I’m back! The end of February and the entire month of March was one big whirlwind. Between work and personal travel, new and fast-growing clients, and the last of my graduate school classes, the last 6 weeks have flown by in a blink of an eye. My travels took me north to Boston, south to Charlottesville and Nashville, west to Los Angeles and seemingly everywhere in between. I toted my laptops along my travels, checked email constantly, and tried to keep up with the world I was separated from back home in Philadelphia. Along the way, I walked the fine line between living in the moment and concerned about my to-do list. It hit me. . . our time in minutes, hours, days, and weeks is so precious. I’ve learned a few things in the last few months that I’d like to share with you:
1. Be Present
Our world moves faster and faster each day and as I get older, it seems like the years pick up speed. Put your cell phone down, avoid checking your inbox for a few hours, do something you love, and celebrate time with your co-workers, your friends, and your family. Exercise your best time management skills by carving out time to work and carving out time to be more present. We only get so many trips around the sun.
2. Be Clear, Honest, and Concise
My safety net when working on projects with clients and co-workers is to not communicate until a project is done. Although it strays from my comfort zone, I’ve found that I build stronger, more personal, and mutually-beneficial relationships when I’m clear, honest, and concise about what’s on my plate, what I’m prioritizing, and what I’m able to do. For example, a client sent me a project that I knew would be a time commitment, and one that I wouldn’t be able to focus on for a few days. Although it was challenging to admit I didn’t have to immediate time to dedicate to the project, I shared that I’d be able to finish by a specific date. By doing so, I gave the liberty to the client to decide the sensitivity and urgency of the project while setting a deadline for myself. I was also able to avoid potentially taking far longer than the client expected me to complete the project or rushing to get it done when it wasn’t a client’s priority. Never underestimate the power of asking, “what’s your timeline for this project?”.
3. Say “No”
Yup, it’s as simple as that. Women, far more than men, find it challenging to say “no” when asked for favors or more work in fear of being viewed as weak, powerless, and ineffective. Humor me. . . what’s one thing that’s been heavy on your mind or pressing of your time in an unpredicted way? Now think, what would have happened if you said “no”? Let’s practice saying “no” more. Your time is more valuable than you give credit to.
4. Prioritize the Right People and the Right Things
In one of my graduate classes, we practiced an activity of active listening during a conversation with one of our classmates. We were held responsible for engaging with the person through eye contact, appreciative question-asking, no distractions, and full comprehension of what the individual was sharing. Seems simple enough, right? Think again. The exercise was a reminder of how frequently we enter a conversation or sit down at the dinner table with a mind full of distractions and our phones in hand. This goes along with being more present, but always focus on the people and things who matter. When you come home from work, refocus your energy to your loved ones and leave work at the door. When you’re out with your friends at dinner, put your phone down and talk. It’s simple.
5. Understand Your Worth
After working in the freelance sector for over a year and a half now, the time to bill my client’s rolls around and I get a pit in my stomach. I’ve done the work, done it well, everyone is happy, and I still shave a few billable hours off the invoice or don’t charge the full value of my work. Why? It’s the same premise of why I show up early to work or stay late in my full-time job. I feel like I owe something more to my company than it gives me (literally, in pay).
As a business professional and woman, it’s important to remember the value of your time, your thought, and your attention. You are not a volunteer for your client or for your full-time employer. Fight for your salary, your hourly wage, your next job or promotion, and what you deserve. It comes with the territory. . . if a client has an issue with the way you bill, it opens the possibility of a discussion or the end of your partnership. Regardless, you’ll be proud that you defended your worth and your time.
I hope you find value in these easy ways to be more defensive of your time and value while being more present with those that matter.
Until next time. . .