After the death of his wife, Paul Evans vowed to be there for his son in every way possible by not wasting time.
Twenty-one years ago I became a time ogre.
My wife Sherri had just passed away in my arms from cardiac arrest and our son, Samuel, was five weeks old. That’s the type of moment we label as “defining.” It causes you to measure your life and search for purpose. It creates a void that cries out to be filled with meaning.
Each person reacts differently to tragedy. My personal reaction came in the form of a vow. I vowed to be available for Sam. Vowed to never miss an important event. Vowed to be present for every field trip and school activity.
For that to happen, I had to get more done in less time, and more accurately. I required a work environment that embraced flexibility and valued accomplishment over hours in a chair in front of a computer. In other words, time control became the priority.
This resulted in hybrid-employment: a traditional retainer as a company’s leadership director. I set my own hours, and self-employment as a consultant for entrepreneurs.
Putting that in place allowed me to accomplish step one in my belief about achievement: Control your time; control your destiny.
Step two involved becoming a time ogre. Let me warn you though, you will not always be popular as an ogre. However, you will accomplish more than you ever thought possible. There are three keys to becoming a Time Ogre…
#1 Own Your Block
You may not know this about ogres, but they are territorial. If you step onto their turf prepare for an altercation. Treat your time that way as well.
Popular productivity training uses sweet phrases like, “Block out your time and avoid interruptions.” “Gently let other’s know when you will not be available.” Yawn. Own your time. Don’t avoid interruptions. Prevent them. Be firm with your schedule when needed.
When Sam was little and it was Sam time, guess what, clients became invisible. That’s right, money could come knocking all it wanted, but no one was home. On the other side, when client time was blocked, guess what, family didn’t exist except for emergencies. If the school called, I would answer of course, but if grandma was calling to chat, I called back later.
Your blocks don’t have to be extensive. Maybe 30 minutes, maybe an hour, but you MUST own whatever block you create. It’s essential to accomplishment. It also gives you massive permission to focus on family when it’s time.
When you are accountable to your work time block, you feel zero guilt for your family time block.
A lot of my early time blocks took place from 4-6 am. Sam slept while I worked. Because of life shifts, my blocks are scattered through out the day now. Regardless, I still select certain segments of the day for work and others for family. You can decide to do the same.
#2 Stake Your Boundaries
Ogres know exactly where property lines lay. Cross them and there’s gonna be even more trouble than entering the block they live on, since you actually stepped onto their lot.
Boundaries allow you to protect your time by putting a set of principles in play. Again, these will not be popular until people get used to them, then they will respect them or at least learn to accept them.
Here are two boundaries I use regularly…
First, compressing conversations. One of clients loves to call and ramble, he would be thrilled to spend an hour on the phone talking about the same topic over and over again. When he calls, here is how I answer, “You’ve got 30 seconds. Go!” If he doesn’t get to the point by then I hang up. Yes, that’s extreme. No, I don’t do that with everyone. This simple boundary with this one guy has saved me hours if not days.
Second, calling time out. When a meeting starts to drift, I call time out. “Time out. What’s the focus right now?” “Time out. What’s the point?” “Time out. Are we brainstorming or decision making?”
You need to know your people well enough to determine what the boundaries need to be and how hard you can push. The above are just two example, you get to create your own.
Maybe you think this approach is extreme. Allow me to reframe… when a person asks for your time, whether it’s a call or meeting or anything, they are not asking for a few minutes… they are asking for your life.
You would never call someone and say, “Would you mind giving me an hour of your life to completely waste? You will never get it back, but I’d love for you to give me your life so we can run in circles during a meeting that will result in nothing accomplished.” Yet, we often allow this to happen to us. We give our life away to the mundane. Stop it. Take control.
Stand up for your life. Set boundaries. Remain respectful, but firm. The more you apply this principle, the more time you have for family and friends.
#3 Protect Your Borders
At times Ogres will close their country all together. No one gets in or out. This is the easiest principle to carry out and is often the most accepted. You also get to be the nicest when it comes to applying this one.
At the office, or in my home office, my closed door means no interruption. No calls. No knocks. No guests. No unscheduled appointments. The door becomes the border. It’s a physical trigger for everyone that I’m focusing and will not be interrupted.
My friend Carrie Wilkerson, The Barefoot Executive, taught me how to do this effectively at home without being harsh. As a mom, she’s always planning cool things for her children, but since she works from home, her kids want her attention all the time.
A breakthrough happened when Carrie planned a family trip to a beach resort as a reward for a new business she started. She gave herself six months to get the business humming, and then they would be off to fun in the sun. Every morning they watched a video on the resort website. It was filled with characters, events, and activities. Every morning reinforced the necessity of Carries focused work time.
“That’s why momma is working so hard, so we can go and have all that fun with zero work. Is it ok for momma to go work now?” Carried asked. Of course they didn’t mind, because they understood why she needed to work.
Let co-workers, family, employees and friends know why you are making strong decisions about your time. You won’t come across quite as much as an ogre.
Own your block, set your boundaries and protect your borders. These principles don’t require perfection, they just need a bit of initiative and a desire to give your work and family the focus and time they deserve when they need it most.
Are you using your time wisely?
Photo: Flickr/ jmettraux