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The other week I was in an Executive Advisor session with my super smart, highly accomplished CEO client. She’s won so many awards, is admired by her peers, serves in her community, and is raising a family — from the outside, she looks like she has it all together.

We’d spent the last hour finalizing her 2024 strategy: revenue generation, team alignment, prioritization of big projects, and mapping out time allocation and getting her ready for her upcoming board presentation. But these retainer relationships are often more than just strategy — I also act as a confidential source who will give them a no holds barred objective opinion and ask them the hard questions.

All of the competing priorities were causing her to question how she could best manage her time and energy — and she was feeling overwhelmed. “This sounds like you need to create stronger boundaries,” I said gently.

“Boundaries are a luxury I can’t afford,” she replied.

We spent the rest of our session discussing how wrong that mindset was. Let me explain.

Boundaries are NOT a luxury, they are a necessity!

As a leader, how you invest your time and attention and manage those boundaries will impact how people experience you as a luxury leader.

You have heard me say, luxury is about EXPERIENCES, not things. What experience do people have of you? Is it someone who is clear, direct, and has systems that support their work? Or is it frazzled, hectic, and inconsistent?

As we continued our conversation, we identified specific strategies so she could have firmer conversations with people that were important to her, renegotiate calendar commitments to highlight where she was investing her time, and find better ways to protect her energy so she could be stronger and more impactful in her leadership. I know they will pay off, and here’s why.

Leaders set the standards for our team. Our energy is contagious.

Fast forward that same week and I am speaking for one of my luxury travel clients, Virtuoso, at the stunning Waldorf Astoria in Orlando. I love attending sessions at each event I’m at, and Helen Nodland (who I call the Godmother of Virtuoso!) really delivered with her presentation on boundaries. She shared so many great strategies for creating stronger mental, physical and emotional boundaries to better serve your professional and personal goals — the whole room was taking notes, nodding heads in agreement, and vowing to create new boundaries — me included!

I was fortunate to follow her program with my session called “Relentless Focus: The Luxury Journey of Productivity” where I shared attention and energy management strategies leaders could apply to help them focus on achieving huge targets this year, and yes, creating stronger boundaries!

I came out of the day even more convinced that as luxury leaders, we need clear boundaries to focus our time, manage our attention, and energy. Do we want our teams frazzled and stressed? Do we want our clients to have unorganized interactions with us? If your boundaries are blurred, and you’re not taking care of YOU, how can you deliver for your team and your clients? You can’t. It’s a one-way ticket to stress and burnout, and that will spread through any organization quickly.

Work-life Balance or Work-life Integration?

For the record I don’t believe work-life balance is real. I do believe in work-life integration for leaders. What’s the difference? No one has a right to prescribe work-life balance, they don’t know where you are in your career and life — balance indicates a set of scales that are equal amounts of work and play — nope. Integration means finding solutions and creating boundaries to design your environment, manage expectations and regulate your emotional state.

We write about this in our book, Attention Pays.

You might be too young to remember the ‘old days’ when you arrived at your office, sat at your desk, looked in your physical inbox and you completed the pile of paper and tasks. Once that work was completed? You went home. I know, crazy right?

There weren’t texts, emails, Zoom meetings — in our personal time we exercised, pursued hobbies, spent time with family, and at the dinner table, where you paid attention. Perhaps occasionally you’d take home work-related reading but we mostly respected ‘work hours.’ I giggle knowing I am aging myself writing this!

Now as global leaders across multiple time zones, technology changed our lives. We email, text, Zoom, instant message, post on social media and What’s App and allow our devices to make us available 24/7, 365. We moved from clear boundaries between home and work to always being “on.”

The destruction of the work-life boundary may mean we aren’t investing quality attention in our personal or professional lives — we are just trying to get to the bottom of our inboxes and I have a nasty truth here — that won’t happen. The emails will always keep coming.

So, with all this in mind, would you consider changing your thoughts about boundaries? Maybe this can be your gentle reminder to try a few strategies to help you make the most of a true luxury: time and prevent burnout and create more work-life integration.

Like this content? Did you know that I dive deep into how to set boundaries more extensively in my newsletter? Be the first to read Notes from Neen, my bi-weekly newsletter, where I share content like that, as well as practical recommendations and more bonus content! Sign up here.

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