Why Do We Let People Steal Our Time?

Thought of the day: Why do we let people steal our time?
We get pretty upset when people steal our money… so why do we turn a blind eye when people steal our time?
In fact, it is a pretty common occurrence for co-workers, bosses, even friends to steal our valuable time.

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”
- Ben Franklin
Time is our life.  And you cannot get it back.  Yet, our society has become desensitized to people monopolizing, interrupting, and simply taking our time.
In the workplace, this is rampant.  From meetings that are 4x the length they need to be…to meetings that were unneccesary in the first place.  People do not even think twice about taking our time.
The worst are the “Outlook Outlaws” who mercilessly schedule meetings on people’s calendars without notice or consideration to their time.  These types are constantly calling meetings so that they can get people together.  Perhaps, it is a power trip to make them feel important, or maybe it is done instead of them taking an active role to seek out information. (ie doing work!)
Too often we find that we are scheduled for so many extraneous meetings, that we do not leave any time to get our real work done!

How dare you!

Apparently it is forbidden you try to protect your time or even take it back.  People get upset if you dare to decline a meeting or say leave work at an unprescribed time.
People will even label you as difficult or obstructive if you will not abide by their time demands.

Protecting your time

Here are some strategies for defending your time against the time thieves…
  • Stop answering the phone – In my previous post “Stop answering the phone,” I discussed the fact that the phone is there for your convenience.  Do not jump every time someone decides they want to buzz you!  Otherwise people will steal your time when it is most inconvenient.
  • Block your time – This is a very powerful strategy for reclaiming your time, both work and personal.  Try “Blocking your time” by scheduling yourself for time periods that you need to keep for yourself or projects or whatever. Ironically, it is socially unacceptable to say to a co-worker, “I cannot meet with you because I have something more important to do,” but it is ok to say, “I have another meeting at that time.”  You don’t need to reveal that the appointment is with yourself.
  • Avoid those who waste your time – Many people believe it is important not hang out with toxic people.  This needs to include those who waste your time.  You will find that a specific subset of people are responsible for the majority of time-wasting.  Avoid associating yourself with them or you will find yourself hanging out for two hours to discuss last nights TV shows.
  • Set Expectations – If you set expectations that your time is valuable, then other people will start to value it also.  Your behavior will actually train your co-workers as to what is acceptable by example.
  • Walk the Talk – Of course, this goes without saying… Practice what you preach.  If you want people to respect your time, make sure you are respecting theirs.

What are you best stories of people who waste your time?  Or best strategies for protecting your time?  Please share your best in the comments.

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  • Stormbringer

    Well said. Those of us at the bottom of the feeding chain have very little control over our time. Where I work, we are told to go to worthless meetings (“this is mandatory”), and most of them can be handled with an e-mail about procedure or policy changes. And yes, I think it is very often a power trip or someone has something to prove. So, we have to work around the time thieves and glean useful techniques and apply them where we can.

  • Stormbringer

    Well said. Those of us at the bottom of the feeding chain have very little control over our time. Where I work, we are told to go to worthless meetings (“this is mandatory”), and most of them can be handled with an e-mail about procedure or policy changes. And yes, I think it is very often a power trip or someone has something to prove. So, we have to work around the time thieves and glean useful techniques and apply them where we can.

  • Time management tips

    You have written good point to save our time but we can also save are more time if we implement a time management plan, respect our promises, write down to do things, plan your week, carry a notebook etc. this will also help us to save our more time.

  • Time management tips

    You have written good point to save our time but we can also save are more time if we implement a time management plan, respect our promises, write down to do things, plan your week, carry a notebook etc. this will also help us to save our more time.

  • Pingback: Time Management - Finding Some Personal Time

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  • fed up wiht time wasters

    good advice i have figured otu wiht “time wasters” is well- “hey glad you called you are just in time for our daily mopping routine feel free to brign over a mop it will get done twice as fast” recruit the bored attention seekers and they will either show how much they love you by granting you a freshly mopped floor or take off and head for the hills where they can waste someone elses precious time.I think they mostly want attention.

  • Chris

    Excellent advice, thank you. Here’s my recent story of a time waster. My new neighbour.

    We both decided it’d be good to meet for a cup of tea and chat to get to know each other a little as neighbours, so we arranged to meet at mine one night. I had even given her my number. The night came, and she didn’t show up at all, or txt or leave me a written message at my door. It was one of the reasons I had chosen to stay in that night too, and she just didn’t show up.

    A week later, she left me a message at my door apologising and saying that she had to dash out unexpectadely. She asked if I was going to be around on the Wednsday night. I told her I had somewhere to be later on that night, though I could meet her earlier on in the evening for quick catch up. I gave her a time to meet me and asked her to leave me a message if she couldn’t make it.

    The night came, and when it reached 7:30pm, she wasn’t there. An hour later, and she still hadn’t shown up, even though she was clearly still at her apartment. Now my time was up, and I had to go out. So I packed up my things, wrote her a short note pretty much letting her know that I understood that she may be busy, but I was busy too. Ended the note without trying to reschedule, and headed out to continue with my plans for the evening.

    See, I purposely arranged my night so that if she didn’t show up, it wouldn’t have completely disrupted my evening. My time is too precious, so I’m getting into the habit of doing that these days. I try not to associate with time wasters.

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Thanks for sharing.

      After they steal your time once… we tend not to let it happen again. :)