Protect your time

“It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time,” Steve Jobs.

This statement has never been more true for me than now, at this moment. Since I joined HelloSign as a Creative Director in January of 2014, I’ve been working on implementing better ways of managing my time effectively. One of the many things that I love about working at HelloSign is the fact that I get to collaborate with almost every team to make ideas happen. Although this is a positive thing overall, there are times when I feel like I need to be possessive with my time to accomplish everything I need to. Over the years, I’ve figured out a few ways of doing just that.

External forces (protecting your time from others)

As the company and my role grows, there are more processes to put in place, more discussions to be had and more decisions to be made. Between all this, there are days when it’s difficult to find the time to perfect those pixels or write that blog post that I’ve been meaning to write for the past 2 months. Here are a few things that have worked for me:

  1. If you’re not big on right out saying ‘No’ say “Yes but…” more often. I’ll be honest, I usually have a hard time saying ’no’ to people if they need my help. I’ve figured out a different strategy that works for me. If I want to help but don’t have the time to do it right away, I’m more likely to say “sure, we can get that done but not until 3 weeks from today.” I find this to be a most realistic approach.
  2. Try to get out of as many meetings as you can. If something takes less than 15 minutes to discuss, don’t schedule an hour-long meeting.
  3. Block off chunks of time on your calendar if you have to so people know not to schedule meetings with you or bother you during that time. Trear it as your time to get shit done.

Internal struggles (protecting your time from yourself)

Not to put all the blame on external forces, sometimes I’m forced to battle my own internal struggles. A few ways I’ve been able to keep myself from constantly being distracted:

  1. Strategically schedule distractions. I feel like if I’m going to waste a certain amount of time a day, I’d like to be in control of when and how much. This is why I usually schedule some time in the evening to mindlessly surf the web. This way, I don’t have to feel guilty about wasting time. Heck, I often end up learning a thing or two.
  2. Have a ‘Distractions’ folder on your phone. A friend of mine mentioned this trick to me and it has proven to be helpful. Having a ‘distractions’ folder on my iPhone makes me question my decision as I tap on that time-sucking app. Here’s the thing though, you have to determine what you consider a waste of time vs. productive. I personally consider Facebook to be a huge time sink so I’ve replaced 80% of my FB usage with apps like Twitter, Quora, and Medium. These apps provide a lot more value than Facebook ever has.
  3. Have at least one productive thing to do at all times. Doing this will give you one less reason to get distracted. If you have nothing productive to do, you’re more likely yo try to pass time by doing something completely useless. Therefore, wasting time when you could’ve been reading a book or working on a side project.

Ever since I’ve trained myself to protect my time, life has been a lot simpler. I also recommend reading Cap Watkins’ post ‘How I Focus’ for a different take on the same topic.