Setting Boundaries: How to Prepare for Your Courses

Preparing for your courses begins with managing your personal life. You can do well academically and possibly professionally, but if you struggle to manage your personal life, you will find it difficult to manage all areas of your life.

Life management includes managing yourself academically. I can promise you that your courses will be challenging. Therefore, you need to do the following to ensure beforehand that you can successfully negotiate your English and writing courses and any other courses you have this semester. Although this blog article appeals to the first-year composition student, the ideas are important for anyone managing their academic life.

There are four main areas of your life that consume your time:

  • family
  • friends
  • other responsibilities
  • procrastination

The following sections offer tips for dealing with each area of life.

Set Boundaries with Family

It is inevitable that your family will always want more from you than you are able to give. Your family wants your unwavering and constant attention, and they want your attention particularly when the matter they deem as urgent is not really urgent. It is no easy thing to say no to your family. It is a task in itself. Therefore, start discovering ways in which you can achieve small successes. 

For example, do not volunteer your time. Do not say “I’ll do it” before the family member finishes saying what he or she needs. Bite your tongue. Shut your mouth. Run out of the room. Do not volunteer! Wait until you hear what the family member needs first. Take some time to think about it. Determine if you are able to provide a solution. Then offer the type of solution that meets the needs of the individual but also does not cause you to burden yourself to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.

Listen to what the family member is not saying.  Most family members can do what they are asking you to do; they just do not want to do it. Therefore, if the family member is able to do the thing he or she is asking you to do, then let that person do it. Let the family member be responsible for their own lives.   

Quit trying to save stubborn family members. For the ones who will not listen to your advice or to any advice, the ones who know everything, know when to stop rescuing them.  These types of people just want to take up your time. Your encouragement entertains them. They do not want to listen. Cut them loose. Do not cut them out of your life but know when to cut the purse strings. You know just when to cut them off when you have told them about the same common-sense thing. They do not care. They do not value your encouragement. Your words entertain them. Let them eat the fruit of their own way.

Set Boundaries with Friends

You typically have three types of friends: 1) the whiners, 2) the ones who think you are their personal assistant, and 3) the ones who do not have goals. 

The whiners are similar to the stubborn family member; they really do not want to listen to you. They will call you all day. They expect you to stop whatever you are doing to listen to them whine about nothing. You give them good advice. They seem to receive it well, but then they turn around and come back for more juice. In other words, they feed off your encouragement. They have no real intention of getting better. They want to stay depressed. They want things not to go well for them. They do not want their boyfriends or girlfriends to change. They want to wallow, nothing more.

The best method for handling this type of person is start paying attention to the pattern of their calls. Do they call when you say you are about to do something important such as study? Do they call when it appears you want to pursue order and not procrastination? Keep in mind this one thing: Whiners typically prevent you from moving forward because wherever they are emotionally, they also want you to be.

The friend who thinks you are a personal assistant will typically tell you to stop by the store to pick something up or ask if you could pick up an extra application or ask if you could call for information about something or want you to jump up when they call to go somewhere (i.e., shopping, something non-productive). The same feeling you get as you read the previous sentence is the same feeling you get when you have to deal with this person. There is no end in sight to the multitude of things this type of person wants you to do.

It does not matter what it is, this type of friend expects you to rearrange your complete schedule and hinder your process. This is the type of friend who will interrupt you while you are doing your homework and in turn criticize you for making a “C” on that same assignment. Friends of this sort position you according to their needs. They get you off your path. They shift your vision (and your mission/goal) to their vision. Therefore, here are two methods for handling this type of friend:

Method #1: Make your schedule known to this friend. For example, tell your friend who calls that you are not available between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., MW, because this is the time you have set to study. At the same time you tell your friend this, tell him or her you are available at 5:00 p.m. to talk on these days. Although your friend might resent you in the beginning, he or she will respect this more than you saying, “I will call you later.” Later to them could mean 30 minutes. Respect your time and make them respect your time also.

Method #2: Make them go pick it up! Make them go pick it up appears to be a harsh statement, but here’s a great example: Your friend needs an admissions application from a local university. She knows that you live about 10 minutes away from the campus, but 10 minutes extends to an hour when you have other things to do. You can handle this issue in two ways.

a) Find out the time of the admissions office, the office location, and tell your friend this: You know that the office is open until 8:00 p.m. That’s enough time for you to go up there and get the application. That will give you enough time also to pick up additional materials and talk to a counselor. I really don’t know what you need. Using this type of response will help you make the person responsible for their emotional and professional development.

b) Get the website address for all this information. Find the specific information your friend needs and encourage him or her to visit the school’s website. This is important to understand because there is more information on the site than in your head. Quit letting people kick you off your path. Once you show them how to search information, then they should know how to search information.

The friends who have not established goals will undoubtedly try to prevent you from attaining yours. They will criticize everything you do, belittle your accomplishments, and minimize your abilities. They believe you cannot do what you are dreaming because they believe they cannot do it. In other words, they speak weakness, and they do not believe in themselves. They are dangerous people to hang around and they have no direction. They typically do not care about anything and are extremely complacent about their current situation. Either they are going to pull you over to their side or you are going to pull them over to your side. They usually pull you because you have not established a sense of determination or goals for reaching your destiny.

The best method for handling this friend is to understand one thing: You can’t take everybody with you where you are going. The longer you hold on to this friend, the more difficult and dangerous it will become to let this person go. This person cannot go where you are going. This person would not be able to endure the struggle and meet the conflict face to face in the same way you will be able to do so. Although it is painful, let them go. People with no goals are like weeds. Weeds grow where they are not wanted, and they suck out the life of a garden. They affect everything around them. Let this person go. If it is hard to do this at the beginning, then develop small steps by first setting firm boundaries. If you do not, they will be a danger and a hindrance to you when you become a leader.

Set Boundaries with Other Responsibilities

You have to work. You have to take care of your kids. You have to eat. You have daily responsibilities that are unavoidable. The best method for handling these issues is to learn how to prioritize your personal life. Design a schedule for meeting your family responsibilities. In terms of the job you are working on, you have to work.  Either try to find a more stable job that can provide you with a consistent schedule or only go to school on your off days from work. 

If you take one class a semester, doing this is still great, but keep in mind that consistency is the key.  Many times, you can deal with the job and its many changes when you stop giving into the whims of your friends. We do not have time, as we say, not always because of the job, but because of the fact that we have not prioritized and have not set boundaries around our priorities. Here are some methods to consider:

Method #1: If daycare is a problem, start researching new centers that might better serve your needs. It is hard to change sitters in the middle of a semester or job change. However, you can plan for a transition four months in advance. Set aside a day, typically your off day. Research a list of about four centers, one per month. Each month, call them and find out information. By doing this you will have scheduled and prioritized a good plan four months in advance. Once you can determine when it is feasible to make the change then make the change. 

Make sure it fits well with your job schedule also. The objective here is not to make light of your situation but to tell you not to let people put you in compromising situations. A babysitter who is not available for whatever reason forces you to take up residence under her thumb and under her whim. Yes, you need her, but also take your power back. Therefore, conduct research. The time you spend text messaging your friends or kissing your boyfriend or girlfriend, you can spend researching information.

Method #2: If your job is the problem, follow method #1. Plan for a transition.  Research. Determine a date by which you can feasibly make a transition. Put extra money back if you can. We have the money. Those twenty dollars a month we spend at Taco Bell can go towards a new apartment’s application fee or to a new sitter. The objective here is to plan.

Set Boundaries with Procrastination

When we procrastinate, we say to ourselves that the goal is not worth achieving. Your vision, your dream, needs your attention constantly and consistently. What you do now determines your end. Either you will become a mediocre leader or a leader who pursues excellence. In both instances, you are still a leader. When you do not learn how to set boundaries, you essentially contribute to your own mediocrity because you never allow time to perfect your gift or talent. Remember that you always harvest what you plant.

We need people. This is a given. We are all interdependent. Each person we come in contact with is necessary for our progress. We cannot say to people we do not need them. We cannot do without people, so I am not saying cut off all of your friends. Each of your friends has something to teach you. Each family member and friend have something you need on your journey to becoming a leader. However, you have to know when a person’s time in your life is over.

Some people are in your life for just a season. Some people are in your life for a lifetime.  You have to know the difference. Otherwise, if you do not learn how to set boundaries early, you will sabotage your success and you will have only yourself to blame. These different types of friends and family members all represent people you will encounter later when you become a leader.

Since you are now experiencing these issues today and since you will see a representation of them again, this is the time to practice handling these issues. Practice not doing something for someone. Practice making people do what they need to do for themselves. Practice uprooting weeds. You cannot lead people who are leading you. Practice makes perfect.

Thank you for reading.

Regina Y. Favors

About Favors Writing Center

Favors Writing Center is an online resource for first-year composition instructors and students engaged in the revision planning process. Favors Writing Center is a product of Favors Learning Center Online Products, a product of Favors Learning Center, which is in development.

Copyright (C) 2011-2022 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.


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