Why Defending Your Time Will Make You More Successful
If time is money, why do we give it away so easily? It’s important to recognize that time is actually more valuable than money. It’s nonrenewable -- once it’s gone, it’s gone. No amount of cash can bring it back.
That’s why this resource should be protected like any other important resource in your life. Being thoughtful about how you use your time will ensure you're spending it on what matters and has value to you. Defending your time is key to being more productive and accomplishing your goals. Your success depends on giving yourself time to focus on your goals and work toward your objectives.
If others are taking your time, you may ultimately feel you’ve allowed yourself to be taken advantage of. But no one can defend your time but you. Stop letting your minutes, hours and days drain away and start making real strides toward success with these seven time-defending strategies.
1. Make yourself a priority.
Personal-finance expert Suze Orman says, “It’s not selfish to give to yourself as much as you give of yourself.”
Look at your list of priorities. Where do you fall? Most of us take on far more than we can handle; we overschedule and book ourselves to capacity, then wonder why we’re exhausted and stressed out. We’re frustrated that we are unable to focus and constantly seeking ways to increase our productivity.
But what if, instead of pushing ourselves to keep doing more and more, we started looking at how to prioritize our own goals and needs? What if, instead of putting everyone and everything ahead of ourselves, we actually considered what we needed in order to do our best work? Take time to weigh what commitments you can handle and make sure you’re including your own needs in the equation.
2. Take control of your calendar.
Defending your time and making yourself a priority starts with taking control of your calendar. Are you using your calendar to its full potential? Are you blocking time off to complete necessary tasks, making sure you give yourself the hours you need to work on your projects and goals? Do you set regular appointments with yourself and ensure you have time to review your progress and work toward your objectives?
Make sure you block your time by including all of your high-priority tasks in your calendar. If you’re not scheduling in how much time you need, then how will you know how much time you have to give to others? A wide-open schedule (or one that appears that way) leaves you vulnerable to allowing others to pencil in their own needs. That time would be best spent on other projects, but you never bothered to prioritize them and include them in your schedule.
Scheduling your time and blocking out what you need will keep others from “stealing” those time slots from you. Your calendar can help you reclaim your time so you can you use it wisely and productively.
3. Scale your time.
It feels great to be indispensable, to have people looking to you for answers and information. Becoming a go-to resource means you’re doing a lot right. But if you allow yourself to get pulled in a million directions and you’re trying to respond to inquiries and answer endless questions, you may find your time evaporating before your eyes. What to do? One answer is to scale your time, which simply means looking for ways to get more out of the time you give to other people.
This includes looking for ways to batch similar jobs and objectives together -- think of it as getting the biggest bang for the time you spend doing something. If you’re having coffee or lunch with one new colleague, why not invite several people along? This gives you and others a chance to network with more people. If you’re constantly getting peppered with questions or concerns about something, is there a way you could post the answers online or someplace where other people also have access to this information?
What about using this information for the basis of a blog or article (if it seems interesting or engaging to enough people)? Find ways to “double dip” your time and effort, so you can help others while checking multiple boxes.
4. Figure out your core values.
We live in an age of distraction where it can often seem like we’re constantly running into time sucks -- all those little things that drain your time and leave you depleted. But the best way to cut through the inconsequential is to clearly define what your boundaries are. What exactly are you defending your time for? What are your core values? The best way to know how you should be spending your time is to get your priorities in line.
Pick the things that matter to you most and decide how much time you need, on a daily or weekly basis, to work on those items. Are you defending your time to make sure you accomplish a daily workout? Are you carving out time to focus on a big project? What steps do you need to take to start achieving your goals? Once you have a clear picture of what matters, you can begin to rank your priorities; then you can begin to decide what exactly you have time for and what you don’t.
5. Be honest with yourself.
Why do we allow our time to be eaten away by conference calls that don’t matter, or unproductive meetings we don’t need to attend, or tasks that fill time but don’t help us achieve our goals? Evaluate how you actually spend your time -- when given the chance, are you actively working on accomplishing your deepest desires? And if not, why not? Be honest about why you overcommit to others but sell yourself short. Is it possible that you’re allowing others to zap your time because it gives you an excuse not to be successful?
Do you love the thrill of starting a new project, but have a hard time finishing it? Are you afraid of fully committing to your goals because you’re actually afraid of success? Take a hard look at your habits and why you’re not defending your time.
Recognize patterns of self-sabotage. Are you allowing yourself to become overly committed or wasting time doing unimportant things, thus giving yourself an excuse why you can’t work on your own goals? You may find you have to defend your time against your own bad habits.
6. Pleasing everyone else leaves you debilitated.
If your natural inclination is to say yes anytime someone asks you to do something, it may be time to step back and evaluate the impacts of continually accepting requests. Why do we allow ourselves to feel internally pressured to do something we don’t want to do? Why do we take on tasks that aren’t in our purview and are distracting from our bigger goals and important projects?
Maybe you feel like you have to accommodate everyone because otherwise it looks like you can’t handle your work. Many of us fear that if we push back we’ll be sidelined for a more important job in the future. We worry that we’ll look unreliable and easily replaced if we can’t do everything that is asked of us.
Or perhaps you’re someone who becomes a people pleaser because you’re desperate for validation from others and want to feel appreciated and liked. If that’s the case, you might believe your value is based on what others see in you.
Instead of allowing your confidence to come from the praise or affirmation of others, find ways to build your inner strength and seek internal validation. Stop trying to please everyone around and start looking for ways to please yourself.
7. Embrace the “no.”
Saying no doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Those two little letters can seem incredibly difficult to say (or write in an email), but the truth is it’s profoundly liberating to be able to decline a request, especially when you know, in the pit of your stomach, that you’re not capable of taking on this task without it hurting other elements of your work or life.
So learn to embrace saying no. You may also try out other phrases, such as “I don’t have time,” “I’m too busy” or simply “Sorry, I can’t.” But if all else fails, nothing can match the stopping power of the tiny word “no.” This one word can help you defend your time from external forces that would take this valuable resource away from you.