A viral video clip of California Congresswoman Maxine Waters recently made its way around the Internet a few weeks ago. (If you haven’t seen it yet, click here to watch it). Love her or leave her, (I love her fearless approach to her job by the way), seeing her “reclaim her time”, in such a bold way, was both a proclamation and a reminder to all of us busy and purpose-driven types to be vigilant ambassadors of our time. You may disagree with her no-nonsense approach to “reclaiming her time,” but what is entirely accurate and agreeable, in all areas of our lives, is that we do allow people to divert, go off course, and waste our time. And it is absolutely our responsibility to refocus, redirect, and be good stewards of our time so other people don’t waste it.
Time is something you cannot get back! Once time is gone, it’s gone. And with your busy life, roles you play, and many hats you wear every day, carving out time for people can be quite the challenge. And when people dishonor your time by not showing up, arriving late, or canceling at the last minute, it deprives you of something or someone else you could have been helping instead.
Here are four ways to be more diligent, deliberate, and intentional about protecting your time from people who are prone to treating it like it’s a replaceable commodity.
#1 Video Chat Before the “Let’s Grab a Bite or a Coffee” Date
If you’re doing something impressive or interesting in life or business right now, people will naturally want to “pick your brain.” Most commonly, people will want to schedule a “let’s grab a bite or a coffee” date with you. Do not agree to this at first! These types of in-person dates are okay only after you pre qualify the intentions and level of commitment to meeting you from the other party. Use a video-conference tool and meet virtually as a way to determine whether or not this person warrants two or three hours of your in-person time (factoring in prep and travel time, grabbing a bite or a coffee adds up to a few hours). Too often than not, by the time the “date day” arrives, the excitement has worn off for the person that initially requested to meet with you, so you stand the risk of being stood up! A video conference mitigates some of the risk and vulnerability of your time. I use this strategy religiously, and it has been quite useful in filtering out the time-wasters and “free-information but not invested in long term success” chasers. FaceTime, Skype, and my favorite right now, Zoom are my tools of choice. All three of these options are free, and they eliminate travel time and potentially money wasted, too.
#2- You don’t have to attend every social hour or networking event you are invited to.
Time is such a precious commodity, and we need to use it wisely. Only attend networking events that speak to your core values, both personally and professionally – where you feel there is a genuine potential to meet people that you can help or connect with and that can connect with or help you in return.
Invest your time in events that serve your target audience, your interests, and your aspirations. You may be excited to meet new people and get the word out about your business or connect with like-minded folks, just make sure you are not wasting time networking at events that will turn out to be a networking bust; thus a waste of your time and everyone else’s.
#3 – Create Healthy Boundaries Around Your Time
Reclaiming your time means creating boundaries around your time that support your goals, priorities, and desires. If someone wants to meet with you on your only free Saturday of the month and you were looking forward to a weekend with nothing to do, it’s okay to say no, and decline the offer to meet or get together.
Boundaries are only efficient when you enforce them. Set guidelines about who and what takes priority. When someone asked to meet with you, don’t feel obligated to meet with them. Be obligated to the reasons why to set those boundaries in the first place and schedule meetings and dates that won’t leave you feeling resentful, overwhelmed, or anxious.
#4- Have Them Meet You Where You Are Already
I love this one! This strategy is for the “serial canceler,” you know, that person who schedules lunch or a meeting with you, but they always cancel at the last minute? Yes, we all know someone like that. Individuals who have wasted your time more than once should not have direct access to your free time on your calendar. Revoke their schedule-time-with-you card. When people show you over and over that they do not respect your time, don’t give it to them. Instead, let them know where you will be, and if they want to meet you, they can meet you where you will already be. For example, let’s say on a given day, you already planned on spending time at a library or Starbucks, or maybe you planned to be at your son’s soccer game, invite that person to join you at the activity or place where you already are. This way if they do not show up, it doesn’t matter, there was no time wasted because you were already there doing what you planned to do.
Time is irreplaceable. Close the window of opportunity for people to abuse your schedule. You’re busy, focused, and working hard to achieve your goals. And when you do have downtime, I know you don’t want it wasted. You should respect other people’s time, and they should respect yours, but if they don’t, reclaim it. And start giving your time the honor and respect it deserves.
“When you’re on my time, I can reclaim it” – Congresswoman Maxine Waters