Creating Boundaries with Your Schedule

We’ve all been there. A client has a busy week and can’t make their usual time. They ask if they can come later just that once and you agree. But before you know it, once becomes every week and you start to grow resentful. Or maybe it’s the middle of the summer slump and you make a decision to open your schedule up later or earlier than you would like to attract more clients. By fall, you realize this isn’t working for you and you start to wonder how you can get your schedule back.

Creating a schedule that works for us personally and for clients is really hard. Most of us just really want to help and make ourselves available to our clients and their needs. This is a quick path to burnout.

I remember when I first opened my practice, I would meet with clients at any time. This was before kids and I figured I just needed money, so I should always be available. This didn’t work well for long. I would regularly cancel activities with my husband or friends to meet with a client last minute. I also had clients late into the evening when I know that my brain shuts down around 6 pm. Those clients weren’t getting good therapy and I was becoming annoyed at having to even be in my office that late, even though it was 100% my fault!

Good boundaries will serve you in the long run and help prevent burnout. It’s important to stick with those boundaries even when things are slow. If you decide to bend those boundaries to get through a slow time, like summer, make sure you have a good exit plan. 

Here are some tips for setting good boundaries with your schedule.

1. Identify Your Ideal Schedule

You can’t make changes if you don’t know what you want. Five years from now, what do you hope your schedule will look like? Are you still working every day or do you take off Mondays and Fridays? Do you end your days at 3? Maybe you like working evenings so you work one late day a week. Spend some time really visualizing what your ideal would be and write it down. This will be the blueprint for all decisions you make about your schedule moving forward.

2. Identify Your Nonnegotiables

When I was working on changing my schedule, I identified that seeing clients after 6 pm was not okay. I just didn’t have the brain space to do it and was doing them a disservice. Now my nonnegotiables are decided for me a little more. I have to pick my kids up by 5 so my day usually ends at 4. I’ve recently stopped working on the weekends so I can spend more time with my kids. It is much easier to tell a client a time doesn’t work for you when you have it set up as a nonnegotiable time. Identify your nonnegotiables and write them down where they are easy to see or completely block them off on your calendar. 

3. Start with Small Changes

Maybe you want to stop seeing people on Saturdays but you currently have 5 clients that day and it feels a little overwhelming to switch everyone. Start by seeing who has availability to switch and then set a date by which you will stop working on Saturdays. This gives you and everyone else time to prepare. 

Or if you are trying to end your day earlier, start by stopping an hour earlier and commit to not scheduling clients in that time slot anymore. Keep moving that time back slowly (this might take a full year!) until your schedule is moving in the right direction. 

This isn’t an easy thing to do! It can feel like it isn’t a big deal to switch things for one client once, but when you make that the norm, you’ll find your schedule will feel overwhelming and all over the place. The more you identify what your boundaries are, the easier it is to say no to scheduling outside of your ideal time blocks.

Want more help with boundaries?

Grab the $7 Ultimate Private Practice Boundaries Workbook. This will walk you through everything you need to do to create your ideal schedule based on your needs as well as create scripts when you get pushback. 

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