Setting time limits is something most of us have trouble with. Picture this: Your friend calls, you have to be out of the house in 20 minutes. Your hair isn’t done and you need to find your other sock. But you haven’t spoken with your friend in a few weeks and there’s so much you want to catch up on. What do you do? I used to say I could only talk for a “minute” because I had to be out of the house and was not ready yet. But 15 minutes would go by before I knew it and then I would be late for my appointment. Sound familiar?
How do you politely deal with this while not offending your friend? I now have a timer next to the phone. While I don’t use it all of the time, when my friends call, I tell them that they know we’ll talk for hours, so here’s how much time I have to chat and I’ll let them know when I’m getting close to the end of that time. This way, they know I want to talk to them, but they know we can’t just go on for hours like I used to when I didn’t have a job and family at the same time. I have a friend who will say, “Well, we’re getting near the end of my time, so I need to wrap things up.” I’m working on that phrase myself. It’s not offensive and your friends know exactly what to expect.
Don’t get me wrong. I schedule three hours on the weekends to sit and chitchat with my friends. The only difference is that I’m not taking up my workday to talk. I’m using my “Free Time.”
The same goes for my relationships with my customers. I tend to go on with my customers as well, so I have the timer at my desk. I’m trying to use it more often, however it still seems a bit offensive to me personally, to start a timer when the phone rings. However, let me express that since I’ve been honest about how much time I have to chat, my stress levels have gone down and everyone appreciates my honesty. I used to allow as much as an hour to chat because I had a hard time knowing when it was okay to break off the conversation.
When I have a new customer, I enjoy taking about a half hour with them so we can get to know each other. But when I get on the phone with a previous customer, I will say something like, “You know how I enjoy talking with you, but I have a tight schedule today.” or “You know how I enjoy talking with you, but I’ll talk for too long and won’t get my work done. So please help me keep this short.” They usually laugh and tell me they’ll only allow me to stay on for so long. I always have many phone calls to make and the work is never-ending. Therefore I group my return calls together and get through them as time allows. It is very important in daily life to keep on top of your schedule.
While you don’t want a schedule to manage you, if you plan correctly, you will be able to manage a comfortable schedule ““and” keep in touch with your family, friends and customers. So don’t be afraid to set time limits. It can be done politely and help with your productivity in business and in every day life.