Learning to respect your own time. Sounds like a really basic concept and not hard to do at all, and for some this is true. I, however, struggle on a daily basis to respect my own time and I am a professional organizer who specializes in time management. I am also a people pleaser. For years I gave up my free time to help others. Whether it was running into the city to meet friends who were always at least unapologetically 20 minutes late despite the fact that they lived 10 minutes down the block and I had just spent 45 minutes racing in to get there on time, or spending more time working as secretary on a board of directors than I was on my own business. What was I doing, and why?
I ended up getting angry at my friends for not respecting my time and I would complain bitterly each month as I prepared the agenda for the next board meeting because no one ever bothered to send in their materials in a timely manner. I finally quit the board when my mother pointed out that I wasn’t enjoying myself, so what was the point?
What took me years to learn was this: it wasn’t my friends or colleagues disrespecting my time, it was me. I never said or did anything to change what kept occurring over and over and over again and how can things change when YOU don’t change? I had to be the one to let others know my time was valuable and then actaccordingly.
I finally had a break through recently. I had plans with a friend to see a movie and early on in the day I sent her an e-mail with the times and places around the city of the movie we wanted to see. I heard nothing until 4 pm when she sent an e-mail asking if we were still going. Apparently my e-mail had gotten stuck in spam. I then resent her the information and she took 2 ½ hours to send back a reply. I live in a different borough than her so I need time to travel and I also own my own business so I need to plan my work schedule more carefully than others. By the time she replied about the movie, it was too late for me to get there.
It wouldn’t have mattered. By that point, I was so irritated by her lack of respect for my time that I was too angry to have sat through a movie. Instead I left my cell phone at home and took a nice long walk. On this walk I realized that I was right in not rushing out of my home at the last minute to see a movie with someone who wasn’t being respectful towards me and had I gone, I would have been telling her that my time wasn’t valuable to me, so why should it be to her?
I also realized I needed to let her know that it wasn’t acceptable and how I expected to be treated in the future. So I wrote her back telling her that I had gone for a walk and missed her e-mail. I also told her that I needed more planning time because of my work and because I needed to allow for traveling time. I asked that in the future plans be made much further in advance.
The good news was my friend apologized and moving forward it will be easier to make plans with her. The great news was I owned my own power and my own time and it’ll be easier in the future to continue down this path of positive change.
I also will recognize that in the future, if I let someone know that I expect to be respected and they continue to be disrespectful of my time, I will know that it is time to walk away from that relationship because any relationship that doesn’t have both parties providing equal parts give and take isn’t healthy.
This story may seem like a baby step to some, but for me, who has spent a lifetime more concerned with everyone else’s needs than my own, who has been taken advantage of and used continuously, it was a groundbreaking huge step in the right direction toward taking care of myself first in order to give more to those around me.
You can’t give if you have nothing to offer. I hope this article helps someone understand that the first step in time management is respecting your own time and yourself. It’s not just a concept but a way of being. I teach in my seminars and webinars that the oxygen theory is a vital theory to have in your life. Take care of yourself first and then you are fit to take care of others. It’s a simple theory but the practice of doing so can be really challenging for those of us trained to give first and take care of ourselves later.