Do you have a minute? “Sure,” you reply, deflated, because you really don’t have a minute, not to mention the 20 that this conversation is really going to take. People waste your time! But how can you respectfully manage your time (and theirs) without coming across as a jerk-face? A few simple tips will have you ending conversations quickly and courteously so you can manage your time effectively.
Just say no. The first and most important tip to remember, in time management and any area of life, is that it’s ok to say “No!” Some polite ways to say no might be, “That’s just not something I do.” “I don’t have time to fit it in right now, ask me again in a month.” “I hear how important this is, but I’m just not going to be able to give it the time and attention it needs.” Or a plain “No thank you” usually works just fine. And don’t feel like you need to explain; people almost never ask for an explanation. It’s our own guilt or need to excuse ourselves that prompts us to follow the ‘no’ with a defense.
Use a caveat. Saying no can be a great way to manage your time, but you don’t always want to be the one bowing out of responsibility or requests—people don’t look kindly on others who don’t pull their weight. In instances where a flat out no may not be a good option, use the “yes, but…” The “yes, but…” allows you to agree, but puts limits on what you will do and when. For example, if someone asks you if you have a minute, you might say, “Yes, but I have a meeting in 5 so it needs to be quick.” Or “Yes, but do you mind walking as we talk?”
Walk and talk. This strategy is fantastic. Not only do you get away from your desk and get moving, but you get to control your time. People tend not to ramble as much when they walk or stand. When your conversation is coming to a close, take a swing by their work station. They will naturally tend to stay there and then you have the option to leave on your time vs. the other person being at your work station and choosing to never leave. If it’s not possible to walk and talk, or you just don’t have the time, then just stand up. Standing instead of sitting unconsciously indicates that the meeting should be brief, and it’s a lot harder to ‘chew the fat’ when you’re standing. If standing alone doesn’t do the trick, take a step toward the door. People usually get the hint.
Standing meetings. Meetings are a great way to waste people’s time. If you’re required to attend meetings ask yourself “Do I add value to this meeting?” (If you never speak you probably don’t need to go). “Will I have a task or goal as a result of this meeting?” If the answer to both of those questions is no, then see if it’s possible for you to bow out. If your leader insists you be there, ask for a summary or meeting minutes instead. If all else fails request a standing meeting. It’s good for health, and it’s good for time. People won’t banter on and on if they have to stand, and you’ll be amazed how quickly business can get done.