It’s About Time
Recently I was invited to a housewarming. The host assured that it would be a small gathering, that all guests would be vaccinated, that he’d take temperature checks at the door, and have soap, water, and hand sanitizer in proportion to the huge amount of food he was planning to serve. It was a thoughtful invitation. An occasion worthy of celebration. A gathering of good friends. Yet, I declined.
I sent my regrets along with a nice note and gift card. I knew that if I had accepted the invitation and gone that I was likely to have a good time. However, I also knew that if I stayed home, relaxed, and spent time with myself that I’d have an even greater time, so I did. I did it for me because I felt like that was my highest priority. After months of getting readjusted to ‘being back outside,’ I needed some rejuvenation, and I do that best alone. Going to a housewarming would take more energy than I’d get back in return.
During my tenure working for a senior level leader one of my favorite things was participating in the bi-weekly scheduling meeting. His chief of staff, communications director, executive assistant, special assistant, and I would sit at a table with snacks and our laptops for about an hour or more weighing in on what meetings, events, and activities he should attend. Our leader had a very full plate, and we knew his time was both limited and valuable.
Beyond the basic logistics of when or where a request for his time came from, there were more important questions. How would this use of his time advance his priorities? Does the nature or topic of this meeting rise to his level, or should it be handled by a deputy or another subject matter expert? Could this request be combined with another one, so he doesn’t have to cover the same ground twice? If this request requires him to travel, what other activities or meetings can he do in that same city that would be a benefit? If he doesn’t use a small amount of time on this now, will it require the use of a lot of his time later?
After our meetings we’d present a full proposed calendar to him for the next several weeks. He’d usually just accept it as it was because he trusted that we’d asked all the right questions and knew what was most important to him—and that we knew him. Those scheduling meetings were just as valuable to our boss as they were to me. He got a schedule that made sense to him. It started me to thinking more about how I intentionally use my time in my personal and professional life.
In addition to the questions I mentioned earlier that were all work related, we also asked ourselves questions about his personal life. Will his wife mind him being away more than three days? Will a late meeting interfere with his family dinner night? Are we allowing enough time for him to eat lunch, take breaks, or go for a walk during the day? Is his schedule on overload? Does he have time to just sit and think? He was a senior leader, but he was also a human being, a husband and dad. We needed to be protective of his time because of all those roles. In the same token, I needed to begin being more vigilant of my time, too.
Many invitations for our time will receive a yes, but sometimes they’ll have to receive a no. Sometimes you have to say no to other people in order to say yes to yourself. No to invitations for your time that don’t align with where you are and where you want to be. No to invitations for your time that leave you unfulfilled. Yes, to spending quiet time reading a book, deep listening to music that soothes or moves you, or snuggled up with someone that brings you comfort and joy. Yes, to time for a workout, jog, or prayer and meditation time. Yes, to whatever you believe is most important to advancing your life in a healthy and whole way. As we roll toward the end of a calendar year, it is a terrific time for all of us to reflect on our time and how we’ll choose to spend it. ▼
Clarence J. Fluker is a public affairs and social impact strategist. Since 2008, he’s also been a contributing writer for Swerv, a lifestyle periodical celebrating African American LGBTQ+ culture and community. Follow him on Twitter: @CJFluker or Instagram: @Mr_CJFluker