The following article is by Nick Whitenburg. Her full bio follows.
Yes, people. It is time to have this conversation. Every day, I hear at least one person complain that they don’t have enough time to do the things they want to do, but they don’t know where the time goes. For most of us, many of the things that we need to get done do not get done until the last minute (if at all) because we allow entirely too many interruptions. If you want to be happy, effective, and successful in your career and your life in general, you’ve got to be vigilant about making people respect your time. If people are disrespecting your time, they are disrespecting you (but keep in mind it may not even be intentional).
What I mean by disrespecting one’s time: the two of you agree on a set time and place to do something and it doesn’t happen or you tell a person you have something to do and they make a decision that directly inconveniences you and puts a wrench in your plans or someone constantly pressures you to do something last minute. Note: “Playing it by ear” is a grey area, because both people have a mutual understanding that they’ll do it when the stars align (probably not the best idea, but it happens).
Here are few things to consider if you would like to revise your personal constitution and become an excellent manager of your time:
Be honest with yourself and stop overcommitting. Respect your own time by being realistic in your plans for the day, week, month, and year.
Be mindful that you also are honoring others’ time. If you unintentionally don’t honor someone’s time, apologize profusely and work to amend the situation. If you dishonor someone’s time and knew you were going to do so (deep down you usually do), take some time out to figure out why you make those decisions. Don’t say, “Oh, it’s because I’m a bad person, procrastinator, etc.” or whatever guilt trip you like to put on yourself that allows you not to think about it. Do some real self-reflection and get your priorities straight.
When someone wants to meet or talk with you, make them give you a solid time and date. I’ll admit it: I’m especially bad at this when I’m closing a deal, because I’m so focused on the deal that I’ll give people the aforementioned grey area line (that are not related to the deal, of course), “let’s play it by ear,” and then we don’t get together for weeks on end. Yikes!
Do not allow people to pressure you to do something because they have an “emergency” or want to do something today. Just because it’s an emergency for them doesn’t mean it’s an emergency for you, and just because it’s convenient for them doesn’t mean it’s convenient for you. Realize that it’s not okay for people to impose on your schedule. This is especially true for relatives. Make them wait. They’ll get over it.
Cut people off. Yep, if people keep disrespecting your time, cut ‘em right off. I don’t care who it is. Give yourself a time frame where you will distance yourself from that person. Maybe it’s 2 weeks. Maybe it’s 2 months. Maybe it’s forever. Trust yourself and make the right decision for yourself.
Learn the power of the “high-quality no”. Often people give a low-quality no, as in “No, you’re always bothering me!” which isn’t very helpful and puts you in a self-righteous complaining mood. A high-quality no, on the other hand, has no negativity underneath what you’re saying. It’s simply a no, as in, “No, I won’t be able to do that,” or “No, my priorities won’t allow me to do that.” (I learned this from Eckhart Tolle.) It’s still a no, and people may still be mad, but you’re coming from the right place when you say it.
Get comfortable with people being “p’d o” at you. Yes, I’m using those words specifically because people will initially be furious with you when you start practicing this way of life, especially if you are a person who often said yes in the past. But remember, you are trying to have a purposeful career, make a difference in the world, and live your best life. In order to do that, you have to get good at protecting yourself, and that is especially true of your time. People don’t have to like it; all they have to do is understand it. You can’t be successful if you’re busy trying to Mister of Miss Congeniality. And you can’t be an excellent servant if you don’t take care of your priorities first.
About The Author
Nick Whitenburg is the president of Optimism Matters Inc., an organization development consulting firm that specializes in human capital development, training, and talent retention within organizations. Nick has worked with numerous executives and high level managers nationwide, focusing on team initiatives, systems improvement, and professional development. She has been featured on “Fox5 Morning News” in Washington, D.C. to provide career advice and give tips on navigating through a challenging economic climate. Nick has extensive background in human capital issues and has worked in labor & employment law, marketing, corporate finance, mass transit and the telecommunications industries. Nick is a graduate of La Salle University with an M.B.A. with a dual concentration in Management and Marketing.
Nick has studied and worked all over Europe, including Germany, France, England, Wales, Russia, and Sweden. She is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF), a professional member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and certified through the International Association of Coaches (IAC). Nick believes that the human element is the most influential piece of the organization, and that companies can defend and increase their bottom line more efficiently by taking more innovative measures in organizational relationship systems.