Protecting Your Time as a Leader
One of the biggest challenges leaders face is their ability to control their time and their calendars so that they can focus on the activities that are most important. Because leaders want to support other people, they often say “yes” to too many requests. They then find themselves over-committed, overwhelmed, exhausted and resentful. In their eagerness to bring positive impact to others they sell themselves short.
Protecting your time as a leader with effective boundary-setting is vital to being able to put your energy into the areas that will grow your business, as well as grow you. This means getting really clear on how much time you require to do the essential daily activities to keep you productive, balanced and healthy. Then you can fill in other time commitments around those essential activities.
As you improve on this, you will find that the number of times you say “no” to a request for your time will rise dramatically. You may also feel your discomfort at your perception that you are letting others down growing alongside. After all, you want these people to know how much you care about them, don’t you?
The Parenting Connection
If you are or have been a parent, take a trip down memory lane with me. Do you remember how much you wanted to be sure that your children learned to care for themselves, solve their own problems and challenges and become beings who could survive and thrive without you? I know I do. Whether you are leading children or leading adults, some of the issues and challenges are the same.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned as a mom was to ask myself the question: “Whose problem is this, anyway?” If my high-schooler came home complaining about an issue with his teacher because he had not turned his homework in on time, he might expect me to call up the teacher and try to fix his problem for him. There were times that I was tempted to do so. After all, I want him to know how much I care about him, right? 🙂
The thing is, the trouble you have in school as a student who turns in homework late is YOUR problem, not mine. If I take that kind of problem on as my own, what will my children learn about advocating for themselves? What will they learn about the consequences of their own actions? Do I want to teach them that mom is the person who solves all their problems?
Whose Problem Is This, Anyway?
If you are working to protect your time and energy learn to ask yourself this question about any request others make of you. It can make all the difference. For example, if an office-mate complains about her issue with the boss and asks you to advocate for her, pause. Then ask yourself: “Whose problem is this, anyway?”
Sometimes it will be clear to you that someone’s request for your time is really a request for you to take on their problem. If this is the case, you can rest in knowing that you may serve them best by saying “no.” As a leader, your goal is to empower others, set an example for them and encourage them to become their best selves.
Instead of saying “yes” to taking their problem on, say something like this instead:
- “It sounds like you are feeling frustrated with that situation. However, I know you have the ability to work it out.”
- “Finding a solution to that will really help you to grow your skills. I am looking forward to hearing how you do it!”
- “I have a few minutes (a few!) to help you brainstorm the next steps YOU will take as you work that out.”
All of these responses turn the problem back over to the requester, which keeps you in control of your time. Answers like these will also empower the other to keep growing their own skills. These folks will get used to your behaving this way, and will begin to change their interactions with you as a result. Or, they will stop coming to you altogether, and seek out someone else who is willing to take on their problems. Either way, you will benefit.
Of course, there are a variety of nuances to these kinds of situations. You may decide that committing some of your time to helping the other person work through their problem will serve you both in the long run. However, your mastery in determining who the owner of the problem really is will be a great way to shore up your boundaries. It will also help you to maintain healthy relationships and positive connection to those who matter to you.
Ready for more support in creating better boundaries so that you can focus more on your priorities? Check out my free, 9-Step “Master Your Calendar” checklist. Let me know how it works for you!