The holidays are an opportunity to catch up with friends and family we haven’t seen in a while. Especially with 2020 being the year of the virtual catch up. If you could visit your loved ones (thanks COVID) you know how much of a demand that puts on your time.
As a family of 7, we’ve got plenty of events to get through. Three separate Christmas get-togethers, then there are friends, don’t forget the work parties, oh and with four kids in school, there are the school parties and presentations.
The demand on our already finite time is monstrous.
This week, I want to explore the importance of owning your time and setting boundaries around how you spend it.
You decide how to spend your time. No one else.
If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve used the “Sorry, the kids are sick” excuse, my wife would have a lot of dollars. But it is a simple excuse that parents employ to set a boundary on their time.
(To everyone I’ve done this to, I’m not sorry. I’m tired.)
You decide how to apply boundaries and limits on how you spend your time. All too often, we’re reluctant to say no to things, despite it demanding our precious time, because of work, social or family pressures.
We must acknowledge and continually remind ourselves that we own our time. This knowledge is also useful in the war against distractions.
In the 5 minutes since opening my laptop, I opened seven browser tabs. Why? There is no logical reason as to why I needed seven. All I am doing is writing.
It is the war against distractions and it is these distractions that are sucking your time away.
Saying no to your urge to do more and limiting your distractions is harder than a week old french fry under a kids car seat.
It is these distractions which encourage motion over action.
That is, you’re plenty busy, just not efficiently spending your time.
(Massive Deja vu right now)
Every time that you find yourself starting to do something else that is not on task, stop.
Take a breath.
Ask yourself, is this what I need to be doing right now?
If the answer is no, don’t bloody do it.
If that doesn’t work, try asking yourself the next three questions.
1. What is the value of my time?
Visiting Granny takes time. It is time that I am willing to spend because I love her and so do the kids.
But many other situations do not warrant the expenditure of your time.
Watching the entire six seasons of Downton Abbey for the fourth time perhaps isn’t the best use of your time. (It’s my guilty pleasure)
The value of your time is what you make it. If you protect your time, your time is valuable. If you give your time away, it becomes worthless.
Everyone talks about how much millionaires say no to things. No to interviews. No to business opportunities. I’d hazard a guess (I’m not guessing, I’ve seen it on Shark Tank) it’s because they value their time. They’ve learned that their time is worth something. They place a premium on their time.
You must too.
Your belief system, your goals and your priorities all guide the value of your time. Spending time with my family is valuable. Binge-watching Downton again, probably not the best allocation of time.
2. How empty is my tank?
My wife and I often talk about our social tank. That is, how drained are we from recent social events. Needless to say, after Christmas and New Year, the light is on and the needle is below E. We are DONE.
Alone this is a sufficient reason to say no to events.
While I would like to go to the pub, play a round of golf, and go go-karting with my mates, I’m bloody cooked.
If your tank is empty, you’re not at your best. To succeed, you have to be at your best. It’s not just your social life that is affected.
Flat out at work? Now is probably not the time to start that podcast.
Like filling up at the service station, your tank requires time to refill. Allocate some time in your schedule, disconnect from distractions and “fill her up”.
It is perfectly acceptable to decline because you don’t have the energy. Saying no now, does not mean saying no forever.
Worst case scenario, to avoid confrontation; “Sorry, the kids are sick”. (Feel free to replace kids with goldfish)
3. What about me?
Everybody’s “thing” is more important than anyone else’s. An emergency or crisis to someone doesn’t necessarily mean it is to you.
What do you want?
Ruthlessly ruling how you spend your time is the sign of how much you value your time. Enter “bleed time”. Bleed time is when your wife says the job she has given you will only take five minutes. 4 trips to the hardware store and $1,000 later, you’ve got a new kitchen.
Things naturally take longer than we allow unless we rule our time.
Only have 45-minutes for this meeting? Cut it off. Talking on the phone to your mum and she’s telling you about her one-eyed dog? Sorry, Mum, I’ve got things to do.
Bleed time applies in all facets of our lives.
“I’ll just watch one episode” Next minute:
Establish a boundary. That is your time. By accepting bleed time in every activity, you’re making less room for actually achieving your priorities.
You’re the dictator of your 24 hours. Own your time.
Given it is the new year, now is a perfect time to conduct a time audit. Break down your typical day and be realistic. Make sure you allow the appropriate amount of time. No cheating.
Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you. Or feel free to send me a message on Twitter (@james_tew). Also, if you enjoyed this, subscribe to my newsletter where I published it originally.
p.s. Just remember, if in doubt, employ the old military get out of jail free card; “With all due respect Sir/Ma’am, no”