Friday, November 13, 2009

How Can Paralegals Set Boundaries?

Note: Today's Guest Author is Bobbie Rathjens whom I fondly refer to as 'My Web Designer' and also call 'Friend.' Bobbie listened when I told her of my dream to launch The Paralegal Mentor and understood exactly what I wanted to do. Not only did she design my Web site, but she has been an enormous support to me, answering all my 'technologically challenged' questions, teaching me when I wanted to take over some of the Web site updating myself, and quieting the panic when there are issues with the newsletter or uploading my teleclass information.

While she's not a paralegal, Bobbie faces the same challenges. She's a busy wife and mom of three young children who is constantly juggling all of her responsibilities. Thanks, Bobbie!

Setting Boundaries
By Bobbie Rathjens

Are you a multi-tasking, phone call answering, people pleaser that always has a deadline to meet “now”? If so, you're a lot like me. The glaring difference between us may be our professions, but I'm sure there's little difference on how best to handle these types of situations - and prevention of future anxiety attacks.
Our website design business serves over 250 clients and fields continuous inquiries for new service. All of that work and responsibility falls on the shoulders of yours truly. Some work days used to be so hectic, by the end of the day I could only say I'd returned calls and put out fires but hadn't actually completed a project that needed to get done.
Setting boundaries that my clients and I can live with started out as a work in progress, but quickly turned into a methodology that has worked magically. By following these simple guidelines, I have saved myself from professional meltdown and added some control into my business life.
Projects & Time Estimates. If you don't know how long the project will take, don't give a time estimate. If the client or boss needs an estimated time for project completion, over estimate to be safe.
If the boss says he needs the work in one hour and you can't do it in one hour, be honest and tell him it's not possible - then and tell him when you'll have it done. If you are able to finish the project sooner than estimated, you look like a hero and your client (or boss) loves you for it.

Peak Productivity Time. Do you do your best work first thing in the morning or some other time of the day? Which activity requires your peak productivity time? Is it working on the computer or meeting with clients?
You'll need to determine the task that requires your highest energy and schedule it for your peak productivity time. In my case, I'm at my best from 9-12 and need my highest energy for web design, so I only do web design during those hours and schedule client meetings for later in the day.

Phone Management. If you find yourself fielding phone calls at your desk all day long (particularly during your peak productivity time), let the phone go to voice mail. Set up a window to return phone calls – say between 2-3 pm – and stick to it. After a few days of doing this, you will no longer feel guilty letting the calls go to the machine because you will be so productive, it will amaze your co-workers.

Don't be Such a Push Over. After spending my youth learning to be polite, respectful (and how to be a downright push over), I've learned how to stand up for myself. This isn't to be the big bad meanie, or to get back at that occasional client that I secretly loathe, but rather to make my work day productive and keep all of my clients satisfied.
Whatever the dilemma, you can be polite without being a push over. Stand your ground while being tactful and professional. Your client (or boss) will respect you more for it in the end.
Try these simple tips for setting boundaries. I guarantee you will feel better...and more in control of your work...if you do.

Bobbie Rathjens is the Lead Designer at JBR Graphics and is responsible for front-end design and web development for all client projects. When she's not working, you might find her watching one of those old Elvis movies - as she's a consummate fan.

JBR Graphics is a two person web design studio consisting of the husband and wife team of John and Bobbie Rathjens. They specialize in unique website design and professional web development and are committed to creating beautiful and highly functional websites, following the exact specifications of their clients. JBR Graphics strives to provide a level of services not possible from larger companies.


Margaret Lucas Agius said...

There's nothing like give yourself some wiggle room for project completion times!

Paralegal Mentor said...

You're right, Margaret. I think it's called 'under-promise' and over-deliver.'