Time For Self-Respect

Guest Author: John Schreiber


"If you love life, don't waste time, for time is what life is made of.”

-Bruce Lee

 

I can’t say there was a specific moment of satori for me, rather a growing uneasiness that something just wasn’t right. 

Mornings became a predictable routine of sitting at my desk, opening my inbox and delete, delete, deleting sometimes dozens of unsolicited emails and newsletters from airlines, a hotel I stayed at once or a florist I ordered a Mother’s Day bouquet from nearly four years ago. Next were more urgent messages from people awaiting feedback and responses that if delayed might impact numerous schedules, deadlines or costs. By this time more email had deluged my inbox and it became a battle not unlike dumping buckets of water from a leaky boat lest I sink again. 

Finish this sentence:

“In life you get what you __________.”

 

A mentor of mine asked this to a large group in a room that included myself.  Everyone got it wrong.  After several answers were proffered, he finally said,

“Accept.

You get in life what you accept.”

So when did I come to accept this morning ritual as normal?  Why did I instinctively and willingly jump on this moving treadmill of banal junk mail and litany of other people's priorities? I could certainly blame any number of things from modern automated mail servers to incompetent clients and co-workers but the truth was this was my own fault. 

This happened because I accepted it, day after day and over time I allowed this in my life. With every hyper-response I conditioned even encouraged this from others.  And why did I accept it?  In a word... RESPECT.

I respected everyone else’s time more than my own.   

I’ve written about time management more than once. Maybe it’s the forty-something in me but I’m obsessed with it. There is no commodity more valuable than time. Jim Rohn would say that effective time management is the best-kept secret of the rich and I couldn't agree more.

I also learned many years ago that time management is a kind of misnomer because you can’t actually manage time. It marches along at its own pace. We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, no more and no less. And you can’t save it; you can only spend it. 

Time management in a word is just priorities. And you are either managing your priorities or everyone else’s.

Most people whether they admit it or not are working on other people’s goals and not their own. And it’s not just email.  When you instinctively look at your phone for new messages or spend the better part of days battling your email inbox, you’re actually working on other people’s priorities, not yours. When you pick up the phone every time it rings or look at your email several times in an hour, it’s no longer something for your convenience rather the convenience of others.

And when you go to Facebook several times a day to see what your friends are up to it’s an admission that their life is more interesting than your own. 

 

For many years now I’ve stopped reading and replying to nearly 95% of emails.

I've also set up rules in my Outlook to forward any message with the words ‘unsubscribe’ in the body to be immediately forwarded to a junk folder. 

I've deactivated all pop-up notifications on both my phone and desktop except for one and only a very select few people have access to this "Bat Phone” for real urgencies. [See Photo below]

 Real-life depiction of me in action on the Bat Phone.

Real-life depiction of me in action on the Bat Phone.

I also rarely look at my inbox until my morning routine is complete, a routine that includes some form of meditation, a high protein breakfast, quality time with my wife and daughter, and exercise.

This routine is mine alone and designed to serve me, my health, and relationships important to me. And where I used to write hundreds of emails in a week, I now send a little as ten and usually less than that. 

I now produce more productive content in less than eight hours a week that in the past was difficult to stuff into forty.

Stress also goes away in proportion to the amount of data smog you remove from your life.  I think much better without constant distractions and interruptions.  And by the way, no one distracts us more than we distract ourselves.  

But it’s other people’s reactions to these changes that has surprised me the most.

While I don’t work full-time, I do have highly special projects I give time to each week. And the talented and exceptional people I work with on these programs are also aware of my commitment to personal goals and development. People no longer turn to me as a first resort if they're expecting an instant reply.

This past week I even had more than one person practically apologize for asking me to assist on some critical and time sensitive deliverable.

This is work that I am not only well paid for but very happy to do. It occurred to me how other people respect my time as they find out how much I value it. 

In the larger context, it reminded me of this:

People will respect us when they see how much we respect ourselves. 

They call it self-respect for a reason; you give it to yourself.

And we are not victims because in life we don’t get what we want or what we work for but what we accept. 


A few rules I follow to keep my workweek under 12 hours:

  1. Go into your mail server and create a ‘rule’ that any email containing the word unsubscribe gets forwarded to a junk folder and never look at unsolicited emails again.
  2. Turn off all notification on your phone except for phone messages. TIP: I don't have my phone number on the business card I give out, only email. Being overly accessible is only a huge distraction and serves the convenience of others and not you. I only give my number out to people I would happily accept a call from.
  3. Place all non-essential and social media apps into a separate folder as well and out of site. These are cookies you reward yourself with when your work is done and not potential distractions.
  4. Work offsite and even in quiet whenever possible. It’s nearly impossible to work in a group environment without continuous disruption and the occasional unsolicited small talk.
  5. Work on one thing at a time and no more than three projects a day. Applying the 80/20 principle, these things should be the ones that provide the biggest return on investment for your time, the others you can get to only if these are complete.
  6. Don’t attend meetings where you don’t have a specific action item you’ll be responsible for. You can always get a synopsis of what was discussed later or by message.
  7. Discriminate things that are urgent from things that are important. Then do what’s important.

 

2 books on simplification and essentialism: