It really is the one thing we can never get back.
But we’re not always as careful with it as we might be.
You could be the most organized person on the planet … but if other people nibble away at your time, you can end up rushed and frustrated and out of time for what matters to you.
Let’s look at a few scenarios.
You schedule a meeting…
Your employees arrive on time, since you’re known for starting meetings on the dot. (Yay you!)
But they haven’t prepared. They don’t know what’s being discussed. They keep looking at their phones. They dive down rabbit holes and wander off on detours.
The hour flits by, everyone picks up their stuff and leaves, and you’re left wondering … what just happened?
Because it certainly wasn’t the meeting you planned.
Your manager is whimsical
He cancels meetings just before they’re due to start.
And then reschedules at a time when your calendar is chock-full of other commitments.
Your colleague is distracted
You agreed to meet to discuss an important project.
But she lacks focus and is easily sidetracked by every phone-ping and unrelated thought.
Let’s reclaim your time!
Here are a few ways to help everyone stay focused, get more done, and respect your time!
Those meetings with your employees
They’re your team. You get to set the rules – but if you want people to know what you’re there to discuss, keep to the time frames, and come to a conclusion, you need to give them the tools.
And yes, that means an agenda, with clearly-stated discussion points and objectives. Anything not relevant to the agenda gets noted down for future discussion, not added into this meeting.
It means holding shorter meetings, which are proven to be better at keeping people on track. Do you really need an hour, or would 45 minutes … or even just 30 minutes … be enough, IF everyone stays focused?
And yes, it means asking people to leave their phones at their desks – or, at minimum, silence them and put them face down on the table.
Your whimsical manager
This will depend upon the relationship you have with them. My best advice is to have a meeting to address the issue.
It’s possible they don’t realize how challenging their last-minute rescheduling is – and they may have some demands on their time that’s causing the upheaval.
Let them know that you tend to have a very full schedule, and that it would be helpful if they could give you more advance notice – and double-check with you on rescheduling, if possible.
If necessary, you can always use one of my favorite techniques: the no-oriented question. “Would I be completely out of line to ask for a little more warning when you need to reschedule?”
People love to say “No!” This gives them that opportunity – but in saying “No!”, they’ve miraculously agreed to your request.
Your distracted colleague
Start with a clear statement of what you want the meeting to achieve. If you’ve scheduled via email, providing those details in the meeting invitation is the perfect place to start – and then repeat yourself as you’re getting started.
Conspicuously turn your phone to silent mode and set it face down. “I’m turning my phone off so it won’t distract me. Would you mind doing the same?” If they say no, or if they keep looking at their phone anyway, you can suggest rescheduling at a time when they have fewer other things going on. “Seems like you have a lot on your mind right now – shall we pick this up later, when you’re more clear?”
Be relentless about keeping on topic. “Let’s make a note of that for later,” and, “No, I’d say that’s a topic for another time.”
In some cases, you may need to use the no-oriented question I mentioned above: “Am I crazy to want us to stay focused and get as much done here as we can?”
It probably sounds like I’m asking you to take responsibility for getting other people to do the right thing. Why, you may be wondering, should you do all the heavy lifting?
But remember: it’s your schedule and your time. Even when it’s your manager who’s nibbling away at it, there are things you can do to maintain control – and it starts with your own appreciation for what time means to you and how you want to spend it.
If you don’t respect your time, no one else will either. And yes, sometimes that means you have to take action to demand that respect, instead of waiting for it to be given to you.