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All of us have found ourselves in a situation where company of a few people distracts us from the core issues and we find ourselves hard pressed for time to accomplish other important tasks.

How to avoid people who steal time

All of us have found ourselves in a situation where company of a few people distracts us from the core issues and we find ourselves hard pressed for time to accomplish other important tasks. You know when a particular friend has entered the room, he would not let you accomplish the tasks on your to-do list. These people may not have bad intentions but they throw your time management out of window. We call such people as Time stealers. They fill up their hours by wasting yours.

Until a few years, people would need to be physically present in the same room to steal your time but in the age of e-communication, they can call you on your land line, mobile (or cell) or contact you on your email, or social network sites like facebook or linkedin. It is far more important to be aware of such time stealers and have a strategy in place to deal with such people.

Identify your time stealers

The first step in managing these time-stealers is to be aware of them. These may be your buddies at club, your old classmates, a colleagues or a distant friend. Quite often, you would not enjoy the company of such people, but at times these time stealers may be good friends and a great company outside work. You need to identify these time stealers, categorize them as friends you want to avoid at certain times or friends whom you want to avoid always. You need to have different method to avoid such people as per your preferences and requirement.

Talk straight but polite

When you learn how to be brisk with others, without being rude, you’ll find a great ally in your quest to control your time. You can talk to them straight to the point but still not be rude. It is not wrong to tell your friend that you have something important to finish right now and that you would get back to him/her once you are through with the task. If the person is a good friend, he/she would understand and give you the breathing space. To maintain your relationship with a good friend, it is very important in such circumstances to suggest an alternative time when you can catch up with them. Else they will feel insulted or ignored. Also, don’t use this often or with too many people else you would risk building up a reputation of being an arrogant and self-engrossed person.

Simply ignore

Socializing with friends is fine if you can control it. Excessive socializing is like begin sucked into a time-consuming swamp. There would be a set of people whom you don’t want to interact with. For such people, you can choose to simply ignore them. A few tricks for this include:
  • Avoid hanging out at places frequented by them. Or keep company of people who are not known to your time-stealer, so that he/she feels awkward in the company of your friends. 
  • Refuse to engage in a discussion with them by making excuses e.g. by saying that you have an important call to make or you need to use the rest room and get a chance to leave the place.
  • Stop taking their calls or replying back to their emails and tell them that you were actually busy.
  • Another method of ignoring people is to start interrupting them before they finish talking and making comments contrary to the tone of the speaker. E.g. you may make a funny comment when the other person is talking about a serious issue and vice-a-versa. Though it is often considered rude and insulting, yet it is an effective way of telling the other person that you are not interested in listening to them.
However, while deploying any of these tricks, please keep a couple of things in mind. Never accept to the other person that you are trying to ignore them else they will try to reason their way out of it and engage in another futile discussion and waste our time. Also, don’t use this method too often or with too many else you run the risk of building up a reputation for yourself and might find yourself on the receiving end soon.

Route emails to separate folders

In today’s world, e-mails are a very frequent mode of communication. We start our day by opening our emails and scan through the ones from customers, bosses, colleagues and friends. One such interesting forward from a friend or a link about an important news item could take you away from your work to the black hole of internet. By the time you realize this, you are already running late for a meeting or a conference call and things begin to pile up for the day.

But the good news is that the solution to this advance age problem lies in the technology itself. Most of the email softwares like Outlook or Lotus Notes provide features such as separate folders and filters. It is advisable to create a separate folder for personal emails from friends and acquaintances and route all forwards and personal emails to separate folders. You can create filters to automatically route these emails to different folders. It is advisable to reserve a time slot during the day when you look at these emails and respond to them. This would ensure that unimportant emails don’t steal away time from your daily routine and divert your attention from important tasks to the time-stealer emails.

Reserve a time for social networking

You would realize that most of your time stealer friends are active on social networking sites and take away a major chunk of your time and energy by messages and scraps on these websites. In the same way as emails, it is advisable to reserve time for your visit to social networking sites like linkedin, facebook, myspace etc. Once you are logged on to one of these sites, you will find it difficult to log off without replying to the last message from your friend.

The essence is that if you treat your time as something that is cheap or worthless and you’ll fall prey to the Time Stealers. Treat your time as precious and valuable, and you’ll defeat the time stealers and stay time-rich.


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