. And that’s the essence of a relationship that works.

Without boundaries, we go crazy thinking that we need to hold the world together with our own superglue. Now I stick with the mantra, “Do for one what you wish you could do for all.” I respond when I can. I set specific hours to just plug through. I try my best to get to as many as possible. But I’ve stopped putting the world on my shoulders over what comes into my inbox. It’ll burn you out. It will break you quickly.

4) Boundaries help you seize a life back.

I used to call myself a “workaholic” until I realized that there a lot of negative connotations stuck in the pores of that word.

I am a gal who adores her work but I can assure y’all that it’s not all the prettiness you think it might be. My closest friends would tell you that they have to drag me out of the zone. They have to remind me that I am 24 and alive and breathing and capable of dancing. They have to get me to shut off, otherwise I’d spend all my nights lighting candles and hardcore dating every ounce of my professional life. Yes, I love it. No, I don’t want to look back in 10 years and realize it’s all I built up, that I missed out on the essence of relationships for Powerpoints & PDFs.

When I talked to a friend about these new boundaries the other day, specifically my decision to not check Facebook messages anymore and including that note in my cover photo, I said it was not just setting limits for myself, it was seizing a life back. It was setting up healthier habits. It was creating a lifestyle that does not let me be dictated by the glow of the screen…

The emails won’t stop coming. The tweets will keep come on rolling in. So what do we do in the meantime? What do we do in the meantime?

I’m on some massive boundaries kick these days so I would love to hear how you set them up in your own life. Any tips? Any breakthrough moments from setting them yourself?

17 thoughts on “Leaps & Boundaries, or why Jude Law ain’t the answer.

  1. Me? Well, I tend to ignore till I feel like answering. I get review requests almost everyday. I read through them, but I don’t reply. Because even replying takes effort and I don’t want to write a half-hearted reply to anyone. Be it that I am accepting or rejecting.
    I too, became quite addicted to checking my email every waking hour, more so now that I have an iPad, but i’m trying. I promptly switch off the wifi before going to sleep. Because the habit had got worse. I would wake up in the middle of the night and get the urge to check my email. I mean, SERIOUSLY?! So, I had to put my foot down. I still need to keep putting it down, but i’m trying.
    I might just try out your methods 🙂

  2. This is such a perfect post, especially since I’ve been approaching the dreaded first-year teacher burnout lately. The golden rule for teachers is to respond to parent emails within 24 hours. I love that because it prevents me from writing a response that is too impulsive and gives me time to think it out a bit. I’ve had to stop myself MANY times from responding to an email at 11:30 pm because of those time stamp fears that you describe, too. I also try to allow myself some week-day social time for my own mental sanity – whether it’s a dinner date or an hour-long phone conversation, sometimes that spontaneous Tuesday night outing is exactly what I need to kick-start my motivation to make it through the rest of the week. Glad to read you’re doing things for YOU! 🙂

  3. Oh, I just love this! I think this really applies to anyone who uses social media on a regular basis, not just people who use it for a career. When I spent an entire day on Facebook over spring break, I knew something had to give. My boyfriend doesn’t have a cell phone currently so I can’t avoid Facebook completely, but I’ve definitely been thinking about ways to stay away from refreshing my newsfeed every time I open my laptop. I resonate so deeply with this! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Oh I so needed to read this today. I just gone done explaining to my mom, a co-worker and my husband (on separate occasions) that I need these boundaries. I have no-phone Sundays in full effect. Except sometimes I cheat and post on instagram. I don’t answer my phone on Sunday unless it’s a family member, I don’t do emails and I don’t even blog (hence why my blog is dark 99.9% of the time on a Monday!). People rely on me a lot at my job which is great but only when it is between the hours of 8am-5pm. Let’s see if I can create some boundaries and stick to them!

  5. Like this. Tweet that. Pin it. Plus it. Fuck it. TOO. MUCH. SOCIAL MEDIA.

    I say unplug. Go outside. Fresh air, tangible things, and warm bodies are good for us.

    The people who matter will still be around. The people that don’t, won’t.

    That’s the Universe’s way of setting up boundaries for those with too soft of hearts to draw the lines themselves.

    And the work? It will always be there. The only difference is now you’ll be able to tackle it with greater love, more energy and focus…because you put you first for a change.

  6. Clearly you’ve hit a nerve here, Hannah, and believe me, it crosses generational boundaries. I’m speaking for the baby boomers, many of whom, like me, have jumped into deep waters with the exciting new tools of connection, only to discover if we don’t set boundaries such as you’ve described, we risk physical and mental overload, compromised sleep, and a subterranean stress that erupts along fault lines unique to each of us. We MUST unplug if we are to be responsible stewards of our bodies and souls.

  7. Hannah,
    Reading your last few entries it is so easy to see you are asking for a break. Do it. Go on a vacation and breathe fresh air. Generate new ideas. I have learned that I am not the only person out there who can offer a lending hand. Take care of yourself first always before anyone else. Why do you think they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others?…:) be well.

  8. I have been on a Social Media Rehab experiment for the past 3 weeks. I have one week left. It has felt very freeing, and eye-opening on how I choose to spend my time. I am starting to think now of how I will set my boundaries now for when I get back to FB & twitter. I’ve found I’m emailing more now to connect with people. But even that needs limits. You’re boundaries are excellent. I have to figure out my own. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Setting boundaries for work really does allow you to live your life more freely. Being weighed down by a phone or computer is exhausting, too!

    Glad you’re sticking to this new set of rules for yourself 🙂

  10. I’m looking everywhere for inspiration to live my life.
    Something to hold on to & to help me push through the days.
    A quote, a book, a picture, lyrics from a song.
    Sometimes I sit on the internet for hours,
    But then I realize I should be out there taking my inspiration from the world.
    Not in the store. Or in a movie theater. Or hiding in my room.

    Out. Experiencing the world in a way that doesn’t cost money.

    Spending time instead of killing it. I need boundaries.

  11. Hannah, I just discovered your blog and I love it. This post has really got me thinking about boundaries in my own life. I am involved in a lot of different things in my life and have been finding it hard to fit it all in and be worth anything to all of it. After reading this, I’m going to be giving it a lot of thought. Mmmm…. boundaries. Thanks

  12. I cannot believe you talked about The Holiday movie and Mr. Napkin-head!!!! I LOVE that movie….the ultimate chick-flick! So interesting you write about boundaries this time. We just finished a ‘Guardrails’ series at church that taught the same thing. Good for you for setting boundaries. Boundaries are good and necessary. Even if they do keep you out of the hunky arms of Jude Law….. = ) Best blog evah, girl. Love it. Keep ’em comin’!

  13. as a mom of two little girls I have to set boundaries for myself when it comes to phone time/computer time. I want to be an excellent example for the girls. Sure I use my phone to take their pictures but I try and not always have it out checking facebook. That time after work and before bed is golden time to interact with them and just breathe them in. They are only young once. After they go to bed I do allow myself some time to be plugged in. But only for a short period of time. These are not hard and fast rules but merely guidelines to help me enjoy life more and blog,tweet and post less.

  14. Thank you Hannah!
    Thank you for this article full of truth put into such great words. How often have I felt this way. Like I needed to set myself boundaries? As often as I have failed to work with them for more than a week.
    But your words gave me the strenght to try it again! To set myself some new boundaries, because it’ll benefit myself in the longrun. And that I can do it, because you showed me it’s possible.

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