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Self-care: Setting Boundaries – A personal account

One of the most important things I’ve learned to do as part of self-care is priotising and setting boundaries.

Sales, events and hospitality generally is one of the most exciting and dynamic industries to work in. I still get the same kick out of dealing with the first enquiry, securing the booking, building relationships with clients and watching people enjoy an event I’ve worked on.

But it’s no secret that the pressures that come with the job can be stressful. There are targets and KPIs to hit, a lot of balls to juggle and expectations to meet. We tend to have perfectionist tendencies too, I’ve found – always looking for the devil in the detail, wanting to prepare for a busy service as much as possible, aiming to leave nothing to chance. We’ve been working with our client for weeks, maybe even months or in the case of weddings; years, of course want everything to be absolutely spot on.

The downside to striving for that level of control at work is that it can be really difficult to switch off when you’re not working. I’ve always battled with that – when I was in ops I’d wake up at 4am before a big event worrying if I’d ordered enough wine, since moving to events the only difference is whether I’ve remembered to ask the managers to.

I remember meeting a friend who runs her own small business for dinner years ago. She turned up late and flustered, was really impatient with service, kept forgetting where she was in the conversation and leaving the table to take calls. Eventually, she had to leave as she was feeling so exhausted. I remember being really worried about her.

I moved down to Brighton in May last year to manage five Air B&Bs, on top of consulting for Bums and managing a venue’s private hires. My boyfriend takes care of the building’s maintenance when he’s not working full time in London. At capacity, we have 70 guests staying in the same building we live in. The venue I manage the private hires for is also directly below us, and summer is high season for both.  

I love being busy – but this was a challenge! I was getting messages from managers, clients and Air B&B residents around the clock. As we all know, one of the biggest pressures we face is the instant gratification culture we live in. I felt like I had reply to people as soon as they messaged me. I really struggled to find some headspace – I was snappy, my boyfriend was snappy – we talked about work almost all the time. That’s when I didn’t have my head buried into my phone, of course. I was constantly distracted with messages and emails in company, and generally left an incredibly small amount of time for myself.

I was, to a large extent anyway, a victim of my own making. A big reason why I was approaching burnout was because I had set no priorities or boundaries. I was being completely reactive, feeling like I had to instantly make sure everyone had what they needed from me to keep the plates spinning. I was being far less efficient as a result, working long hours to make sure what needed to be done, got done.

I was having dinner with my best friend one evening last summer and the messages were coming in non-stop. “Is it urgent?” she kept saying.
“Well, no – not exactly, but….”
“You have to set some boundaries. It’s 10pm on a Friday night. Can’t something be done to make this easier or better for you? Like if it isn’t urgent – don’t reply till later?”.

…Don’t reply till later?! But people need answers from me! If I don’t reply they won’t have them immediately. Won’t they think I’m rude, wouldn’t not replying instantly give them the idea that I don’t care, when I absolutely do?

I had become the friend I was having dinner with a few years ago. I had to change something. It wasn’t rude not to reply immediately, it was rude not to be present to my friend, and damaging not to spend quality time with my boyfriend.

I realised first and foremost that I needed to prioritise. If someone couldn’t get into their apartment – that was urgent. If a booking request came in late, I could pick it up first thing the next day. If a manager wanted to know where was best to put some wedding favours, they’d be able to sort it without my input.

If I was busy working on something and was asked to do something for someone else straight away – I said no, and told them when I would be able to help. I realised that, surprisingly, people were very accepting of that.

I also had to concede that, try as I might, I can’t control everything (boo). I’m used to thinking on my feet and problem-solving; it’s a big part of working in the industry. But once I have handed an event over, it’s in the hands of operations to run. Once an apartment is set up and ready to go, I can’t control how guests use it or what kind of a weekend they have with us.

And last, but definitely not least – I had to find some quality time for myself! I was relying on having a glass of wine or two after a stressful day far too much, I needed to find a healthier way to unwind during the week. Predictably, I turned to yoga – but my God, did it help.

The Air B&Bs are busy again, enquiries for weddings are starting to come back in and very exciting projects are happening with Bums on Seats – and I noticed I was starting to revert to my old ways. The difference is, this time, I’m nipping it in the bud! We are far more efficient when we draw a line under the day and come back to work with a calm, clear head. And that – as opposed to a reply within 30 seconds – is what the people we work with and for really want from us. It’s such an important point to acknowledge that the Bums on Seats M.I.R.A.C.L.E Sale training course has an entire module dedicated to it.

If anyone reading this is feeling like they want to vent, or they could use an ear – please get in touch with us via the UK Sales & Hospitality Facebook group. It’s a funny old time at the moment; the best thing we can do for each other is what my friend did for me; hold a mirror up and say, “what can be done to make this easier or better?”

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