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4 Ways of Keeping Time Thieves at Bay

4 Ways of Keeping Time Thieves at Bay

Consider these three scenarios:

  • You’ve had a busy day at work and you decide to take a breather. After a one minute of sitting down with a cup of coffee, your boss calls your name and says, “Hey, do you have a minute?”
  • You are ready to spend a moment with your favorite book when all of a sudden you get distracted by a phone: someone is trying to sell you a magazine subscription.
  • You are about to make finishing touches to a project at work, but you get interrupted by the constant noise in the cubicle.

These scenarios are very common and very annoying.

You are tired of distraction and of the fact that others are defining your rhythm and productivity. With constant distractions and requests, you are not getting enough time for recovery or for getting things done.

Your time usage is dictated by others. It’s no wonder that you want to change the situation and get your stolen time back!

Are you too accessible and helpful?

The main reason why people let others dictate their productivity and steal their time is being too helpful.

For instance, when someone comes to you and makes a request, you want to be help. Also, you don’t want to let down their expectations by saying “no” to them.

Another thing that “helps” time thieves to steal your time is being too accessible. You want to be reachable and open towards others as much as possible. This gives you the reputation of being a nice and trustworthy person.

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However, both of these traits have their downsides too.

In a work environment, you get bombarded with requests whenever possible, thus interrupting your productive time.

At home, you might have a problem with focusing on your own personal projects or finding time to relax in a middle of a hectic work week.

Obviously, there is one crucial thing that is missing in this picture. Do you know what it is?

The negative effects of missing boundaries

Yes, you got it right. The missing thing is boundaries.

Boundaries can be set as physical or non-physical ones and they define the rules you operate by and the way that others should operate as well.

If you haven’t defined boundaries, you are potentially jeopardizing your productivity and it makes easier for others to steal your time.

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First, boundaries define how to handle the situation when something unexpected comes up. For instance, this could be the case when your boss comes to you and gives you an extra assignment.

Second, boundaries help you to protect your time. However, when the boundaries are missing, then people think it’s OK to interrupt you with their requests. They expect that you are accessible whenever they wish.

Third, the lack of using the word “no.” Now, it’s not always easy to say “no,” but it can be done firmly, while still leaving the other person with a good impression of you.

Fourth, an important part of the boundaries is communication. This can be divided into either verbal or written communication and depending on its clearness, that’s how strong or weak your boundaries are.

With proper communication, you are able to block requests that would otherwise make your already busy schedule busier.

Finally, understand that the word “no” is essential too when it comes to defending your personal boundaries. Instead, saying the word “yes” is an open request for time thieves to grab the piece of your time.

Although the word “no” is part of the communication point #4, I wanted to mention it separately, as I think it’s the cornerstone setting your boundaries on a daily basis

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Sorry thieves, the police is here!

To catch the time thieves and give you back the stolen time, follow this plan:

First and foremost, it’s important to set your expectations straight – whether it’s at work or at your home. When people know that you are working on something important, it helps them to respect your time too.

For instance, when someone comes to you at the cubicle, let the person know that you are working on something important and cannot be disturbed. Also, let people know about your phone and e-mail answering policies.

At home, communication is the key as well. For instance, I’m building my  online business on the side (on top of my day job), so I’ll let my family know when I work and when I shouldn’t be interrupted.

When everyone is on the line, no false expectations are set and everyone knows the rules to follow.

It’s a good idea to “isolate” yourself too. By isolation, I’m not talking about disappearing for hours without telling anyone where you are. Instead, I’m talking about controlled isolation, which doesn’t make everyone else concerned.

At work, this isolation could be done by booking a meeting room and working there, at home this could be done by going to work outside (nature, coffee shop, and library) and communicating to your spouse that you’ll be away for a certain amount of time.

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There is one thing to note: You should take a phone with you, so that your spouse can contact you in case of a family emergency. Naturally, you want to be with your family if something notable happens.

Finally, reduce your commitments that aren’t necessary. The more commitments you have, the more probable it is that you will have to give up your time for something you don’t like.

For instance, I belonged to a local computer club in my town and I was asked to be a board member for the club. At first I said yes, but eventually I gave up on the position even though others wanted me to stay.

Eventually I stopped participating in the club’s activities, because I wanted to focus on other things in my life instead. This eliminated some of my commitments and my personal schedules became simpler.

Let’s define your anti-theft alarm system

Follow these four steps to defend yourself from time thieves:

  1. Set your communication policies.If you are at work and feel that you get interrupted a lot, set the auto-responder message telling others when you process your e-mails. This way others are not expecting you to get back to them as soon as possible.It’s also a good idea to mute your phone when you work and also let others know about this too (and also, when you do answer the phone).
  2. Isolate yourself.Book a meeting room at the office if you want to get work done. If possible, you can also work remotely from home if it’s quiet and peaceful there (for instance when kids are at school).At home, if you feel interrupted constantly, try to find a spot in the nature, a coffee shop or a library to do the work. Let your spouse know where you are, how long you are going to be away and at which number he/she can call you in the case of emergency.
  3. Communicate clearly.Make sure other people truly understand your rules and that they don’t assume anything.Also, have a mutual understanding with your boss when it comes to work assignments. Let him/her know that sudden assignments are weakening your working productivity.The same clear communication works with your family too. You can even create a document showing  your working schedule and put it in your refrigerator door, so that it’s easily available and other family members can see it.
  4. Learn to say no. Finally, learn to say no. Although it can be challenging, it’s doable. What matters the most is how you do it.

Conclusion

Time thieves are everywhere and in most of the cases they are not even aware that they are taking your time away.

That’s why it’s important to define boundaries and let everyone know about them. This way, you can focus on your work or for recharging your batteries.

Over to you: Have you defined boundaries towards time thieves?

(Photo credit: hand holding stopwatch via Shutterstock)

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Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on July 2, 2020

7 Ways To Stop Being Lazy And Start Getting Things Done

7 Ways To Stop Being Lazy And Start Getting Things Done

“I’m going to take a lazy day today.”

Okay, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s called a day off, and it’s a magical thing.

But when every day is a “lazy day,” there’s a problem. Sometimes we just need a kick in the butt to get us up and moving, so we can handle our business effectively.

Often, laziness has a deeper and darker cause that we don’t want to think about, let alone acknowledge. Here are 7 ways to stop being lazy and become more productive.

1 Find Out the Root Cause

Are you burned out from working 27 hours a day, 9 days a week since before you can remember? This is a signal that you need a rest or a change.

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Human beings are not meant to work all the time. Our paleolithic ancestors worked, on average, about 20 hours a week. (Yeah, we members of modern society are getting hosed.) Maybe you feel overwhelmed, are afraid to fail at the task, or you just don’t want to do the task; these are discrete problems with separate solutions.

Finding out the root cause of your laziness can help you make the changes you need to make to be a more effective and energetic person.

2. Find Your Passion for the Work

You started doing what you do for a reason, but sometimes, even the tasks we love the most can become dreary and mundane. When this happens, remind yourself why you started doing it in the first place.

You must have had a passion for it at some point, or you wouldn’t be bothering with it. Remind yourself of the good points of the work, not just the parts that suck.

3. Break up Your Time

People work more efficiently when they have ample rest time. Working in short, focused bursts is far more effective than trying to slog through the task all at once. Not only will you be happier with the end product, but you’ll feel better and more energized after completing it.

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Learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

4. Look at Ways You Can Do the Task More Efficiently

When possible, work smarter instead of harder.

We’ve already talked about why working hard doesn’t work as well. If you can find a better way to do the task, you’re more likely to enjoy it because you’re not simply performing the task by rote, but rather, using your creativity and imagination to their best effect. This will make you feel better about the job and probably enjoy it more, too.

Try these 12 Ways to Work Smart.

5. Ask for Help or Support

Sometimes, we just need a little extra backup. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help from a more motivated coworker, friend, or family member. This is a useful way to get you up and moving, because they will motivate you to do the task.

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At the same time, you may be doing them a favor by motivating them to work harder. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone!

Learn How to Ask for Help When You’re Afraid To Do So.

6. Think About Why You Don’t Want to Do the Task

This sounds like a rehash of number 1, but it’s really not.

Some jobs we don’t want to do because they’re just not fun. Mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, or getting under the car and replacing the alternator all have one thing in common. People don’t like doing these jobs because they take time and energy, they’re not pleasant, and we know that sooner or later, we’ll just be doing the same thing all over again.

However, instead of thinking about why you don’t want to do the task, think about the benefits. Your car will run better, the Homeowners’ Association won’t be leaving you a nasty gram for the sixth time this month, and your house will look nicer and feel more welcoming.

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By turning a negative into a positive, you’ll find your outlook about these tasks will be more positive too.

7. Force Yourself

Sometimes there’s just no getting around it. All the good advice and wishes in the world won’t make the job look any better. In these cases, you need to remember you’re an intelligent, mature member of Homo Sapiens, and get off your butt.

While it may not be fun at the time, you can look back on the task you did later and say, “Yeah. I did that.” You shouldn’t have to force yourself out of bed every morning (this is a warning sign of depression that you should NOT ignore), but every once in a while, we need to force ourselves to do something we just don’t want to do.

Believe it or not, you’ll be proud of yourself once the task is done.

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Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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