The VICE Strategy for setting Boundaries and Rules

19 Mar 2022 08:30 UTC-07:00

Another Productivity acronym from the Conduit Crew! This one is to help you with dealing with external factors.


Verbalize (to Others) Identify (Scope) Consitency (makes enforcement easier) Evolve (over Time)

The Metaphor of a VICE

A vice (or vise in America) is a tool that is used to secure an object to keep it stable. Wood-workers use it to keep lumber in place as it connects with a saw. Other vices or clamps keep multiple objects connected as they are being glued or welded together.

Just like those instruments, this acronym helps protect your important tasks from the interruptions that may come.

Verbalize (to Others)

Your goal in the end is to make sure that outside forces respect your rules. You need to verbalize the rule to them. If you have to you can even say "I have a rule..." which make it not feel

woman with a sticky note with an "X" on it

An easy way to do this is to express why your rule is in their best interest.

Look at my rule:

"Don't Officially Say Yes until you've committed at least 30 minutes to think about it. Direct the request to schedule a meeting or send an email so you can review it at your leisure. Make sure you respond within 2 days of the written request. Even if that means you are replying to say that you need to think more it."

You can verbalize this rule to other by saying "Can you send me a quick email about this or schedule a time later this week to chat about it. I have a rule about committing to new projects right away and I want to make sure I give it the proper amount of consideration and not over-promise things."

Anyone that doesn't respect the rules you create for yourself, doesn't respect you.

The more people work with you the more they will remember that your rule exists and you can

Identify Scope

Let's look at that original rule about asking for an email or a meeting invite. Who does this apply to? My mother wouldn't appreciate me telling her to schedule a meeting. Also if the request is urgent then perhaps you should let another rule take precedence.

Think of how a computer works. It processes the requests from the input and runs it through a program that produces a response based on the programmed instructions. This means it looks at all the options and applies the expected outcome (hopefully). Luckily our brains are capable of processing multiple rules faster than most computers.

We can also shortcut these decisions by adding them to the rules.

... for family members if you are currently working make a reminder to call them back when you are off the clock. Allow them to interrupt if it is an emergency.

You can then respond to that resource accordingly.

Consitency (makes enforcement easier)

If you do for one, you will need to do for all. I understand at times we need to be flexible but our goal is to protect your productivity. A crack in your shield will spread with each hit.

Make sure you are consistent with your rules. They apply to everyone (inside scope) and that means YOU as well!

If you believe that you are struggling to to be consistent with your rules, this could mean that they are too generic. Be sure to continue to adapt them.


Your rules should be evolutionary. This means they came from a focus on survival. As your needs change so should your rules.

A VICE isn't to clamp down on fun or flexibility. in fact over-tightening is just as dangerous as not tightening enough.

Most vices can be adjusted to fit the size and scope of the things you need to secure. I encourage you to be firm in your rules but have many rules and adjust them slightly as needed. I also recommend letting folks know what's changed and what that means for you.

The VICE strategy will continue to develop (just as the rules it creates should) and I hope to keep folks up to date.