Time. It’s the one commodity of which we cannot make more. There are some creative ways we can maximize the use of our time, protect it, and even outsource tasks on our to-do list to conserve our time for where we really want to spend it, but the fact of the matter remains. We cannot truly manufacture more hours in our days, or days in our lives.
This is why learning how to be the best stewards of our time is a powerful and impactful skill. It’s also why showing respect for other people’s time is one of the best ways you can honor that person and show appreciation for your relationship with them. When someone spends any amount of time with you or on you, they are giving you something they can never earn back or make more of. It’s quite literally their most precious gift – and they’re choosing to give you some of it. So then, how can we all learn to be respectful of time – both our own and other people’s? Keep reading for what I’ve come to learn and embrace about time management, especially as it stands to impact other people.
Do what you say and say what you mean.
It’s human nature to want to be liked. This is why we often say things that we believe other people want to hear. We look for the “right” answer – the one that will earn us favor, make us appear more attractive, smart, successful, and put together. You get it. But what happens when the truth is different than what we feel the acceptable response should be? If we give what we feel is the more favorable response – “Sure, I’ll have that project over to you before the end of the day.” – but fail to meet those expectations – “I’m sorry! I’ll get it to you tomorrow, I promise.” – there’s a disconnect that often leads to disappointment and a whole host of other issues. Simply put, when it comes to respecting each other’s time we all need to do what we say and say what we mean. First, if we say we’re going to do it – do it! And if it’s not likely something you can commit to, don’t say it, well then don’t say it to begin with. Respect starts with honesty. If we’re overcommitted, behind on a deadline, or simply not interested in actually taking that meeting – let’s instead be honest from the start. Not meeting someone’s expectations honestly is far better than stringing them along. At the end of the day, we’d all rather be working around realistic expectations than climbing out of a pile of excuse after excuse.
Communicate changes early and often.
Life will throw us all curveballs from time to time and being accepting and understanding of change is grace we should extend to everyone. Rarely is it the fact that a situation, deadline, or meeting time changed that is the real offender. Rather, it’s not being informed in a timely or respectful manner that causes a rift. My advice here is to communicate changes early and often to help manage expectations. Being respectful of other people’s time is built upon the foundation of knowing you are not the only or the most important thing on someone’s schedule today. We all have other responsibilities and commitments that are often built upon one another. If you’re late or cancel at the last minute, there is a cost to that. It’s either the cost of future time to reschedule this missed connection, or it’s wasted time preparing to engage with someone else that is no longer needed. Should something come up and you need to push back a deadline or meeting time, tell the other person right away. Don’t become paralyzed with worry about whether they’ll be upset. With advance notice, we can adjust. But if you put off informing someone of your conflict because you’re worried they’ll become frustrated, you’re only ensuring they will be frustrated with your lack of response!
Apologize and recognize.
Be sincere in your apology when you’ve infringed on someone else’s time. Excuses don’t absolve the problem, but they do help – especially when it’s a good one! A family emergency, sick kid, broken down car, or injury all take precedence over that project deadline you missed. But without an apology and reason to go off of, the other person will be left to assume the worst. So, offer an apology quickly and succinctly. And always acknowledge that you value the other person’s time and the fact that this took a piece of it away from them unfairly.
If you find yourself on the other end of the situation, the one where another person has wasted your time or is not respectful of the time you give them, it’s time to set boundaries. Your time is also precious! Choose what best suits your personality and circumstances, but I’d advise a three-strikes-you’re-out rule. Even if the other person seems to have an endless list of really good excuses, they’re still excuses. Maybe that person isn’t a reliable contact for you right now if things keep coming up and pushing you down on their list of priorities. It’s not to say you have to completely sever the relationship, but you should guard your time and how you choose to spend it on a person who has pushed your limits previously.
Treat time as the precious gift it is!
And finally, you can’t expect other people to respect your time if you don’t respect your own. Do you often get tied up in meetings that run over their allotted time? Do peers ask you to take on extra work that really should be their responsibility? Does a friend or family member make plans with you but often shirk them off at the last minute? Take note and take heart. Your time is valuable and you don’t get any more of it in this lifetime. Every commitment comes at an opportunity cost. So the next time you’re inclined to let one more offense go, keep in mind that it has cost you time spent doing something you love with someone you love. Act accordingly.
What are your current time management struggles? Are the biggest threats to your time coming from inside or outside challenges? Share your personal experiences with respect to time by commenting below!