3 Boundaries To Protect Yourself From the Constant Demands of Urgency Culture

Photo: Getty Images/10'000 Hours
Over the last year and a half of pandemic-era restrictions, there has been a rise in something called urgency culture. Since stay-at-home orders were put in place 18 months ago, there's been a widespread notion that many folks are free and available at all times to respond to any and all requests—whether personal or professional—and urgency culture reflects an expectation to be on demand at all times. It's similar in many ways to grind culture, which says we must always be doing, leaving little time for resting. But the truth of the matter is that folks actually aren't constantly free and available, so urgency culture has caused not much more than stress, especially for those who are prone to people-pleasing habits. Furthermore, your free time is not synonymous with your availability, and learning to embrace that nuance is key.

So, to protect yourself from the needless demands of urgency culture and the stress it can cause, boundaries are key. But for folks who have been working remotely during the pandemic, standing firm on boundaries can be tough, with the line between our work life and personal life blurred, and our devices functioning as tools to facilitate human connection. With this in mind, it takes a lot of assertiveness and hard work to push back against the urgent need to respond.

Your free time is not synonymous with your availability.

So, as important as it is to set boundaries with others, we must also be willing to set boundaries with ourselves to overcome the demands of urgency culture. Often, we are waiting for people who cause us stress to change their behaviors and habits, instead of tapping into our own agency and changing how we interact with the people who cause said stress. Boundaries are meant for ourselves, just as much as they are meant for others. So instead of waiting for other people to make choices that would benefit us, we have to be willing to make choices for ourselves that teach people how to interact with us.

3 boundaries to create to protect yourself against the demands of urgency culture

1. Disconnect and disengage when working from home

Just because you are home doesn’t mean you are required to occupy your time with other people's needs. Learning to disconnect and disengage is important for honoring your boundaries. So when you are working from home, consider turning off email alerts, or placing your laptop in a different room when you are completely done with work. When you’re away or on vacation, remember to set an automatic responder.

Unless it is a special requirement, you are not obligated to respond to other people’s requests in an urgent matter. And remember, the only person who can enforce the rule of disconnection is you.

2. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode

If you don’t want to be disturbed, there are options available to us on our devices that allow for that to happen. There is nothing more annoying than trying to give your time, energy, and attention to something while hearing your phone buzzing in the background.

It’s okay to let friends and family know that you are not available during certain hours, either through communicating or allowing your device to communicate for you that you are currently unreachable.

3. Communicate your boundaries

The only way we can expect people to honor our needs is if we communicate what our needs are. People might assume that you are available because you are always responding to or answering their calls or emails, and they may not be aware that it’s because you feel pressured to respond, not because you have the energy or capacity to respond. So speak up, and start vocalizing your needs. We must be willing to advocate for ourselves and to honor the boundaries we put in place.

Until we can fully dismantle urgency culture, we can gather the tools needed in our lives to resist it on an individual level. So, start practicing boundaries with others, but most importantly, with yourself.

Want more tips for setting boundaries for yourself? Check out this episode of The Well+Good Podcast:

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