Time is your most precious commodity. Invest it wisely. You can never get it back. We’ve all had days where we got to the end and asked ourselves “What did I actually achieve today”? Or is it just me?! And you’ve probably felt that everyone ran you ragged making their emergencies your own, only to get nothing important of yours done.
Below are 9 points to consider when managing your time and energy around other people who you may perceive to be wasting or draining it.
1. How do you know they are time wasters/energy drains?
They may in fact be future clients doing reasonable due diligence. They may need a little help or support, or a little more proof of your credibility. Often the more cagey ones become your greatest evangelists once you have built trust with them. So just because someone seems to be draining your time or demanding attention, don’t immediately dismiss them. It is wise to give them some time and help for free, then get to a point where you ask for more commitment (see below). If you are very busy or stressed your patience and tolerance of people wanting your time may wear thin, but if you had more time you may be happy to help. So never get too busy to help people for some of your time.
2. If you let people take all your time up, they will
There are of course many people who will consume all your time. But you will have taught them to. So educate people how much access they can have to you, and don’t blame them if they take it. Be very clear how they can contact you and what your ’terms’ of your time are, like specific times or platforms to communicate with you. Then you can filter people into certain categories, explained in the next point…
3. Have a pre-qualification process
Have an automated, structured way of contacting you so that you can pre-qualify people you communicate with. You can have externally/outsourced managed email accounts and social media pages that a virtual assistant (or auto reply that you make look personal) then sends a pre-written template to, to qualify the inbound communication to you. You could further ask them to fill in a short questionnaire (online, so data is captured and can be mined, and so you don’t have any manual parts of the process). You can then decide if you allow this contact through, in which case they could book an online diary appointment for a short call with you. You set the specific times and amount of time, so that you are happy it works for you, such as 15 minutes, between 10 & 11pm, 3 days a week.
4. Ringfence diary time for donating your time so you feel grateful, not resentful (& overwhelmed)
As above, pre book out slots in your diary each week, recurring, where you are happy, even grateful, to give some of your time to help people and take calls. This way YOU control the timing and don’t feel or get interrupted, and you can get yourself in the right headspace to serve. If you use an online diary appointment system this can all be automated without your time input. You get to decide on your terms how much time you donate, and then when you have to focus on deep work you will be uninterrupted. Be sure to be firm with the deadlines and have small chunks of time (15 mins). If the conversation is going places you can give more time, if a time drain slipped through the net you can help them for 15 mins them let them go. DO NOT break those rules. Don’t answer phone if it rings pout of these time zones, because it will never stop unless you teach the world when you take your calls and meetings.
5. Leverage your time
Each time you have a call, make a post, respond to a message, ask yourself “Can I re-use this”? Could you create a template, an FAQ, an audio or video recording, etc. Then each time you get the same request or question (you will likely get the same few over and over and over), you can use a pre-created template to respond to the question by linking to a FAQs page, video or audio. This can become part of your qualification process and save you time in repeating yourself. As you grow this will liberate you and you may wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Start NOW.
6. Have someone manage the inboxes
Have a PA, VA or outsourcer manage your inboxes so you don’t get buried in demands. They can then filter and send to you only the important, urgent or cleared by you messages. This is well worth the small cost investment, and it trains you as you grow and sets you up for when you are bigger and will be forced into it (or go insane!)
7. Never be too busy to keep building relationships
If you get too busy meeting demands, you could let your emotions seep out to possible partners, clients and fans. You could push away people who could be loyal life evangelists of yours. It’s not their fault you are too busy. Always build relationships and spend (invest) time into growing them,
8. If someone persists, drains, then
cut the ties politely or quietly. A lot of people make huge announcements on social media or get into online fights. This is both futile and will damage your brand. Simply walk away quietly. Many other people hold guilt and want to help everyone. You can’t. Some people aren’t ready. Some people don’t want help. Some people have agendas and ulterior motives. Some people have a one sided view of the relationship with you. LET. THEM. GO. Or do the next poin
9. If it gets to trolling
then block them. Block the heck out of them. Remove them from your profiles. Report them. Because some will slip through and spend all their time trolling you, because they have nothing better to do and it seems like their purpose on this planet was to be your official self-appointed police officer. Your time is valuable. Your energy is precious and finite. If it gets rude, hate-fuelled, unfair, inaccurate or simply as a tool to leverage your brand, remove them. Your life will be a bit better for it.
Now you know the difference between someone who could be a client, though pensive at first, a freebie seeker, time waster, energy drain or troll. As you get bigger you will get more of ALL types, it is normal. Remember that YOU create all the time that others consume of yours, because you teach the world how to communicate with you.