The Daily Challenge: Setting Boundaries


Avoid spending time on work that doesn't contribute meaningful value.

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Time to Read: 4 Mins

While it's always good to be a team player, there's a misconception that team players are the people who only say "yes".

The truth is, every company needs people who know how to prioritize their time and contribute to the company's goals (either directly or indirectly by supporting someone else). 

Spending time on work that doesn't contribute meaningful value to the company is useless for everyone and is often how employees become unengaged. 

What can you do when you or your team have been assigned a project or task that seems like a waste of time? Speak up, ask for clarification, and communicate boundaries.


Step 1: Identify areas of your work that may need clearer boundaries. As a starting point, it may help to ask yourself (or your team) the questions below.

  • Is this project or task a good use of our company's resources?

  • Do we have the capacity to take on this work? What other work might suffer?

  • If we didn't do this project/task, what would happen?

  • How much of my (or our) time is interrupted due to unnecessary distractions? Where could we put clear boundaries in place to reduce these distractions

  • Am I working in the evenings or weekends because I'm not able to get work done during the day? What needs to give to reduce these hours?

Step 2: Find ways to delegate, de-prioritize or stop. If you or your team are working on tasks that don't add meaningful value to the company, find ways to eliminate them or delegate them. Something that seemed important three months ago might be much less relevant today. In other cases, something that seemed valuable may turn out to be an unnecessary time-suck.  

Step 3: Check in with your boundaries often. Make it a weekly habit to identify where you or your team is spending time.

  • How much of it goes toward value-adding work?

  • How much is wasted on meaningless tasks?

  • Where are you being disrupted?

  • How could you eliminate these disruptions?

Pro Tip: When saying "no", communication is key. How can you tell a senior executive "no"?

The trick is to align on objectives and priorities before making a commitment. When you are given an assignment, we recommend asking questions to understand the objective and then thinking through better ways to accomplish the same goal.

If you do need to say no, be prepared to justify your reasoning with sound logic. For example:

  • "Our focus is on XYZ, and this project doesn't align with those goals."

  • "Taking on this project would negatively impact our core focus in these specific ways...."

  • "We can do ABC, but we would have to stop doing XYZ. Is this what you intended?"

If handled with empathy and respect, setting boundaries will help you stand out as a stronger member of the team.

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