Last year, America politician Maxine Waters repeated the phrase ‘reclaiming my time’ when the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wasn’t answering her question during a hearing. The video of the interaction became viral and the phrase became attached to her criticisms of the Trump administration. In the last few weeks, I’ve given the concept of ‘reclaiming my time’ some serious consideration.
As many of you know, I go on an annual retreat every year, a timeout to detach and recharge. A lightbulb moment for me this year was realising that I can only move forward with my life and work when I drop other people’s expectations of me that I have taken to be my own.
We all want to be helpful and supportive of others, but too much of anything is not so good. Like many of you, I’m constantly battling the tendency to people please. We fear causing offence or inconvenience to others. As someone who has been sharing the analogy of putting your own oxygen mask on first for years, I thought I had struck a fairly good balance between being of service to others, whilst not running myself ragged. But I sensed a revised equilibrium was required.
I’m in the fortunate position that I run my own business, so with that comes certain freedoms, but also additional responsibilities. I will always do my best to accommodate people, but in recent times felt I was spreading myself too thinly. As a result, I didn’t have the time, nor the energy, to explore new initiatives.
As part of my Time management workshop, I reference developing a ‘not to do’ list. As a balance to the usually overloaded ‘to do’ list, the ‘not to do’ list brings into awareness those usually unconscious habits that are not serving us. So on leaving my retreat I’d a page listing nine items and commitments that I intended to drop from my schedule.
I struck whilst the iron was hot and took great pleasure in crossing items off and deleting commitments from my diary. The feeling was so liberating. Some items were events I said I’d attend, but didn’t really want to, so I made my apologies. I didn’t need to give an excuse, I simply asserted I was no longer available. Other items were tasks that were initially favours to people that somehow over the months, or years, had turned into expectations and commitments. I was proactive ‘reclaiming my time’ and it felt empowering.
A friend asked me did I not feel guilty about ‘saying no’ and my immediate response was no. I’d done the internal work, I was clear as to what I was saying ‘no’ to and why, and therefore I was creating the space to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities. Of course, what always happens when you say goodbye to an energy drain, you are readying yourself for new possibilities.When you say goodbye to an energy drain, you are creating the space and readying yourself for new possibilities and opportunities. Click To Tweet
I was on a roll now. In recent months, I’d been spending too long on social media, mindlessly following the escapades of influencers particularly on Instagram. When I thought about it, what a waste of time. Why am I watching others pursue their dreams when I’ve my own to pursue? I’d been suffering from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out.) Enough! I sat down one evening, phone in hand, scrolled and unfollowed. FOMO was replaced with JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out) and again it felt so liberating. We can only think so many thoughts a day and I wanted to free up some of my thinking capacity by removing mindless distractions.
I firmly believe that everyone is doing their best with the knowledge, self-awareness and resources at their disposal. Having said that, we all know people who can feel like emotional vampires sucking the energy and positivity from us. Over the years these drains have been gently edited from my life, so I have more time to spend with the ‘radiators,’ people, when I’m in their company, I feel better about myself and the world in general. In the spirit of reclaiming my time, there was just a few adjustments for me to make when it came to personal relationships. What I’ve found is that when I cease reaching out to people who are drains on my energy, the connection tends to fizzle out naturally.
We’ve all heard the phrase working smarter and for years I’ve been saying that working smarter is always about identifying what you are no longer going to do. Over the last few weeks I’ve put deliberate effort into not just working smarter, but living smarter. To put is simply, I value my time and energy. Whilst Maxine Water’s now famous phrase referred to procedural rules, we can claim it as a call to action.
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