You’re inundated with irrelevant meeting requests, your client gives you work over the weekend, and your coworkers stop by every few minutes “just to chat.”
Don’t these people know you have work that needs to get done?
Sometimes it can seem that others have no respect for your time. But I would ask you a question: Do you respect your own time?
The first step to training others to value your time is to show that you value it yourself.
How do you currently manage your time? Do you:
- Say yes to every request?
- Drop whatever you’re doing whenever there’s an interruption?
- Answer emails the instant they come in?
- Constantly prioritize others’ requests above your own work?
- Reschedule your own priorities whenever someone else asks you to?
If you are exhibiting any of these behaviors, you’re signaling to those around you that your time isn’t that valuable. No wonder they feel like they can take advantage of it!
Once you’re ready to be serious about your time, here’s how to train those around you to treat it as valuable.
Set clear expectations for others
Sometimes, people waste your time because they don’t understand what is expected of them. Be sure to communicate exactly when and what you need from them — in writing — and impress on them the importance of getting their contribution by a certain point.
Make a habit of including deadlines in your communications. It’s completely acceptable to tell someone you expect an answer to your email by the end of the week, or you need their portion of a project by a certain date.
If you have consistent problems, try being clear about the consequences. You could say, “I need to have your suggestions by the end of today, or I’ll miss the deadline to submit this proposal.”
Draw boundaries around your own time — and make them known
If you don’t work on the weekends, make that clear so that others can plan accordingly. Then — and this is important — don’t give in. Your actions speak louder than words. If you told someone you don’t work over the weekend, yet you still respond quickly to their emails, they’ll expect to have access to you on Saturday and Sunday.
If you must answer emails over the weekend, use an email schedule feature to have them all send on Monday morning. That way you can clear your plate while still training people that the weekends are your time.
Similarly, if you require periods of uninterrupted time to work, make sure your coworkers know not to interrupt you — and then treat that time is sacred. If your coworkers notice you chatting with others or making a snack in the break room during a time you said you’re unavailable, they’ll begin to assume they can interrupt you at any time.
Set expectations about response times
When you answer your phone or email immediately, people become accustomed to it. Instead, establish a hierarchy and make it clear to everyone you work with. For example, you might respond to emails within 24 hours, text messages within a few hours, and phone calls as they come in. Let your team know that something is urgent how to get a hold of you.
Batching emails to deal with once or twice throughout the day is an excellent way to reclaim time spent chasing after other people’s agendas.
How do you deal with interruptions and requests on your time? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments.
I am currently writing a book called All Leaders Make Mistakes. You can read the opening chapter here at this LinkedIn Pulse article. Comments always appreciated.