How to set boundaries
Freedom is something we all want, right? Especially when it comes to our time. We want to do less so we can be more present for the things that matter. It’s why we love convenience and productivity hacks.
But being productive and “doing all the things” looks different for each of us. And it can change depending on the season of life.
At least, that’s what happened to this week’s guest. Once a CPA in a rigid corporate environment, she took the leap of faith to pursue art full-time. She found that, though she once had great time management skills, she needed a little extra help figuring out what that meant as an entrepreneur. (With that kind of freedom comes great responsibility!)
I’d love to introduce you to Mary Catherine Dunphy, a 1:1 client of mine and a Louisiana-based artist. I’m so honored she said yes to being a guest on this week’s show. Let me introduce you to her and share more about her time management triumphs!
Meet Mary Catherine Dunphy
Mary Catherine Dunphy is a Louisiana-based artist with a flair for fun, feminine, and floral designs. Her resume includes stationery calligraphy, stationery parties, graphic design, and even jewelry design for a San Antonio-based boutique, Canvas Style! And when she’s not working on her art, you can find her doting on her golden doodle, Callie (who even has her own Instagram — so cute!).
But she wasn’t always an artist. Actually, she was a CPA for 8 years before she even thought about doing art full-time. It’s the classic tale of hobby turned job — once she started teaching herself calligraphy for fun, and as a way to escape the routine of her 9-5, she couldn’t get enough!
As you can imagine, making a career transition like this is a big deal! There are lots of challenges, from adjusting schedules to challenging personal and professional expectations, and of course, learning how to manage your time as you do it.
Let’s take a look at how Mary Catherine Dunphy managed the transition from CPA to business owner with the help of some time management TLC!
Mary Catherine Dunphy: Transitioning from employee to entrepreneur
Making any kind of job or life transition can be tough, but the one from employee to business owner is a challenge in and of itself! Not only do you have to get used to a new work environment and new roles and responsibilities within that environment, but you also have to meet new challenges and make adjustments to your calendar.
Mary Catherine says she is so thankful to have her husband, family, and Callie’s support though — which undoubtedly made the transition easier.
But she also mentioned that her biggest struggle during that transition was managing boundaries and expectations, mostly with herself. And I get it — knowing how to manage clients, deliver work, work ON your business, and somehow manage to still be a human and manage all the things that come with life can be tough!
When we started working together, Mary Catherine was struggling the most with:
- Learning how to say no
- Discerning “want to” from “need to” and “can do”
- Finding order and routine with the limitless possibilities in front of her
Coming from a work environment that was so rigid, it’s not hard to see why the “blank slate” can be such a challenge. I see this a lot with clients, and it happens to me too. You don’t know what to do or where to start, so you stay frozen in place and don’t do anything at all!
But as we worked together, we started to see places where systems and processes were due, and how to use them to fit HER life (because time management is not one-size-fits-all!).
Mary Catherine used to be the “pretty and perfect planner” girl. You know…where everything needed to be nearly laid out, color-coded, and aesthetically pleasing for it to seem productive?
I think it works well for many people, especially those who are more visual. But for Mary Catherine, she noticed that the neat planner, along with tons of paper notes (and an entire tote bag full of papers), was becoming overwhelming. Sure, the planner was fun to fill out, but it wasn’t really doing anything to help.
Now, she uses a mix of Google Calendar and Trello to keep things organized. Having everything set digitally helps her keep everything organized and central to one location — she says it feels freeing not to have to wonder where important papers or notes have gone.
Creating a morning routine
When Mary Catherine transitioned out of the corporate world and into entrepreneurship, her morning routine became minimal. She would wake up and go right to where she was needed, jumping from one fire to the next in hopes of putting them all out.
But with the freedom of entrepreneurship, she realized that some structure is actually super beneficial, regardless of what you’re doing.
Now, she has a morning routine with a step-by-step checklist (including one for Callie!) she enjoys checking off one by one. She says she really feels that, by bringing some structure to her morning, she’s been able to be more available in a more intentional way.
She’s able to get in the right mindset each day and assess what’s actually possible, rather than crossing her fingers hoping somehow it all gets done — which made for really long work days! A lot of the time, we can think we’re getting things done (either by sitting in front of the computer or by making all of the lists) but in reality, time = productivity.
She learned that working for the sake of working isn’t actually productive at all. And now, she may be working less, but she’s getting far more done this way!
Structure is key
All in all, Mary Catherine says her biggest lesson with time management has been to leave perfection behind and to be flexible — because life does happen. When we started working together, she was in the process of building a house, and if you’ve ever been in that position, then you know it can be a lot.
But having structure to fall back on means you’re better prepared when something does get thrown off course! It means you can sweat the small stuff less, and tactically pivot where needed.
Learning all of this — how to set boundaries, stay organized, and create systems and structure — has helped her manage, and even thrive. And it’s all because she found a way to make time management work for her, not the other way around!
If you want to keep up with Mary Catherine Dunphy, you can follow her on Instagram — she’ll be launching a brand new shop and website soon, so be on the lookout for that as well!
In this episode, we talk about:
- How digital time management tools can help you bring balance and structure to your everyday
- Creating better morning routines that get you in the zone
- Honoring your personal boundaries so you can show up for what’s most important
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