Everyone Doesn't Deserve Your Time
One of the hardest things to do in our professional lives is to say no to someone when they ask for our time.
We always want to be helpful, to lend a helping hand whenever we can. If someone wants to show us their latest product, discuss their latest activity or just get together to “network”, we feel compelled to say yes.
Many times, that’s a good thing. From one perspective, we have an opportunity to impart our knowledge and expertise, to offer impartial advice and act as a sounding board, to really help those who need it. From another, you always get what you give: you can’t expect to get help when you want it, if you’re not willing to genuinely offer the same in return.
The problem arises, though, when we feel compelled to say yes to everyone who asks.
Its not hard to understand why we might think that way. After all, we’re simply giving of our time, which many times feels like a free commodity, right? I mean, giving someone a few minutes of our day doesn’t really cost any money, does it?
Except that it does.
Time, to use the cliche, is a finite resource. Every minute that you don’t use the way you want to, is a minute less to put towards the things you actually want to do. I’m not just talking about time that could be deployed at work, because that same time could be used personally, with family, with friends, towards your personal interests, etc.
Viewed in this way, time becomes arguably the most valuable commodity we can think of. It’s a resource that demands to be used wisely, because you’re never getting it back.
From that perspective, then, saying yes to everyone doesn’t make the most sense. It’s important to be judicious in how you use your time and who you give it to. Similarly, its important to be equally judicious when you yourself ask for time from someone else. We have the same responsibilities as anyone else, no matter our place in the so-called hierarchy.
Is this the best use of our time in this instance? Is there a more efficient way for us to get our message across, to be heard, to ask?
I’ve struggled with this myself for the longest time. As I said above, I want to be helpful, but in doing so, I have ended up wasting enough time that it became material to me.
So, what I now try and do is assess:
What I’m being asked for, the nature of the request, including the sincerity, genuineness and source of the request
If I’m the best person to help or if this person might be better served going to someone else
If a meeting is the best way to achieve it, or if there’s another quicker, more efficient way to get it done (e.g. a quick phone call, or an email)
If the answers are positive on the above, I have the meeting. If not, then I don’t.
Now, of course, a couple of caveats:
It goes without saying that the above doesn’t apply to family or close friends. They get the time they need, as and when they ask for it
If you’re a leader of a team, a group or an organization, and your team needs your time, you almost always say yes. Of course, it’s important to be ruthless about meetings during the workday, as I’ve written about before, but otherwise, you make time for your team
Outside of those, it’s down to you. Because not everyone deserves your time.