Is Your Time Free For the Taking?
We live in scary times. It has become expected, even acceptable, for people to steal your time. Couple this with the fact that many workplaces are very disorganized and inefficient and you may find that your time is under a constant state of attack.
Are you a doormat when it comes to allowing people to take your time? Do people walk all over it? Is your calendar an open invitation for others to waste your time?
Somewhere along the line, we allowed people to do whatever they wanted with our time. When this happens, their inefficiency becomes our inefficiency. Their wasted time becomes our wasted time.
You must defend your time.
The 5 Best Ways to Defend Your Time
1 – Block Your Time
I am a big believer that if you do not protect your calendar, that others will abuse it. Here is a quick exercise for you: Open your calendar. Do you have any appointments with yourself this week? (And I mean actually written down on the calendar).
If not, you are leaving yourself wide open for others to “take” your time. You need to “Block Your Time.” Your calendar should look like some weird Tetris board with lots of blocks of time already reserved for your tasks/activities.
If your workplace uses Outlook, you will find that people will have no qualms about throwing meetings all over your calendar. Meetings that often have little purpose.
So, when it comes to your calendar, a good offense is a good defense.
If you schedule your time first, then others cannot. You should decide what is the best use of your time. And besides, if obligations do arise, it is very easy to reschedule an appointment with yourself.
2 – Practice the “Right To Decline”
The “Right to Decline” is about more than saying “No.” It is believing and living the fact that you have the right to allocate your own time. You have the ability to say no to others. No to meetings. No to new obligations. No to taking on the work of others.
Does you workplace allow you this right?
It may not. Some workplaces expect you to lay down at a moment’s notice for whatever the “meeting of the minute” happens to be. Other workplaces have stood up for the individual. In a ROWE environment, all meetings are optional and people get to determine the best use of their time.
3 – Set Communication Expectations
Common workplace conversation:
“Did you get that email I sent you?”
“When did you send it?”
“About 5 minutes ago…”
Phone. Email. Etc. If people know what to expect, they are less likely to call your desk phone, cell phone, and then text message you, all in less than 45 seconds. If people know that you will not answer your phone while busy and that you will get back to them, they are less likely to continue pestering you.
Let your colleagues know that you will respond to their email, but it may not be until the end of the day or the beginning of the next. If they know this, when something urgent does come up, they know to come see you or call.
Being consistent in getting back to people also sets a powerful expectation. If people know you will get back to them, they will be more apt to wait for a response. If you are the type that never responds to email, voicemail, or large objects on your desk, then you are inviting repeat follow-ups.
4 – Get to the Point to Avoid Interruptions
Setting expectations will help you reduce many unnecessary interruptions. However, interruptions are part of every workplace. How you handle them greatly impacts your ability to stay productive and on track.
Here are a few of the best ways to deal with interruptions:
- Answering the Phone – When answering the phone, immediately get to the point. Greet the person by name and then ask, “How can I help you?” This cuts past the chitchat without sounding short. Better yet, do not answer the phone when you are occupied.
- People Arriving at Your Workspace – When people come to your office or cubicle, get up and meet them. In other words, do not allow them to get comfortable. They may assume you were headed somewhere. Either way, they will be more likely to get to their issue immediately.
- When You Are Busy – Tell them you are busy, but will get back to them. And then, make sure you do get back to them.
- Vacate the Area – If necessary, leave the area. Seems extreme, but some squatters will not take a hint. Get up and leave your workplace. Often they will leave with you and you can close the matter then and there.
5 – Put Yourself as Priority #1
I am a big believer in the “rule of abundance,” meaning the more you help others the more you get in return. However, if you give all of your time to others, you will not have any left to get your own things done.
We have all experienced the boss or co-worker who has taken so much of our time, that we felt that they were going to single-handedly sabotage our success.
Sometimes you have to put yourself first. Make sure you take care of your obligations and tasks before taking on those of others.
Protect Your Time
Your time is your most valuable resource, even more so than money. You cannot get more time. Don’t let others waste or steal it.
What are your best methods of preventing others from taking your time?